I revisited this NY Times article from two years ago and it got me thinking about the personal playlist (or, maybe as we used to call it, the ‘mixtape’). The gist: Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto couldn’t stand the music played in his favorite restaurant so he offered to custom-make his own. The original music wasn’t terrible — it was “thoughtless,” lacking any context suitable for the restaurant’s environment or its food. It sounds like Sakamoto spent a lot of time creating the perfect playlist, and it’s one that changes every season. I wonder if he’s still doing it.
The author of the article has some thoughts about the qualities of a perfect playlist:
I would prefer that music not seem an afterthought, or the result of algorithmic computation. I want it chosen by a person who knows music up and down and sideways: its context, its dynamism and its historical and aural clichés. Such a person can at least accomplish the minimum, which is to signal to the customer that attention is being paid, in a generous, original, specific and small-ego way.
Replace ‘customer’ with ‘listener’ and this becomes an attractive argument in favor of human curation.