Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Analytics of Listening

After working in Sports Information for 6 years, I've developed a penchant for analytics. Here's my current top most listened to artists dictated by my iPod and beginning on August 22nd, 2010. I've attached a brief description as to (1) why they hold the position they do, (2) what meaning the music has to me, and (3) what albums I listen to the most. I'll add hyperlinks at request.

  1. Luke Wieting - 11d 2h 50m (7.02%)
    1. Luke's comfortable lead used to be much wider. Essentially, I listened to the album Currents every other night for almost all of 2011. I still frequent many of his shorter compositions for film. 
    2. I know Luke through a friend I went to school with. He grew up in relatively the same area I do and I feel a close connection to the vibe his music tends to emit. I have a lot of respect for what he does and the way his music conveys hope, determination, and beauty. 
    3. Currents, Towing: Original Score, Reclamation: Original Score
  2. Stephen Drury - 9d 20h 31m (6.23%) 
    1. Stephen Drury is the listed artist for all of the pieces I have composed by John Cage. I frequently use Cage in my relaxation playlists, contributing to the high score here. In fact, it is mostly the two tracks Dream (composed in 1948) and In A Landscape (also composed in 1948) that help maintain this position (with 595 and 912 plays respectively and growing).
    2. Dream and In A Landscape both drift seamlessly through each note. It's mesmerizing. I also appreciate Cage's experimental approach to music and it has no doubt informed some of my contemporary choices.
    3. In A Landscape 
  3. Oliver Sadie - 5d 9h 58m (3.42%)
    1. I spent a long time going through Oliver Sadie tracks when I first discovered his music. He has a solid knack for improvisation and it's wonderful to see how his production has increased. 
    2. I'm really attracted to Oliver's spontaneous creativity that shines through many of his pieces. Even the more deliberately planned tracks exude a sense of peacefulness and confidence that comes as a result of being familiar with the medium and the various ways in which it can be used. 
    3. I tend to listen to Oliver's music in sets. I would love to see him release a concept album one day, but I'm more than content with the way things are organized right now. Improvs 4 & 5 have a lot of plays in my library as do most of the tracks that became organized on his debut album, Finding Stars.  
  4. Hans Zimmer - 5d 9h 46m (3.42%)
    1. My transition to more classically organized music began with exploration of move soundtracks. The field seems Zimmer dominated so it's hard not to avoid or enjoy his work. Many of his soundtracks have provided the intense, driving, or grand mood for my work.
    2. Hans Zimmer knows where to stick the music in the movie. I meticulously organize my soundtracks for both video games and movies in the order in which they appear in the media. Zimmer's music has become a catalyst for story telling and the vibe each of his pieces evoke has often helped me through many late night projects. 
    3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Inception, Angels & Demons
  5. Nils Frahm - 4d 22h 32m (3.12%)
    1. Ever since finding Screws online, I've been digesting Frahm's work faster than most of my food. Seeing him live in September of 2013 has only bolstered my dedication to enjoying his masterpieces. Frahm has only appeared in the top ten list within the last month and continues to rise. I listen to his tracks whenever I find the time.
    2. Nils Frahm makes some truly magnificent music. It was incredible to see a live performance that featured the same basic structure as his album tracks, but improvised in such a way that it deserved an album in its own right. Frahm's music hits a lot of emotions, but in a balanced way. He always brings the feelings home. Frahm's work also features some more experimental or modern compositional techniques keeping his work fresh. Simply brilliant.
    3. Screws, Felt, Spaces, Stare EP (with Olafur Arnalds)
  6. Nick Lammertyn - 4d 13h 11m (2.87%)
    1. Nick's vgPiano arrangement of the Super Metroid Ending takes the cake for most plays with 938. I find that Nick brings a fairly unique style to composition for media in my library, earning him a top spot.
    2. I really dig the Super Metroid Ending Piano for its use of emotion and source material. Nick's other pieces have a similar depth in emotion, depth, action, and transition. This is a pretty impressive score for an artist with no proper albums in my library and only 13 tracks. 
    3. Tracks/Sets: vgPiano Super Metroid Project Ending Piano, Brandpunt set, Climax Final, Administrators (I find this works particularly well with the short film)
  7. The Alvaret Ensemble - 4d 8h 41m (2.76%)
    1. If you're friends with me on Facebook, you're more than aware how much I've been listening to this. The Alvaret Ensemble is a "supergroup." Comprised of some of the top talent in modern composition, alternative experimental, and the so called neoclassical genre, its uniqueness is refreshing and open. This artist/album has calmed me through many late nights. To clarify, The Alvaret Ensemble is simultaneously the name of the group and of their debut album, their only formal release to date. So yes, this one album is number 7 on a list for most listened to artists.
    2. Simply phenomenal. Honestly, I was taken aback at first by the unique approach employed by this album. It's really free flowing and ambient without being electronic. The Alvaret Ensemble is a wonder of modern composition, but free of the electronics so prevalent in today's music. Instead of lyrics, poetry spoken in Frisian peppers tracks, the delivery of which contributes heavily to the sense of wonder, mysticism, and beauty that permeates the album. In so many ways, this album is about restraint. The silence between each note makes every sound all the more powerful. The Alvaret Ensemble is pure brilliance. The seemingly paradoxical deliberateness and spontaneous nature of each sound evokes in me feelings of intense joy and reverence for the beautiful world we live in and the potential that exists all around us. When talking to Nils Frahm about this album, he told me I had good taste. Nils Frahm recommends this album, 'nuff said. 
    3. The Alvaret Ensemble is both a single artist and the name of the debut album. If you get one thing from this list, it is that you should listen to this album. It is awesome. 
  8. Martin O'Donnell & Michael Salvatori - 4d 5h 55m (2.68%)
    1. All things Halo makes for good road trip music or anything which involves sitting down for a couple hours and plugging away at a task. 
    2. O'Donnell and Salvatori's work on the Halo series has produced some of my favorite video game scores. Striking both grand and intimate moments such as in Halo 3 and Halo 3 ODST, these two artists display a well rounded knowledge of how to use a mix of percussion, orchestra, and electronics for a video game. I particularly enjoy how many of the tracks are rhythmically driven. 
    3. Halo 3 ODST, Halo 3
  9. 12 Followers/Meteo Xavier - 3d 9h 7m (2.14%)
    1. It's kind of hard to avoid putting this on the top ten when amateur analyzing the heck out of every second of an album like I did for the aRPS podcast. That being said, I'm not complaining. Meteo Xavier's ambient tracks are great for late evening listening.
    2. I've kind of already discussed this thoroughly in the podcast, but I feel simple structure, dispersed electronic elements, and unique samples really help make his debut album a unique offering full of intrigue. The concept behind it flows really well and contributes to the sense of fullness and completeness that comes at the conclusion of a playthrough. Meteo Xavier can clearly deploy a variety of styles and do it fairly well, a talent I have a lot of respect for. 
    3. Espers (79 total album plays)
  10. Blake Neeley - 3d 7h 40m
    1. All but one of my tracks from composer Blake Neely are from the soundtrack for the U.S. television series, The Mentalist. 
    2. The Mentalist is an interesting show in itself, but Neely's score really seals the deal. Using a variety of electronic and percussive elements to keep things fresh, many tracks feel polished, slick, and snappy--perfectly suited for the show. 
    3. The Mentalist (Original Soundtrack)
Here are some artists who aren't in the top ten, but whose plays are on the rise in my library. 
  • Helios
    • If I labeled every track composed by Keith Kenniff as such, I have no doubt he'd be in the top ten. Helios is Kennif's moniker for post-rock and electronic music. Most of the plays in this department come from his 2006 album, Eingya, which is a solid offering of emotionally uplifting ambient electronic and post-rock music.
    • Helios is currently 11th. 
  • Little People
    • With the reduced pacing and increased rhythmic complexity of his most recent album, We Are But Hunks of Wood, Little People continues to impress me with whimsical and groovy beats. Aldgate Patters is simply mesmerizing. 
    • Little People is currently 14th.
  • Johann Johannsson
    • Johann Johannsson I'm told is one of the driving forces behind modern composition and minimalism. My experience with Johannsson comes from the album Fordlandia, which I am highly impressed with for its sense of immense relief, grandeur, and beauty. Fordlandia currently has 54 plays as an album, a number that will likely continue to increase. I also plan on picking up some other Johannsson works. 
    • Johann Johannsson (Fordlandia only) is currently 16th
  • Peter Broderick
    • Peter Broderick is always willing to try new things. Perhaps one could see him as the American counterpart to Olafur Arnalds or Nils Frahm. There is certainly no lack of collaboration between them. Broderick has reawoken my desire to listen to new sounds and try new types of music even if they initially sound unappealing to me. It's neat to see Broderick try a multitude of styles while forging a new path. 
    • Peter Broderick is currently 19th
  • Ben Lukas Boysen
    • I'm told Ben Lukas Boysen is a sound designer. From his most recent release, Gravity, it's not hard to tell. Boysen's notes are chosen carefully and create solid structural pieces whose spacing evokes a subtle sense of peace and joy.
    • Ben Lukas Boysen is currently 22nd
  • Olafur Arnalds
    • I had the privilege of seeing Olafur Arnalds in his first trip to Seattle this past September. While I was primarily there to see Nils Frahm, I knew Arnalds would impress. His use of violin, piano, and electronics combined with his early background in heavy metal music makes for a unique emotional experience. 
    • Olafur Arnalds is currently 26th
That's what I've been listening too lately. I still enjoy many of the independent artists I've set up this blog to promote, but I find myself pausing to wonder at the nature of the very thing I'm promoting. My experience with music is informed by a very amateur understanding of the subject--an understanding which I am hoping to broaden. Many of these artists have informed my own contributions to music as seen in my recent releases of Soliloquy of Renovation and Pieces EP. 

When I first began to tackle music on aRPS, it was borne out of the desire to promote independent artists in need of recognition for their hard work. At the time, these artists were a result of my explorations on OverClocked ReMix, a community dedicated to the appreciation and reinterpretation of video game music. As a result, aRPS seemed geared towards indie electronica by default. I felt like this approach was expanded with an increased involvement in the SoundCloud community. Now I stand at a bit of a crossroads, not sure what necessarily qualifies as indie music and what music needs promoting or not. Regardless, I will continue to share what I think should be listened to. I encourage you to do your own exploration and check out some websites run by people who actually specialize in music. To that end, I highly recommend checking out these sites.


In particular, I find the about section of the Audio Intimacy blog to be a worthy read. The crossroads I mentioned earlier not only stems from my inexperience with music on a professional level, but also from my desire to see aRPS pursue its other objectives in being pleasant for video games and literature. Therefore, it's very likely that any official release of A Rather Pleasant Site, which has been delayed indefinitely at this point, will be the result of a collaborative and conceptual effort to unify the importance of video games, literature, and music as influential art forms as well as entertainment.

As a closing note, I'd like to point out that while I love analytics, this is not meant as a basis for comparing music. I find it fascinating to see how my taste and experience of music has evolved over the years, but I still hold many of the artists I no longer listen to as frequently with as much if not more respect for what I'm currently listening to. It is interesting to note the circumstances that lead to certain artists receiving many plays.

What do you listen to and why?

No comments: