Another unGoogleable question

Note: I have posted unGoogleable questions before. Hence the “Another”.

I’ve posted links to seven songs below. In a particular sequence. The sequence matters. There is a link between each song and the song that follows it; those links are broken if the sequence is changed. I have not been able to continue the sequence, though it might be possible. Can you continue the sequence, or at least spot what chains one song to the next?

Give it a try. At worst you may discover some music you like that you haven’t heard before.







Time travel

On any given day I get sent maybe 20-25 messages through one communications channel or other, with links to new sites or apps. Most of them are of no value to me at all. Maybe I’m growing old. A friend sent me a link today; I can usually rely on him to send me interesting things, so I took a look. This, despite the site and app having one of those oh-so-oughties names.


I tried it. Not having to register in order to try it out helped, that was a big plus for me. Chose Canada, Slow, 1970s. And up came Neil Young and Vampire Blues. After a while switched to India, stayed Slow and 1970s. And I was served Ananda Shankar and Raghupati. Registered straightaway. Downloaded the app as well. I like being able to vary how I want to engage with such things.

It’s still in beta, and I’m still learning about the site. Some categories are empty. I have no idea how many people have uploaded music, but that number feels low at present, I see the same names come up a few times. That may have to do with the selections I’m making.

I’m intrigued by the Share and by the Buy options song by song; the prominence given to the uploader suggests that over time this is going to become a with an edgier UI.

The ability to time-travel around a music site is itself not new; neither is the serendipity offered in various forms. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw India turn to British India when I chose 1930. But being served Yom Hashabat by Nathan Solomon Satimkar was, to say the least, unusual.


Radiooooo feels a bit like the first time I came across a food hall at a mall in the US. I was like a child in a sweetshop when I realised that I could choose to have something sensibly spicy while other family members could do their own thing, and we could still sit together and eat together.

That’s how I feel about the site right now. It’s fascinating to be able to mix genres so easily. It’s almost as if someone decided to build a mechanism by which each one of us could design our own StumbleUpon for music.

The ease with which I can get to, discover, shuffle through disparate times and places and genres is very attractive. There’s a long-tail aspect that soothes me, I’m not a hit-culture fan. I am even less a hit-culture fan when people I haven’t learnt to trust make the choices for me, but that’s another story.

I haven’t uploaded anything yet, nor shared anything so far. I’m still in early explorer mode.

But what I’ve seen so far, I like.

Radiooooo has possibilities. And I shall continue experimenting, and watch with interest.




Strumming my phone with his fingers

There’s a common mondegreen to do with Killing Me Softly With His Song: apparently, people hear the first words as “strumming my fate with his fingers” rather than “strumming my pain with his fingers”. But the title of this post is no mondegreen:

Yes, there’s now a decent guitar app for the iPhone: PocketGuitar, available for download from the Apple iPhone AppStore. It’s been around for a while, but only recently made available via the store.

As long as you’re not particularly finicky or pedantic about your music, it’s pretty good and a really enjoyable app. If you want to understand the possibilities take a look at this video of Every Breath You Take. It’s been put together using an iPod Touch, PocketGuitar, DigiLite, MiniPiano, GarageBand and iMovie.

How did I find this app? Via Twitter. Here’s the tweet that sent me haring off to check the app out:

Yes, it’s that Roger McGuinn. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Incidentally, I’ve really loved writing this post, because it helps me understand the sheer power and simplicity of the web for sharing information in a useful manner. The tools available, the magic of being able to link, the ease with which multimedia collateral can be added.

Did you hear what I just heard?

There’s mosquitoes on the river

Fish are rising up like birds

It’s been hot for seven weeks now,

Too hot to even speak now,

Did you hear what I just heard?

The Music Never Stopped: The Grateful Dead

There’s a fascinating study out in the latest First Monday, the “peer-reviewed journal on the internet”. Marko Rodriguez, Vadas Gintautas and Alberto Pepe have analysed the relationship between “concert and listening behaviour analysis”, using the Grateful Dead as the basis for their research.

What the researchers have done is simple and elegant: they’ve sought to build a framework to look at what people listen to online in comparison to what people had the opportunity to hear “live”. And, as I hope you would expect, there is a direct correlation.

The Dead didn’t feature much on radio. So the listening patterns of their fan base related much more to live performances than anything else. And the Dead were a performing band. As far as I can make out, the study does not look at the correlation between online listening and online purchasing, but my assumption is that the correlation is direct and high. So what we have is a simple model along the lines of “live performances drive listening habits drive purchases”.

As against this, the model that has been imposed on us for some time now is closer to  “we choose the songs, purchase the airtime, advertise the songs and you buy them from us  when and how we tell you to”. Maybe I’m being unfair, but that’s the way it felt to me.

There’s a big Because Effect coming along in music. Artists are going to make more money because of music rather than with music, although they will continue to make money with music.

Bands and artists that play live will make more money than those who don’t; live performances will become more and more important, as people recognise that digital is abundant and physical is scarce. Bands and artists who allow people to reuse and mix and mash their music will make more money than those who don’t allow it, as they get their share of sheet music sales and lyrics books sales. As the number of physical performances grow, so will musical instrument sales, and artists will be able to make money through instrument endorsements. And of course we will continue to have the T-shirt/book/video/merchandising explosion.

When was the last time you went to a concert? Did you notice the queues for people buying merchandise? Think about it. People now go to concerts early so that they can get the merchandise without queueing quite as much.

Live performances. Sheet music. Endorsements. Merchandise. None of this is new. It’s just stuff that a dying segment of the industry prefers to gloss over. Gloss over in order to try and enforce the continuance of a dead model. Rather than the Dead model.

There was a time when the only way to listen to music was by going to see someone live. In fact that was the way people listened to music for hundreds of years. For a short time someone tried to change that, tried to convince us that the way to listen to music was to listen to it on mousetraps, giving them the chance to ask us to pay again and again and again for different formats that would play on different faster-better mousetraps. That day is over.

The return of live music is a rebirth, a renaissance. And it’s happening. The last throes of DRM will see an end to the mousetrap generation, and we will go back to a time when live performances become important again. The value chain is changing, and attempts to retain the lock-ins of the past in order to preserve older value chains and distribution models are bound to fail. Artists will make money. In fact they will make more money, but this money will come from a number of sources rather than just physical format music sales.

Even vinyl can and will make a comeback. For performing bands.

In the end it’s all about performance.

A coda: I’ve made no secret of the fact that I like the Grateful Dead. A lot. Which is why this photograph is one I cherish, the opportunity to meet a boyhood hero in the flesh:

Doc Searls, who introduced me to the Because Effect, was responsible for getting me to meet John Perry Barlow, who wrote the lyrics for The Music Never Stopped, quoted at the start of this post.

Musing about Peccavi and Twitter and accessibility

I was born in Calcutta, the city that served as British India’s capital for the majority of the Raj years, born a bare ten years after India gained independence from the Empire. British India was still very much a part of people’s lives when I was growing up, with tales, often apocryphal, of unusual events and traditions.

One of the Raj “traditions” that used to make me laugh was the insistence that the First Secretary of the Bengal Government could not see visitors until after he’d fiinished the day’s Times crossword. Never proven, but fun to think about, particularly if you were in a queue in Writers’ Building.

There were many apocryphal stories; one set (of three stories) in particular was of considerable interest to me, given my passion for words and puzzles.

  • Charles Napier, when capturing the province of Sindh in 1843, was meant to have sent a telegram with just one word on it: Peccavi.
  • Colin Campbell, similarly, is meant to have sent one that just said Nunc Fortunatus Sum when he arrived in Lucknow.
  • And, to complete the set, Lord Dalhousie is credited with sending just Vovi when annexing Oudh.

Peccavi. I have sinned. Nunc Fortunatus Sum. I am in luck now. Vovi. I have vowed.

There are many arguments as to whether any of these events actually happened, with people focusing on particular angels and particular pins. For example, it is said that a 17-year old girl named Catherine Winkworth wrote in to Punch to say that Napier should have said Peccavi, and that the Punch cartoon published in May 1844 was directly as a result of the letter, that Napier never said it.

I don’t know the answer, there is no evidence that Napier actually sent the telegram. But there is evidence that Napier was born in Whitehall, that he went to school in Celbridge in Eire, a place with a history of 5000 years of habitation, a place that had a school since 1709, that “Ireland’s richest man” then, William “Speaker” Conolly, built his mansion there at the turn of the 18th century. So there is some likelihood that Napier was educated enough to have said it. As I study the other pronouncements attributed to Napier, I tend to have some sympathy with the view that he actually sent the message, even if Miss Winkworth did write a letter a year later.

For the purposes of this post, it doesn’t actually matter whether Napier said it or not. What matters is the accessibility of the story.

In the past, the Peccavi story would only have made sense to people who understood Latin and who had a facility with Empire history and geography. A limited set of people.

Today, if Napier were alive and he used Twitter to send his message, he could have sent one that looked like this:

This ability to compress context and associate it with communication is critical. It is an example of what David Weinberger was referring to when he said “Hyperlinks subvert hierarchies”.

The implications for accessibility should not be underestimated. In the past, Peccavi was an “in” joke amongst well-read people. Now, it can be shared by all, with links providing the context and background required to “understand the joke”.

I think this is a big deal. It is one of the reasons why the web is different, the ability to associate content and communication with compressed context.