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Saturday: February 25, 2006

Now Playing

Filed under: — site admin @ 9:47 AM UTC

Over the last year or two, various people have proposed ways of simply characterizing one’s iTunes collection. John Scalzi suggested hitting Shuffle and listing the first ten tunes that come up. More recently, VodkaPundit suggested that it would be more accurate to list the top ten on the Most Played list. That works tolerably well, and I posted my results in his comments, but what if you have a 16-way tie for 8th place, as I do? Only seven tunes have been played 8+ times (the maximum is 12), but 16 have been played 7 times, so selection of the last two in a Top-10 list is arbitrary.

A few months ago, someone (I forget who) suggested using the first song listed for each letter of the alphabet to make a list of 26. That is not a very accurate method, since punctuation marks sort before letters, which overrepresents titles that are spelled out or hyphenated or contracted. Examples from my iTunes library:

  • A-11 — Buck Owens
  • B-Flat Blues — Count Basie
  • D-I-V-O-R-C-E — Tammy Wynette
  • E’s Flat Ah’s Flat Too — Charles Mingus
  • G-I-R-L Spells Trouble — Ernest Tubb
  • P.S. I Love You — The Beatles
  • S’Crazy Pad — Herbie Nichols
  • ‘Taint What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It) — Fats Waller

The artists are fairly random, but the titles are not.

The method also grossly overrepresents Edith Piaf in my collection, giving her seven slots out of 26 (27%), which is well over ten times her actual share of my collection. The title beginning Va wins fair and square, but another uses the definite article (Un), and the other five take unfair advantage of the apostrophe, beginning with C’est, J’ai, L’, N’y, and Qu’as. (A Portuguese title beginning with the definite article, Villa Lobos’ O Polichinello, takes second place in the Os, but is edged out by Ralph Stanley’s O Death.)

A simple and rather obvious twist solves both problems. Find the 26 songs that come last under each letter. That gives quite a characteristic list, at least for me. I excluded Roman numerals (e.g. IX. Presto) except for the letter X, where all the cuts are classical and begin with Roman numerals. Here’s my list:

  • Azure — Duke Ellington (preceded by Cecil Taylor’s version)
  • Byrd’s Blues — Professor Longhair
  • Cut the Cornbread, Mama — The Osborne Brothers
  • Dying Ranger — Dock Boggs
  • Ezekiel Saw the Wheel — Dixie Hummingbirds
  • Fuzz Dixon — Don Walser
  • Gulf Coast Blues — Bessie Smith
  • Hymne à l’Amour — Edith Piaf
  • It’s Only Love — The Beatles
  • Just Wondering Why — Longview
  • Kozmic Blues — Janis Joplin
  • Lyin’ Eyes — The Eagles
  • Mystery Train Part II — Steve Earle
  • Nutopian International Anthem — John Lennon
  • Over Yonder in the Graveyard — Del McCoury & the Dixie Pals
  • Pyramid — Dave Bartholomew
  • Quits — Gary Stewart
  • Rusty Pail — Fats Waller
  • Synergy — The Holy Modal Rounders
  • Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right — Ernest Tubb
  • Used to Be — The Whites (preceded by two other versions)
  • Voodoo Cadillac — Southern Culture on the Skids
  • Wrong Side of His Heart — Rosie Flores
  • XXV. Postludium (Solenne, Largo — Arioso, Tranquillo) — Paul Hindemith (this is the last track of Ludus Tonalis, played by Olli Mustonen)
  • Yum, yum, yum — Johnny Temple
  • Zero to Love — The Del McCoury Band

I was tempted to delete the one or two embarrassments to make the list look better, but successfully resisted. Opinions may differ on just which cuts I should be embarrassed to own.

1 Comment

  1. Every hundredth song
    Dr. Weevil, acting on that blogdom-wide urge to make sense of one’s iTunes collection, has hit on the idea of sorting the titles alphabetically and then listing the last track…

    Trackback by dustbury.com — Sunday: February 26, 2006 @ 3:33 PM UTC

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