Episode #3 Curation and Algorithms

This is a transcript:


Hello and welcome to the podcast “Reflections of a Pianist”. My name is Anna, i am a pianist and founder of Moving Classics TV – curated internet platform for new piano music. Our listeners are curious about how trends come to life and if there are musical and artistic criteria for what shapes the future? In my new episode I would like to give you an inside view of my approach as a curator and talk about the algorithms for the content creation.   

The word „to curate“ sounds a bit mysterious, just as these two words in the musicians‘ dictionary:  curated playlists and algorithms. Both words determine the future of music! Curated means carefully chosen and thoughtfully organised and presented. Curation as a method appeared as an answer to the huge amount of data that came together with the appearance of gigantic platforms as Youtube in 2005 and Spotify in 2006. The content upload to these platforms is growing exponentially. Just think of 500 hours of content that are being uploaded to YouTube every minute. And tomorrow this amount maybe already be 1000. Imagine how to navigate in this number of new releases? Where to start as a listener? Or if you are a musician, how possibly to reach your listeners?

In both cases a curator can be helpful. The task of a curator is to find and select the right content, arrange it, make it your own by providing context or adding your own voice to it, and sharing it. After sharing, a curator needs to engage the audience and track it back, evaluate it if it is answering the expectations of an audience. This is a constant workflow that a curator is doing every day. This is not easy and needs profound knowledge of the music market, intuition, and a desire to discover. It can also be a professional service that gives more credibility to the uploads and make them more accessible for the listeners.

The first question that any curator is asking is: WHAT exactly to search? Every curator has its own niche they feel comfortable with. However, niches are not equal so that the peaceful piano niche maybe much bigger than the baroque trumpet niche. Usually there is a correlation between a number of listeners and a number of uploads. Really popular niches like relaxing or calm piano would also have more submissions.

When starting Moving Classics, I decided to concentrate on the new piano music between passion and serenity. I am a classically trained concert pianist and I give recitals with the piano masterworks from different time epochs. As an artist, I am always interested in the future of the music, in the musical innovation and in the spirit of our times. Imagine how exciting it is to witness the birth of a new composition and be able to talk to the person who created it, to hear what he or she wanted to say and what is the story behind! So many interesting composers deserve more attention! They live our times and reflect it in their music! Their compositions are also our music. New Piano Music has a tremendous diversity of styles, different eclectic combinations of genres and elements. Through the research of audience who enjoy and regularly listen to piano music, I know that there are those who need music for their inspiration and those who need piano music for their relaxation. I call it in our “moving classics” language piano music between passion and serenity.

The next step is WHERE to find this music? At the very beginning I was using the playlists in Spotify and YouTube myself and was listening all day long to all the music that would be suggested to me by the algorithms. There is a practical aspect of algorithm as it follows a certain logic, but it also means that I was getting the similar music styles and the unexpected moments were not possible. So, I experimented with the keywords in google, I would write down the names of composers that I would see in the print media, i would talk to people and ask them for suggestions. It was a long process but day by day my watch list was growing.

Now I am getting direct submissions through social media and webpage. I would always look up the names of composers in the social media, I would look at their photos, at their postings, at their own posted recordings and try to get the overall picture of their music. I am interested in the personalities and in the growth of a composer, so it can be that the artistic output as of today is at this level, but there is something about the music that promises interesting development. That is why I love going through music scores in Musescore and discover emerging composers there too.  

When I listen to the music, I pay attention to the following: what creativity codes are used? Is a composer using some smart structures or thrilling proportions, some unexpected moments, what is the story behind the piece, what is he or she trying to say? Does it keep my interest or am I losing attention? I play the piece through and ask me these questions again and again, then I listen to my recordings back, sometimes I need to search for the right interpretation and record it several times to show the beauty of it. Curation taught me to take time and let my music appreciation grow.

Last but not least, the overall goal of any curated approach has to be that the music meets the taste of my listeners. It is integrated into a zeitgeisty concept that I develop and promote. Important criteria for me as a curator is therefore, that the composition meets my taste and the feeling of zeitgeist of my listeners.

I would like to invite you to listen to several playlists at the www.movingclassics.tv that I classify into “coming time”, “chill out piano”, “piano for thinking and concentration”, “cinematic piano solos”, “female composers of today” and others.  Maybe you would like to share with me your thoughts about curated playlists and i am looking forward to your questions. #Askmeanything through social media. Thank you for listening and goodbye. #podcast