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The Joy of Random Shuffle 718

ajayvb writes "Wired has this article on how the iPod and other music players have brought random shuffling of songs to the fore. This generation seems to like their music that way, and according to one of the authorities in the article, it's because they are likely 'brain damaged' and have lower attention spans. Ouch."
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The Joy of Random Shuffle

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  • by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) * on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:40PM (#8884232) Homepage
    Started I random it like time, all shuffle much the I've so the using.
    • by FrYGuY101 ( 770432 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:47PM (#8884370) Journal
      List of things which cause 'brain damage':
      Rock and Roll...

      *rereads parent*

    • How many times can you shuffle that until it goes from:

      "Started I random it like time, all shuffle much the I've so the using."


      "I like the random shuffle so much, I've started using it all the time."

      How many times would it take to shuffle a series of songs back into their original album order?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:53PM (#8884496)
        How many times would it take to shuffle a series of songs back into their original album order?

        According to RIAA marketing, every 6 years.
      • by Skater ( 41976 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:56PM (#8884560) Homepage Journal
        It could happen the first time you use it.

        If you have 9 songs, then there's 9! (362,880) possible permutations, I think. (I'm a statistician, but it's my day off, so I get to be lazy and not think too hard about this.)

        So, the probability of getting the exact order of the album would be 1/362880, which is about 0.0000028. Okay, it's pretty unlikely, but it could happen, especially if you listen to that album a lot. Another way to think about it: every time you play the ablum on shuffle, the chosen play order you hear only had a probability of 0.0000028 of being chosen.

        Assumption: shuffle w/o replacement. If you have shuffle with replacement (as one of my CD players does), it's even less likely.

    • by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) * <> on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:54PM (#8884512) Homepage Journal
      Started I random it like time, all shuffle much the I've so the using.

      This is proof that the people behind Zero Wing ("Somebody set up us the bomb!") were ahead of their time.

    • by Hogwash McFly ( 678207 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:54PM (#8884516)
      As i sit here I have Winamp open with a playlist of 1483 songs. I have the playlist on random shuffle because

      A) I like most genres of music, so shuffling gives me much more variety than listening to 20 songs from one artist, 20 from the next ad nauseum.

      B) It's exciting not knowing what the next track will be! Will it be Paul Simon or Weird Al? Vanessa Mae or Mighty Mighty Bosstones? Nobody knows!

      If there is a song in particular that I 'must immediately listen to' then it takes 2 seconds of scrolling and clicking and, bam, I can break the randomness for a moment.
      The only time I use a set playlist order is when playing Unreal Tournament multiplayer - trance/techno really sets the mood for the gameplay so I'll fire up Tiesto and let 'em spool off.

      Let's not forget that shuffling of this magnitude (not shuffling itself) is a new thing to play with. A few years ago it was a pain in the arse to keep changing CDs after one or two tracks, you'd usually listen out the whole album before changing.
      • I agree with you.

        It takes me just about 30 minuets to drive to work, which is a little more than half of a CD. If I listen to it in order, than everytime I play the CD I am going to here the same 6 to 7 songs, I could choose what I wanted to hear and program in a play list, but why bother when with a single button I get an assortment?

        The above is even more true for MP3s, when you have a folder with 500 songs in it, it is tiresome to listen to it in te same order everytime, and it is a pointless bother to
        • by pianophile ( 181111 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @03:36PM (#8885170)
          It takes me just about 30 minuets

          Is that faster or slower than 30 waltzes?
        • by shotfeel ( 235240 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @04:20PM (#8885735)
          Personally, as far as the "attention span" and the idea of temporal oder, kellaris misses a few important ponts:

          1) The majority of albums these days are not like many of the albums of old where the song order really is important in telling a "story". They're simply a collection of songs stand-alone songs.

          2) One artist/producer/marketeer/whoever' idea of the best song order is not going to be the same as anyone else's. Furthermore, I'm not going to credit that individual (or individuals) with being any more competent than I am at deciding what order I would like to listen to the songs on an album. Sorry for the rant, but I'm tired of "artists" insinuating that their vision is the only correct vision (ie Madonna thinking its an assault on her artistic vision and integrity for someone to want to buy only a single song from one of her albums).

          3) We've been subjected to the "random" shuffle for decades -its called the radio (the DJ's I know are about as random as you can get).

      • I tend to generate playlists based on theme and mood. Sure, there are times when I'll dump my entire music collection into the playlist, but there are other times when I really don't want, say, Sisters of Mercy to be followed directly by Tom Lehrer. Random jumps have a way of killing any mood that may have been building.

        And there are some albums that just should not be broken up, as other posters have been saying. Tool's Lateralus comes to mind as one I've been listening to rather often recently.

  • by Texodore ( 56174 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:41PM (#8884239)
    Who would have thought that shuffle would be popular? You know, like the radio?
    • Exactly. The only difference is that with one these nice tasty DAPs, it's like listening to radio station that only plays music you like. All the fun of the radio without the inccessant chatter and unwanted songs. Who would have though that would be popular indeed!
    • by bracher ( 33965 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:52PM (#8884466)
      You've never listened to a Clear Channel station, have you?
    • ...You mean like a group of 10 songs that are run through a "Heavy Rotation" in a 4 hour time slot? This is along with the single song they'll play from "Selected Artists"?

      Do shuffle right and you get the wide range of variety with suprises that ramdom playback provides. I setup an old system in my family room with over 2,800 song and set WinAMP to shuffle play. I haven't listened to radio at home for the last 8 months. No comercials, no DJ's flapping their gums and none of repititous crap. That amoun
    • by Bingo Foo ( 179380 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @03:04PM (#8884695)
      Since "random" shuffle is so popular, it might be a good thing to develop other shuffle methods for the shuffling connoisseur:
      1. Time-correlated shuffle, so that songs heard within the last few days are more likely to show up again. This allows songs to "stick in your head." This is more like what you actually hear on radio.
      2. Low-discrepancy sequences based on, e.g., date and/or genre. This provides a more uniform sampling of your music library for short duration listening, since in, say, four songs you are guaranteed four maximally different dates or genres, or whatever.
      Any others?
      • iPod/iTunes smart playlists can do those two things quite easily.
        • No they can't. I'm talking about the random number generation itself. Look into the general problem of (pseudo)random number generation algorithms. [] What iTunes does is let you choose between "random" and various sortings by categories.

          What I am proposing is not sorted, but weighted randomization. iTunes would do what I want if it had selections like "Randomize with (strong|medium|weak|no) (positive|negative) correlations in (size|time|date added|year|artist|song name|composer|...)"

        • Lately I've been playing songs in iTunes using a smart playlist that only plays songs that I haven't played in a long while. Its a real great way to bring to the surface the songs that I have forgotten about.
      • If you're running XMMS or Beep Media Player, get ye out to [] and pick up the IMMS plugin. It replaces XMMS's rather retarded and unrandom shuffler with one that uses an SQLite database. All you have to do is activate the plugin, hit play, queue up songs you like, and skip songs you don't like. As you play, it learns which songs you like and don't like, then plays the ones you like more often. It analyzes the song's spectrum and bpm, and gives more weight to
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:41PM (#8884243)
    Random shuffle of recorded music bears a resemblence to the other way people listen to their favorite genre of music... radio play. On the radio, rarely are two songs from the same artist played back to back, and it's extremely rare for twelve songs of the same artist to be played in a row.

    But, actually, radio play is not a truely random selection. Radio programmers mark certain slow-paced songs as "do not play in the morning drive" because nobody wants to be put back to sleep while driving to work. They also bias their selections towards favoring more popular songs, artists who are coming to town soon, recent "fresh" hits, and the songs that best define their format.

    iTunes, Real, and nearly every other music organizing program are starting to catch onto this with their playlist generator, which very closely resembles the way that radio program directors deal with their playlists... setting a ruleset that creates a quasi-random base for their day, and then displaying the results for potential human manipulation.

    The end result is that we're all basically running our own cluster of radio stations. Sometimes you feel like listening to the songs you've rated 5-stars, sometimes you want a mix of high-energy fast-paced songs, sometimes you want some soft background music. Each of those is defined as different playlist, and as new music is added into your system they automatically drop into the rotation on their appropriate lists.

    So, there you have it. As much as we want to escape radio, we love it when we're the one running the board...
    • by gcaseye6677 ( 694805 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:49PM (#8884411)
      It is the musicians themselves that have killed the album. When they record a CD with a few interesting songs, a couple of OK songs, and a bunch of filler, nobody values the album format. And why should they, since it would just be boring to listen through the filler to get to your favorite songs. An album, in the true sense, is a collection of songs that are similar and put together well (example: Pink Floyd). When it became just a bunch of songs thrown onto a CD as a delivery mechanism, the idea of the album lost its meaning.
      • gcaseye6677 complains:

        "When it became just a bunch of songs thrown onto a CD as a delivery mechanism, the idea of the album lost its meaning."

        Actually, I think you may be onto something here. I think the "delivery mechanism" of CDs is half of the problem. Since there's so much space to store music on a CD, there's a tendency to use it all. Thus, in the LP days, you got maybe 5-10 songs and a half hour listen out of an album. Maybe half those songs were good, on average. Presently, you get 12-17 songs on
    • by gregmac ( 629064 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @03:51PM (#8885378) Homepage
      Radio programmers mark certain slow-paced songs as "do not play in the morning drive" because nobody wants to be put back to sleep while driving to work.

      I ocasionally work as a DJ, and this reminds me of something similar I was taught. I don't think radios do this as much - or at least, it's maybe not noticable from being interrupted with commercials and station id's - but it's something I do all the time listening to music at home.

      Basically, play music in sets. You play a slow or downish song, and slowly build up into more energy over say 3-8 songs, and then drop back down again, basically going in waves. If you're going to jump genres, use connecting songs to switch (ie, going from rock to hiphop, you might play a fairly hard-rock song (at the top of the wave), move to something in the middle, play something of a rock-hiphop cross (Kazzer - When it rains it pours, off the top of my head), then play slow hiphop, and move up.

      It makes the music 'flow', and, to me at least, makes a nicer listening experience.

      I also don't really use random, but I pick semi-randomly from my collection and order them as I go. Something this article doesn't really point out is that while random CAN make interesting and good song orders, it can also (and IMO, more often) make bad selections, and play songs that don't sound good together. Maybe this is more important when you listen with crossfading (as I usually do), but it still bothers me anyways.
  • brain damaged ?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by untermensch ( 227534 ) * on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:41PM (#8884245)
    From the article:
    "Temporal order is an important element of how a work unfolds dynamically over time, an important factor underlying the aesthetic effect."

    Well, sure it is within a song, but saying that the order of songs within an album is important to the "aesthetic effect", is like saying that if I read a book by J. Random Author without reading all of his other books, in the order they were written, that I'm missing the effect.

    A song, like a book (or book series), is a discrete unit of art. Sure it's similar to the other songs on that album, and sure it can be nice to listen to an entire album, in order, but where on earth does he find evidence for the claim that random shuffle appeals to "brain damaged" kids with short attention span.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:45PM (#8884319)
      A lot of good albums have some sort of order in the arrangement of the songs, meant to engage the listener. There are smooth transitions, buildup of some sort, etc. Though most of the time this is pretty subtle, it's still present.
    • by oomis ( 600367 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:52PM (#8884464)
      Maybe back in the day an artist had a lot of say in terms of what went onto an album, and how the album unfolded as a listener worked through it. Perhaps at one point there was a larger message that could only be conveyed by an album, and couldn't be contained in a single song (I'm thinking of The Wall by Pink Floyd). But the reality is that nowadays so much of the music out there is crap that the album as an art form seems to be mostly dead. This is one of the reasons that people are more willing to buy an individual track than to buy an album. Personally, I prefer to buy an album, but ONLY after I've previewed (read: downloaded) enough enough material or I'm familiar enough with the artist to have some faith in them. I HATE being burned by buying an album based on one song and then finding out the rest of it was a load of shyte. Record companies seem less and less interested in promoting a good album, and care more about the 2 or 3 singles that they can extract and promote the hell out of. My point is that one of the reasons that the random play is preferred to an album at a time is because few entire albums are worth listening to anymore. Random play, with careful selection of what goes on the iPod in the first place, ensures that EVERYTHING that I listen to is good AND I get to be surprised. But ... it could just be the brain damage. If so, it's most likely brought on by too much commercial radio.
    • I think its hilariouos that you used "Brain Damaged" as the topic, as one of the greatest albums of all time, Dark Side of the Moon, has a song with the title "Brain Damage."

      While most moden albums do not ascribe to having the songs work together, this is not true historically. Dark Side of the Moon is probably the best example of this.

      While I could argue in detail about this, Ive found that the best way to do this is to grab a dark side cd, put it in, listen to it the whole way through, then again on ran
      • by frAme57 ( 145879 )
        Right on! I think Dark Side of the Moon, (and Wish You Were Here, Animals, etc) are excpetions to the general rule. It seems that more album cuts are free-standing than tied into the flow of their album. Even songs that come from a flow of music often can be ripped out of the album and played in a random playlist.

        A good example of that is Money, from DSotM. How many times have we heard that in radio playlists, and how many times (if ever) have we heard anything else from that album on the radio?

        I really

    • Re:brain damaged ?!? (Score:5, Informative)

      by jeffcuscutis ( 28426 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:54PM (#8884504) Homepage
      Some albums are made to be listened to in a random order. They Might Be Giants Apollo 18 [] is designed to be listened to on shuffle.
    • The order of songs within an album IS important to the overall "aesthetic effect" ... try looking through any of the numerous behind-the-scenes or making-of for albums, and you'll see that song order is important. Your comparison to a book is only applicable if the books are self-contained novels in and of themselves. Try reading Return of the King without having read the others first, and you can see that ordering is important.

      Generally, an important attention-getting song is placed right at the very be
    • Hey (Score:5, Funny)

      by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:55PM (#8884535)
      I r brane damorged u isnesnitive clud!
    • Well, sure it is within a song, but saying that the order of songs within an album is important to the "aesthetic effect", is like saying that if I read a book by J. Random Author without reading all of his other books, in the order they were written, that I'm missing the effect.

      Not quite. In fact, I think that you were close when you said: A song, like a book (or book series), is a discrete unit of art.

      A song is like a book, or a short-story. A good album is like a good book series - each episode mak
    • by King Babar ( 19862 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @03:10PM (#8884777) Homepage
      Note that the source for the "brain-damaged" comment is not exactly one I would trust as an authority:
      James Kellaris, a professor of marketing at the University of Cincinnati and author of a study about tunes that stick in your head, said the appeal of random shuffle is likely generational. Kellaris said random shuffle likely appeals to the MTV generation -- kids with short attention spans who are likely "brain damaged."

      Now, call me a cynic, but I'm not sure I really believe that a professor of marketing is the best source of information on what is more reasonably a neuropsychology or cognitive neuroscience question. (OK, so maybe marketing experts have some deep connection with brain damage, but I'm *trying* to be kind here.)

      I can state this with authority because, marketing, after all, is not exactly brain surgery. :-)

  • by AtariAmarok ( 451306 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:41PM (#8884249)
    I like a good random mix as anyone. However, I am also rather fond of the "rock opera" format. You lose something if the songs of "The Wall" or "Tommy" or "Greendale" are scrambled and mixed in with other tracks: a lot of the enjoyment is in the "story" and sequence. I suppose you can get around this by making sure that these albums are encoded as one single audio file.
    • Or, perhaps, by watching the DVD. :)

      The Wall is one of my favourites too. My approach is to keep the DVD around for when I want the whole thing, and keep some of the tracks with the most flow into each other encoded together.
    • by ek_adam ( 442283 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:47PM (#8884368) Homepage

      From the article,

      "Temporal order is an important element of how a work unfolds dynamically over time, an important factor underlying the aesthetic effect. Random shuffle pretty much flushes that down the toilet."

      On the other hand, you can set the iPod and iTunes to shuffle by Album. All of the songs on the album are played in order, then it jumps to another random album.

  • Expert (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thanatopsis ( 29786 ) <> on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:41PM (#8884250) Homepage
    The expert quoted in the article was a professor of marketing, hardly the go to guy as far as neuroscience is involved.
    • Re:Expert (Score:5, Funny)

      by Soko ( 17987 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:47PM (#8884379) Homepage
      Hmmm.... dunno 'bout that, dude.

      Depends on which end of the disection scalpel he's on.

    • Re:Expert (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chiasmus_ ( 171285 )
      The expert quoted in the article was a professor of marketing, hardly the go to guy as far as neuroscience is involved

      Okay, here comes some flamebait, but I think in this case it's justified: the "expert" here is just another blowhard who thinks his generation is superior to the one following it. That's not an uncommon worldview, but it is little better than any other form of bigotry, and it goes without saying that it has no place in actual science.

      I mean, look at the context his "brain damage" quote
  • Variety (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gid13 ( 620803 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:41PM (#8884251)
    First of all, I hardly think my preference for random translates to a lower attention span since many of the tracks on my playlist are half an hour or longer. Furthermore, a lower attention span is not necessarily a bad thing. It has been noted by more intelligent people than me that there is an extreme overabundance of information in this world. Perhaps a short attention span is a defense mechanism to help filter out people's bullshit.
  • by FrankSchwab ( 675585 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:41PM (#8884252) Journal
    OK, so I'm an old fart... Why don't any of the MP3 devices/programs/whatever that I use allow a "random album shuffle", that plays albums completely through, then chooses another album? /frank
  • by Anonymous Coward
    When I listen to an album in its original format, the end of one song triggers a memory as to what's coming up long before the song actually starts playing. It gets monotonous. It's much more pleasant to have a mix.
  • Regardless of the fact I had to read the above around 3 times before I picked up all the sentences...
  • That's funny. I know my attention span is damaged because my 'forward' button is worn out. Plus, it's all in the thrill of gambling what's next anyways. Content? Who needs it anymore?
  • what? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Washizu ( 220337 ) <> on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:43PM (#8884277) Homepage
    "it's because they are likely 'brain damaged' and have lower attention spans."

    I'm outraged!

    Who wants to go ride bikes?

  • Our jukebox server keeps a list of all the requests each user makes. When the request list is empty, it randomly selects from a pool that includes the name of every song on the archive, plus the request lists. That way you get a mix that includes some truly random stuff but is weighted toward your favorites.

    It produces a stream with the same appeal as a college radio station -- loosely aligned with a particular format, but quirky and eclectic.

  • by AbbyNormal ( 216235 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:44PM (#8884287) Homepage
    offense to this article about being brain damaged and further more....Oooh I got a new email message...
  • Dain Bramage? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) *
    This generation seems to like their music that way, and according to one of the authorities in the article, it's because they are likely 'brain damaged' and have lower attention spans. Ouch."

    Probably "Authority==Orderliness Nazi" Music has for the most part been shuffled on radio for years, except those stations that just play loops. Gotta slow down on reading up on such "authroities" I'm developing a sodium problem.

  • It's probably that our brains enjoy doing pattern matching. Doing the little "what random song is this?" game is great little exercise for pattern matching and memory retrival.
  • huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hookedup ( 630460 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:44PM (#8884290)
    Winamp has had that feature for years. People were shuffling mp3s that way before ipod was a sparkle in an apple execs eye.
    • Re:huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by finkployd ( 12902 )
      Even before winamp started kicking llama's asses, there was a primitive device called the radio that had a shuffle feature that you couldn't turn off.


  • The article states that they interviewed one person who has 20,000 songs in their collection to which the interviewee have never even given a listen.

    Either this person bought 2000 albums just for the one song they liked and never listened to the rest, or (more likely) they pirate a whole lot of random stuff.

    Either way: Unbelievable. Why would anybody waste time and hard drive space like that?

    • by Anixamander ( 448308 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:55PM (#8884522) Journal
      A good friend of mine has a CD collection now in excess of 10,000 cds. If he likes an artist from the one or two songs he hears, he buys the cd. If he likes that album as a whole he buys their entire catalog. He is in the process of ripping all of his cds. Last I checked he was up to "M" (between Madness and Madonna). He has never listened to some discs at all, but once he gets them categorized into a genre and puts the ipod on shuffle, her hears a lot of music that he would not otherwise hear. My points is, 20,000 songs that one hasn't heard is not at all unrealistic, even for someone who pays for their music.

      His next planned purchase is an Xserve RAID. I believe he is over half a terabyte now in ripped music and is looking for a better way to manage it all. And he is very eager for Apple to release a bigger ipod. Right not he has three that he uses regularly, with different subsets of songs on each.
      • Let's say it takes only five minutes to rip a CD to a lossy format like MP3 or Vorbis. That would take over 34 days of continual ripping, not counting the time it takes to remove the CD from the collection, popping it into the tray, taking the CD out when the rip is complete, and eventually putting it away.

        CDs generally cost somewhere between $10 and $18, so let's be generous and say his average is $11. That would be $110,000 in CDs alone. In other words, this person should take out a nice insurance pol
  • Is this new? I've had 'shuffle' on every single player I've owned since CDs! Wired, I'm ashamed.
  • Albums (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mose250 ( 724946 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:45PM (#8884314)
    I used to be a huge fan of shuffling (this isn't a new feature - every mp3 player ever has had the ability) until I started appreciating the album as a cohesive work. I never really enjoyed the music of the Beatles, for example, until I listened to Abbey Road the whole way through and realized that the album's genius lies at least in part in the overall construction. I feel like a lot of this is lost through random play.
  • Artist knows best? (Score:5, Informative)

    by DreadSpoon ( 653424 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:45PM (#8884315) Journal
    "Personally, and I believe I speak for many old farts here, I appreciate listening to music, be it an opera or a pop album, in the sequence in which the artist decided to present it," he said.

    "Temporal order is an important element of how a work unfolds dynamically over time, an important factor underlying the aesthetic effect. Random shuffle pretty much flushes that down the toilet."

    He is assuming, of course, that the songs being listened have any real order. A good deal of the albums produced have no theme, no real order, and are just collections of songs. This is especially true for rock/pop/blues stuff. Listening to an album in order just means you get a preset random chunk of tracks vs a dynamic random chunk of tracks... not to mention you often find that you only like several songs on a given album.

    • by graikor ( 127470 )
      Very true - I was shocked when I got the SACD version of Peter Gabriel's So - I had listened to that album since 1986, and "In Your Eyes" was song #5, and the album closed with the Laurie Anderson collaboration, "This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)".

      Now, I find out that was originally put like that because of vinyl limitations, and he's now moved "In Your Eyes" to the end. After 16.5 years of one track order, I can't quite get into the album as much with the new track order - it doesn't feel right to me.
  • Shuffle rules! (Score:5, Informative)

    by graikor ( 127470 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:45PM (#8884322) Journal
    I usually use a Smart Playlist that takes all the 4 and 5 star songs I haven't heard recently, and plays them in shuffled order. That makes it like a radio station that only plays my favorite songs, with no repeats (albeit one that only plays songs I've actually heard before).

    Sometimes there's no substitute for listening to an actual album in order, but shuffle is a nice way to introduce some serious variety - there's nothing like hearing Coltrane followed by Queens of the Stone Age...
  • What's an El-Pee? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:45PM (#8884326) Homepage
    Sounds to me like someone at Wired is heavily into ye olde art rock, and expects people to listen to albums that are really just collections of pop songs as if they were Dark Side of the Moon.
  • by kzinti ( 9651 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:46PM (#8884347) Homepage Journal
    Shuffle mode is one of my few gripes with the iPod. I make large playlists and like to listen to them in shuffle mode, but I always listen to my albums straight - no shuffle. However, I'm constantly forgetting what mode my iPod is in, and listening to the first few songs on an album in shuffle mode, or vice versa. I would really love it if Apple would update the firmware to track shuffle mode independently for playlists vs albums/artists. Or, even better, if it could track the shuffle preference of each playlist, album, or artist individually.
  • by Eevee ( 535658 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:51PM (#8884448)

    My parents' generation listened to music on 45s, where they get together and play songs at random. My generation listened to LPs where the songs were in a particular order every single time. My kids' generation listens to MP3s and play songs at random.

    Obviously, both my parents' generation and my kids' generation are brain damaged, because us baby boomers never took drugs while going through college....

  • by HungWeiLo ( 250320 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:54PM (#8884515)
    What about classical music? You can't just randomly shuffle symphonies or sonatas or whatnot out of order. I guess this only applies to all other types of music.
  • by kwiqsilver ( 585008 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:55PM (#8884529)
    Random shuffling is a byproduct of our MTV-induced brain damage, eh?
    Should I point out to this idiot that we have something called "radio" that intermixes songs from multiple artists and albums, in an effort to provide what we call "variety"? Or that it predates xmms, winamp, and the ipod by several decades?
    One would think a marketing professor would be familiar with these concepts.
  • I call bullsh*t (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:55PM (#8884534)
    Radio stations have been randomly shuffling music for a rather long time now. As a result, music is neatly compartmentalized into 2-4 minute chunks. Contemporary music is designed to be shuffled. The fact that you might enjoy your music as it was designed to be enjoyed is not a sign of brain damage. That some ivory tower mucky-muck professor of marketing seems to assign undo significance to "the sequence in which the artist decided to present it" means precisely squat. All the "hits" get re-released as "the best of"s in many cases with little or no production input from the original artists, it they're still alive, and customers promptly buy them. Artists and professors are over-rated.
  • by X_Bones ( 93097 ) <> on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:55PM (#8884545) Homepage Journal
    Kellaris said random shuffle likely appeals to the MTV generation -- kids with short attention spans who are likely "brain damaged."

    "Personally, and I believe I speak for many old farts here, I appreciate listening to music, be it an opera or a pop album, in the sequence in which the artist decided to present it," he said.

    "Temporal order is an important element of how a work unfolds dynamically over time, an important factor underlying the aesthetic effect. Random shuffle pretty much flushes that down the toilet."

    This strongly depends on the quality and length of the album in question, IMO. Some albums need to be listened to in order (Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, Led Zeppelin I, and Hybrid's Wide Angle all come immediately to mind), but with the majority of CDs having no emotional continuity between songs, I see no reason not to skip around and only listen to what you feel like hearing. Besides, this argument doesn't address the popularity of mix CDs or the random shuffling of songs from multiple albums.

    And, with music or any other form or art, what the artist intends to present in a piece of work is not always how the audience interprets it. Who's to say someone won't find more meaning in a random shuffle than in the original order of the same tracks?

    The only thing she's right about is the fact that she is an old fart.

    On a slightly related note, wasn't this the reason the Red Hot Chili Peppers (I believe) refuse to sell their music on iTMS? They want the CD to be appreciated as a whole, while their listeners wanted only a handful of the songs.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:56PM (#8884556)
    I find that randomness helps me enjoy songs for a greater number of plays -- I don't get sick of songs as quickly when they are decontextualized. In album format, each track prompts too much memory of the succeeding tracks. And if the album has "bad" songs, then I find the memory of the bad song taints my enjoyment of the preceding song.

    I'm sure music people don't want tactics that increase the number of enjoyable plays. Its in the music industry's interests for customers to become tired of the music so people go buy more.
  • by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:58PM (#8884588) Journal
    > "I appreciate listening to music, ..., in the sequence in which the artist decided to present it,"
    > "Temporal order is an important element of how a work unfolds dynamically over time, an important factor underlying the aesthetic effect. Random shuffle pretty much flushes that down the toilet."

    I call B.S.

    Most artists today throw together a bunch of random songs in no particular order KNOWING that today's audience will be listening to individual tracks in a club, on the radio, or on 'random shuffle' on their player; Or they don't put that much thought into it at all.

    This is probably dating me, but the last albums I recall that had a meaningful sequence were 'Pink Floyd The Wall', and maybe 'STYX Mr. Roboto'. Any more recent examples, please?

  • This is stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moofie ( 22272 ) <lee@ringofsatur n . c om> on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:58PM (#8884592) Homepage
    "in which the artist decided to present it"

    Well, most albums nowadays are built by marketing flacks, not artists. To suggest that I should submit my listening habits to anybody's judgements but my own is ridiculous.
  • Not new at all. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sillypixie ( 696077 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @02:58PM (#8884593) Journal
    These people are on drugs.

    It isn't new to mix different songs from different albums - when I was a kid the cool thing was to make "mix" tapes with a double tape deck, and trade them around. It was always more fun to listen to somebody else's mix tape than your own, because that element of unpredictability was there.

    The technology has changed, but the desire to listen to an varied list of music, in an order that is surprising, has nothing to do with "the kids today" and their short attention span.

    The really great thing about today's technology isn't that you can shuffle all sorts of albums, but that you can include only the songs on the album that you like in the shuffle. That is the huge advantage over putting 5 cds into the changer and hitting 'shuffle'.


  • by w3weasel ( 656289 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @03:00PM (#8884614) Homepage
    Kellaris: Personally, and I believe I speak for many old farts here, I appreciate listening to music, be it an opera or a pop album, in the sequence in which the artist decided to present it
    And in the same breath accusing nonconforming beliefs to be the result of brain damage...

    I have two observations:

    1. If you went to public school, you probably had a nice teacher in some class or other who would stop the progress of learning to repeat (over and over again) the same simple detail to the slow-witted kid in the class until he finally got it and 'caught up'. While the rest of us get the appreciation of the 'grand compliation' in one or two listens, and then just a single track will evoke the memories and enjoyment of the entire compilation. How many times can you listen to $over_rated_pop_opera in your lifetime and still marvel at its interwoven beaty before it's just repetitious?
    2. The last time the 'Old Farts' were complaining vehemently about 'those damn teenagers' and their listening habits is now regarded by history as a period of significant social revolution... puctuated by experimental music, drugs, and alternate lifestyles. So does that mean that today's iPod is yesterday's Reefer?
  • by aswang ( 92825 ) <> on Friday April 16, 2004 @03:03PM (#8884667) Homepage
    Speaking as a pedantic biologist, I don't think you can objectively call it brain damage. Presumably, our shorter attention spans are the result of our homeostatic processes trying to cope with the continual bombardment of information. This will clearly cause changes to the brain. I wouldn't be surprised if you could directly correlate subtle findings on PET scan or fMRI to the slight variations in the duration of someone's attention span. I don't think we can evaluate whether these changes are in fact "damage," i.e., with negative adaptive (selective) consequences, or are in fact, positive adaptations until, as they say, more real data comes in. (Yes, I know this sounds very Lamarckian, but, you know, he was right when it comes to molecular biology as opposed to evolution of species.)

    That said, I do think there is some value in listening to albums in track sequence. Like other posters have pointed out, presumably the artists put the tracks in that order for a reason (although, more likely, a marketroid put the tracks in that order, but I digress) and since the emotional effects that a lot of posters have been alluding to are cumulative, you're clearly missing out if you always listen randomly. I mean, if there were no value to listening to songs in a particular sequence, what would the point of creating playlists be?

  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @03:03PM (#8884670)
    ... and I like random shuffling because listening to songs in the same sequence all the time imprints the order on my brain. Knowing that "I love Rock and Roll" ALWAYS follows "Pretty Paper" makes music much less enjoyable.

    What I'd like to see is a Tivo-like feature where the player takes your preferences and downloads other songs that you might like as well. Sorting thru tons of dreck to find the gems is so, like, last century.
  • by spaceyhackerlady ( 462530 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @03:04PM (#8884687)

    In an era where CDs rarely have more than one or two good songs anyway, I like to gather collections together on a single CD. Since the songs are from different CDs, different performers, etc., there is nothing to lose by telling the CD player to play them in random order.

    Brain-damaged? Yeah, right...


  • predictable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theCat ( 36907 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @03:05PM (#8884700) Journal
    I'll predict there will be a whole slew of similar reports from scholars amd government agencies about why enjoying your own music your own way on your own music player is either unAmerican, unhealthy, damaging to Our Way of Life, playing into the hands of terrorists, etc.

    Because the music industry is horrified that the album, that high priced gold plated sacred cow of music commerce, is doomed. Artists make songs and the music labels make albums. End users listen to songs, but must buy albums to get them. The songs sell themselves, and users choke down the price of albums to get the songs.

    The middle man, the record labels, touch all the money and most of it sticks to their fingers, but without the album there would be no middle man as such, and increasingly the online music stores are getting set up to cut the middle out. Since the music industry is mostly talentless marketing wonks who otherwise would have to market uncool things like vacuum cleaners, the extinction of the album as a concept would be a disaster and really cut down on the number of great parties and available women they have enjoyed up to now.
  • I hate shuffle (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zapp ( 201236 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @03:05PM (#8884711)
    When I listen through an album, I absolutely hate shuffle. I like to know exactly what is next. Usually the album is on repeat too.

    I think though, it has to do with my style of music as well. I like techno and classical quite a bit, both of which are highly repetative and predictable. I often use music as a way to keep my mind focused while working, and so it has to follow a steady pattern. If it were to jump around, I'd probably get distracted by it. Sometimes I even pick a single song and leave it on repeat for hours. Rarely ever do I create playlists with mixed artists or albums, its either 1 song on repeat, or a full album on repeat.
  • by robaustin ( 674701 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @03:05PM (#8884712)
    Here's the big point I think that's missed about random play. It is essentially like listening to the radio, without the commercials, and with the music you WANT to hear. Radio is always random in the eyes (ears) of the listener - you never know what is going to come up next. This is not a generational thing, not an MTV thing, it's a radio thing (and last I checked, radio dates back way before MTV or the current generation). --*Rob
  • by lotsofno ( 733224 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @03:07PM (#8884735)
    Winamp 5 [] and some other players (not iTunes though I think) have built in functionality that really adds some "oomph" to shuffling: enqueue

    On Winamp, if your listening to a huge random playlist of songs, but you want to hear a particular song after the one your listening to, just select the song in the playlist and hit 'Q'. Winamp will finish the currently playing song, then play the song you selected, then return to randomly shuffling the tracks automatically. You can do this with multiple tracks, picking an order you want to hear those songs, and then having Winamp shuffle the rest.

    Or just hit 'J' to search the list of the songs in the playlist, and select the song(s) you want to enqueue.

  • by localman ( 111171 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @03:28PM (#8885037) Homepage
    I grew up listening to albums, so I'm not impartial, but...

    When I got my iPod I did have a great time listening to my entire 2000+ song collection on shuffle. There was certainly something about it that seemed cool and fresh. Certain songs popped out and other seemed less engaging than I thought.

    After a few months, though, I got sort of tired of it. There was something unsatisfying... like watching a bunch of movie trailers instead of watching a movie. There is something to be said for a well constructed album that takes you on an extended journey. Even if I end up skipping one or two songs, listening in album or near album format does have a sort of depth to it you just don't get listening to singles collections.

    Going back to albums was a bit uncomfortable at first -- I would find myself getting impatient for a change. But what's with that? Shouldn't I be able to relax and have someone tell me a good story? It took some time to get over the attention span deficit, but once I did, I did find myself able to get a deeper enjoyment from music again.

    Just my thoughts.
  • by Servo ( 9177 ) <`dstringf' `at' `'> on Friday April 16, 2004 @04:38PM (#8885928) Journal
    Radio stations have been "shuffling" music for years. Why so much shock and disdain for people who do it at home?

  • by patrick.whitlock ( 708318 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @05:13PM (#8886332)
    i sent an email to this guy asking him how the could make such a broad statement without taking into effect advances in technology. he responded with what he actually told the reporter. i think this guy was just mis quoted. his email is below: Patrick, Thanks for your note. The reporter misquoted me. Here is exactly what I told him (via email): "I've no particular wisdom to share on this topic - my own research does not speak to it. The only thought that occurs to me is that the feature should appeal to "variety seekers" with a "low need for control." (Random shuffle is a control freak's worst nightmare.) Also, I wonder if it could have a (deleterious) long-term effect on attention span. Adult attention span has been decreasing over time. Random shuffle may be a manifestation of this M-TV generation phenomenon." Ciao! -James
  • by deviator ( 92787 ) <> on Friday April 16, 2004 @05:43PM (#8886650) Homepage
    I've been using a service called MoodLogic [] lately and it beats the crap out of the random shuffle. MoodLogic has a big database (ala CDDB) that categorizes songs by "feeling," "mood," or "tempo" - these are subjective concepts, yes, but are manually entered into the database by other MoodLogic users.

    The result is that it does a damn good job of playing unique playlists of music that are thematically grouped--they "go together." It's like having a REAL DJ who knows a lot about music pick your playlist for you.

    You can pick any song, artist, album, or arbitrary "style" and MoodLogic will create a playlist for you on the fly with songs that fit that selection.

    I can't emphasize how much of a difference this has made to my music listening - I used to listen to whole albums or make my own limited playlists because the random shuffle was TOO random. But MoodLogic actually exposes a WHOLE lot of individual tracks I normally don't listen to. Very nifty.

    They've recently released a version of their software that will siphon music to your TiVo as well, if you have the Home Media Option installed (check TiVo's website for this download). Instead of playing albums straight throguh, you can build themed playlists on the fly with your TiVo interface from another room. Brilliant.

    This is where things will head, I hope.

  • by RestiffBard ( 110729 ) on Friday April 16, 2004 @07:28PM (#8887649) Homepage
    I shuffle not because I have a short attention span. I can listen to Ravel or Debussy for hours on end. Why? Cause its not the same tune all the way through the album. Same goes for real jazz music. It's not the same song all the way. Its different.

    However, I can't listen to one album by some pop tart all the way through because after ten minutes I'm really over hearing the exact same song played in a different key.

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