True Definition

True Definition

What kind of music do you like? It’s a fairly innocuous question, one often posed by those looking to pass the time over cocktails or during the “networking” segments of business conferences. The funny thing is, it often provokes the same answer from everyone: “Oh, all kinds.”

Kirsten Nelson

In this industry, that is of course a legitimate answer, as few would want to limit themselves to just one genre. But another reason for this generalized answer is that it can be quite difficult to define one’s musical taste in just a few words—aside from the brilliant Blues Brothers response: “Both kinds, country and western.”

Few of us can be summed up by a single type of music, or even if we can, there is much nuance to what sonically evokes emotion within us. This is one of the greatest and most confounding things about our industry. Some part of the work we do is purely subjective and simply can’t be put into words.

Well, in the era of algorithms we can finally end the mystery of musical taste. The musicologists among us have already laid these questions to rest, but for the rest of us, there is Pandora. Once I finally got over my fear and learned to love the Pandora (but on an extremely limited and imminently terminable basis), I discovered a great benefit to the service. The music genome project it presents makes it possible for us to learn the short (if very verbose) answer to the kind of music that we like. Enter a band into Pandora’s radio station creation tool and it will answer back with a paragraph about your musical taste. As it turns out, I happen to like “music that features mellow rock instrumentation, electronica influences, mixed acoustic and electronic instrumentation, through composed melodic style and mixed minor and major key tonality.” I suppose that’s pretty accurate, until I throw Pandora a loop and submit a totally different kind of music to its algorithm.

Just when it seems convenient to tuck everything into a neat little compartment, it comes tumbling back out into the indescribable. This is why all the software tools in the world can’t a good AV designer or installer make. As much as we quantify the pixels, wavelengths, and frequencies, there will always be a human element to the equation. That’s probably a good reason to turn up the volume and listen to your favorite music.

Kirsten Nelson is a freelance content producer who translates the expertise and passion of technologists into the vernacular of an audience curious about their creations. Nelson has written about audio and video technology in all its permutations for almost 20 years; she was the editor of SCN for 17 years. Her experience in the commercial AV and acoustics design and integration market has also led her to develop presentation programs and events for AVIXA and SCN, deliver keynote speeches, and moderate and participate in panel discussions. In addition to technology, she also writes about motorcycles—she is a MotoGP super fan.