Release Date:December 14, 2009
Summary:Feeling in the mood to listen to something spicy and heart-thumping? Or maybe something more low-key and moody? Use Moodagent to figure out playlists that cater to your emotional whims.
We’ve all heard of Pandora, right? It’s a fun device that creates playlists for you according to your individual tastes in songs, artists, or genres. It uses its cool musical technology to figure out underlying beats and riffs, tempos and so forth inherent to, say, “Sky Blue Sky” by Wilco, and then filters out other songs with a similar feel for you to enjoy. We all love Pandora (except, maybe, for the annoying ads they’ve now put on the free version), it goes without saying, so why should we bother looking at other playlist apps?
Well, Moodagent by Syntonetic , for one, definitely warrants a second look. It’s actually a little unfair to compare it to Pandora because they do two completely different things, albeit in the same manner. Moodagent creates playlists from your stock set of music based on “moods,” defined as sensual, tender, joy, and aggressive, along with a tempo to your liking, to keep your music fresh and continually exciting. What’s particularly great about this is all the music you have on your computer is, obviously, music you love – none of us would keep music on our computers or iPhones that we didn’t at some point actively seek out and purchase. I like to use Pandora for seeking out music I wouldn’t otherwise buy, or to introduce me to new groups and sounds that I probably would never come across. But, it’s true, whenever there’s a song (say, Electric Feel by MGMT – yes, I am a girl) that I just cannot absolutely live without, then I most assuredly will buy it. After that, it pretty much boils down to listening to my own collection of songs, of which I have hundreds, and siphoning them in some interesting way so I won’t listen to a straight down, in-alphabetical order, arrangement of songs that eventually gets stale. I, personally, couldn’t live without the shuffle feature on all my Mac products, but every now and then I’ll even skip a song or two if I’m not in the mood for it. Please, no more Fiona Apple – I only listened to all her albums a dozen times over during my entire High School years, and please, if I want to go dance crazy, I doubt Ryan Adams is going to get me there.
Here is where Moodagent comes in. Whatever songs I place on my iPhone are synced to Moodagent once I open the app. The app has a slick feel to it, with five bars along the top in colors, from left to right, of red, orange, yellow, purple and gray, representing, in order, sensual, tender, joy, aggressive, tempo, each of which is able to be slid up and down to different degrees of preference for that specific category. The higher up I slide sensual, say, the more songs Moodagent deems “sensual” will be placed in my playlist. If you want, you can tinker around with different slider settings, with differ play lists popping up – it’s pretty cool, to say the least.
Let’s say I want a playlist with plenty of sensuality and aggressiveness, but with the lowest settings on the other three. The first song that Moodagent picks, “Heartbeats” by The Knife, couldn’t be a more perfect fit. The synthesized, pseudo glam-rock feel to Heartbeats, with its slowly undulating beat and the pouty voice of the female lead singer just oozes sex, mystery, drama, allure, and flushing skin, a quickening heartbeat. It’d be a more sensual song without the funky synthesize beats, but it’s the, I guess you could say “aggressive” quality of this sound that places it at the top of this custom playlist. The next song in the mix is also a perfect match, “Hotel” by Broken Social Scene, with a similar low, sexy hum to its digitized, hipster beats. But, straying from the more synth type music the fourth song Moodagent picked was Dangerous by Kardinall Offishal (featuring Akon), which is definitely a sensual song with a raw, aggressive quality to it. More surprisingly, this song actually has a more upbeat tempo to it, but it maintains a smooth and curvy enough quality to it that it’s not necessarily upbeat. Were I to dance to it (and I do), it would involve a slow, sensual saunter with rocking hips than it would that frenetic hand waving we all do in bars late at night. Or, well, at least I do that. Hah.
“All I Need” by Radiohead also fit perfectly within the aforementioned scheme – are we noticing a trend yet? Let’s switch up the sliders, shall we? Let’s raise the tender to as high as possible, with a mid tempo, and the lowest setting for the rest. I’m suddenly inundated with a list of very moody, haunting songs from the likes of Sigur Ros, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis (from the soundtrack of The Assassination of Jesse James), Sufjan Stevens, and Feist. Yep, that is definitely right on the mark. Let’s up the joy with mid-tenderness and mid-tempo. I now have a playlist of “Off Broadway” by Ryan Adams, “Impossible Germany” by Wilco, “Crazy on You” by Heart, “Alone in Kyoto” by Air, “Bad Dreams” by M. Ward, “Time of the Season” by The Zombies, and “Cross Road Blues” by Robert Johnson. Definitely an eclectic mix, but does it fit the ticket? I certainly wouldn’t consider the majority of these songs joyful, by any definition of the word, but the beats they exhibit, the musical sensation, without a doubt have a joyful, upbeat bent to them. What if I raise all the sliders to the top? Well, the results turn out to be just as impressive. The first song, “Jerusalem” by Mirah is all at once sensual, tender, joyful and aggressive, with a sprightly tempo. Moodagent does have a surefire skill, through its technology, of achieving sensational playlists.
So, what about this technology? Moodagent’s developers say it:
“combines digital signal processing, music science and artificial intelligence to focus on the way music is perceived emotionally… Moodagent can play any song, no matter how obscure, without language barriers. Moodagent technology creates a profile for every song it encounters and stores it in an Amazon EC2 cloud. To create a profile, the song’s digital signal is analyzed, a segment (or segments) of the song is then amplified and run through 34 artificial intelligence expert systems, which are constantly trained by musicologists. Moodagent is able to create a song profile that measures the degree of each of the song’s characteristics, including moods, genres, sub-genres, styles, tempo/beat, vocals, instrumentation and production features.”
Gosh, no wonder the results are so impressive. I’m curious what the “34 artificial intelligence expert systems” are – as of now, it just sounds like something out of a sci-fi paperback. In any case, Moodagent seems to have the proper backing to create custom playlists ; whether you agree with the mood definitions or not. You might argue there should be more variety in the sliders, but considering the vast range of human emotions and moods, it’s best to keep Moodagent’s range winnowed to a small degree that encompasses a fairly wide variety of songs. It’s already impressed me with its ability to interpret songs based on perceptions of emotion, and I’ve enjoyed the 25 song playlists. What’s also great about Moodagent is the music keeps playing if you exit the app, so in that sense, it works just like the iPod function.
Give Moodagent a go next time you want to try out a new playlist making app for your iPhone – you may just find you’re in the mood for something new.