Shamisen Serendipity

I don’t listen to the radio any more, and I don’t listen to music TV either. This makes me dependent on other forms of media (movies, TV shows, YouTube) and other guides (blogs, friends) to help me find my music. What I’ve discovered is that I’m encountering much more eclectic music this way, and interestingly, a lot of it isn’t very recent. In fact, a few of my favourite bands had already broken up by the time I started listening to their music (alas for The Delgados…).

My latest discovery has been the Yoshida Brothers. If you’ve seen the Nintendo Wii commercial, then you’ll have heard them. The music uses the shamisen, a three-stringed instrument that is plucked rather fast. I can’t imagine how I would possibly have heard their music on the radio or on TV, and even if I did, it would’ve been difficult to discover who they were. With the internet, and in this case, YouTube, I was able to listen to it and find a note written by another viewer who knew the artist.

I’m quite curious as to how other people discover new music. We have Pandora – an internet radio station which can be customised for various styles of music – at work, and I heard a few new artists that way, but after a while it became rather boring. If you turn on the ‘Zero 7’ station, unsurprisingly, you just end up hearing songs that remind you of Zero 7, but often not quite as inspired or good.

Whenever I’m at Oxford, it’s always interesting to have a look around the music being shared over iTunes and browsing people’s libraries – if I find someone with similar tastes, I check out their other highly rated songs for ones I haven’t heard of. Of course, this only works if people actually rate their songs (a startling high number do not). A new iTunes plugin called iLike seems as if it might do the trick in terms of looking for patterns between your favourite songs and other people’s and then suggesting new artists, but I’m not sure if I’ll get around to installing it quite yet. I’m slightly surprised Apple hasn’t built in the functionality themselves, but who knows what they’re planning…

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