Songs that Sound Similar

I heard the track “Pandora” by Cocteau Twins today.

I fell in love immediately. It sounded really familiar. After a bit of brainwracking, I remembered the track “A Wolf at the Door” by Radiohead.

Do I win a prize?

If we are going to make thought unnecessary using technology (that is our aim, isn’t it?) we’re going to need some sort of search engine where we can ask “What else does such-and-such-a-song sound like?” It seems like a common enough question. As the pace at which new media passes over our cerebra increases, the desire for such support will no doubt increase.

How might such a search engine come about?

To some extent, we already have such system. This blog post is part of the system. Everytime someone writes about a song reminding them about another song on the internet, the search engines add that information to the database. I’m not sure how many posts of this sort there are in the world, but over time, a large body of knowledge should fall into place.

One can imagine some sort of wiki springing up along similar lines. There are probably already several good ones already.

Once there is enough data out there connecting songs to others by reported similarity, it’s only a matter of time before someone throws some AI (artificial neural nets? evolutionary computation?) at that data and a fully automatic system that trawls myspace and youtube will be in place.

In the meantime, parallel systems will probably be developed in order to protect intellectual property against plagiarism and copyright theft.

It’s easy enough to see the reasons that would cause an artificially intelligent system that can recognise similarities between songs to come about. It’s not see easy to understand why the human brain has this ability. Why do certain songs make us pause to wonder about what they remind us of? How was this ability useful for our ancestors when they were fighting sabre tooth tigers and woolly mammoths? Why is it so annoying when we can’t remember? Why do we think that it’s important that we do?

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