Jukebox Hero

How Paul Lamere's genius web app mimics the human brain

It’s been tremendous to watch Paul Lamere‘s Infinite Jukebox get covered so widely. Brian Eno’s widely reviewed recent Lux album is getting rightful credit for bringing the concept of generative sound (back) into public view, but Lamere’s Jukebox is doing so not through the alternate backdoor aesthetic of ambient music, but right through the front door by employing standard pop songs as its source material. The Infinite Jukebox web application takes an individual song (feel free to upload your own) and creates an endless version by breaking it into segments and locating “pathways” that can be linked to each other in an ever-changing, random sequence.

I don’t have much to add on it at the moment except: (1) I think the major pleasure of the project may be how it replicates how our memories actually play back songs in our heads: not as pristine or even “worldized” recordings, a la Dennis Potter (The Singing Detective) or Walter Murch (American Graffiti), but as snatches that replay at an inconsistent pace and with varying attention to specific elements; (2) I am intrigued by the copyright ramifications — how do you bill/charge or otherwise claim royalty payments for such usage; (3) in my experience you can glitch up the Infinite Jukebox by playing it in a Chrome browser tab that isn’t the front-most tab; this causes the tune to skip, or in contemporary parlance, to enter an especially narrow, recursive pathway; and (4) do start using it: at echonest.com.

The Infinite Jukebox was developed by Lamere, who is Director of Developer Platform at Echo Nest. More on it at his musicmachinery.com website.

And speaking of which, there’s was a great feature on the company in a recent issue of Fortune (PDF) by Rob Walker, who organized the current “As Real As It Gets” exhibit at apexart in Manhattan, for which the Disquiet Junto provided sound design.

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