Search Ain’t Misbehavin’

This post was written for my client Spectralmind and appeared initially on their blog:

Searching music offside of the mainstream can be tedious. Recently i fell for a particular jazz piano genre, called “Harlem Stride Piano” while listening to a radio broadcast. Stride piano developed in the 1920s and 1930s in New York as an advancement from Ragtime. It is characterized by a rhythmic left hand play, where the pianist alternates a bass note or octave on the first and third beat with chords on the second and fourth beat, while the right hand plays the melody line. This causes the left hand to leap great distances on the keyboard, often at neck-break speed. Back then, pianists like Fats Waller, James P. Johnson or Eubie Blake were famous stride virtuosos.

Louis Mazetier introduces harlem stride piano

Today, only a few pianists are capable to play stride, and I was curious to find out about contemporary ”Harlem Stride Piano” interpreters and recordings.

The textual search for “Harlem Stride Piano” in iTunes led to zero results. Even in the advanced search of iTunes, you can only search for artists and interpreters, title- or track names, but not for genres. A search just for “stride piano” brought up one album, fortunately carrying both terms in its title. Similar, Spotify´s search for “Harlem Stride Piano” did not match anything, whereas a search for “stride piano” returned a few albums because of the use of the terms “piano” and “stride” in their titles or tracks.

Still unsatisfied, i continued the search for contemporary stride players in Google, YouTube and Wikipedia to find out about artists like Louis Mazetier, Günther Straub or Bernd Lhotzky. Knowing their names finally helped me to find the desired tunes in iTunes and Spotify.

This little research clearly depicts the limits of text based music search. It´s results depend largely on the coincidental presence of the chosen search terms in the title or artist name. If you have nothing but a tune, search is often impossible. What´s missing is search for music based on the sounds of a sample track.

While chasing contemporary “Harlem Stride Piano” records through Spectralmind´s audio intelligence platform, I certainly would have used Fats Wallers “Ain´t Misbehavin“. For sure, a sound-similarity search would have brought up more and better results in far less time.

Sensory Search

This post was written for my client Spectralmind and appeared initially on their blog:

When we search for things, we use all of our senses. We look around for orientation, we feel for the keys in our pocket, we smell the scent of food in a restaurant, we listen for our kids playing in the garden. Our senses help us to discover what we are looking for and they provide us with rich impressions, which we can match against our preferences, desires and needs.

In comparison to such sensual searching in real life, searching for something on a computer is a poor experience. Search as we know it is limited to entering textual terms into a form, hoping for a result that is straightforward enough to get what we need. This works reasonably well with all things written. Computerized search is mainly search for written stuff.

But how do you search for something unwritten, like an image, a color, or a song? Search engines would require us to describe these things through words, using a language, forcing us into conventions of search terms and search operators. But how do you describe a piece of music within the narrow confines of a search engine’s syntax? How do you express these deeply subjective impressions a song leaves behind in your mind? What is not described in words, is hard to find. What can’t be described in words, remains hidden.

This problem is the baseline of what Spectralmind does: searching, finding and discovering music in addition to and beyond what can be expressed in words. As a result, Spectralmind brings seeing and hearing, the visual and acoustic senses, back into the digital search and discovery of music.

You’ve made it to this blog and we are happy to have you here with us. We would love to see you come back from time to time to learn more about Spectralmind, the way we approach music over and above bare tunes. Music is a carrier of rich and universal information, which we believe we can unleash through our technology, creativity and passion to give it the attention, it deserves.