Monday, June 20, 2005

Music Genres

This mini-rant started because I am growing very dissatisfied with the standard ID3 categorization mechanism called 'Genre'. With the current system there are keywords for general categories like Rock, Country, Jazz, there are broader sub categories for Indie, Alternative and Punk, Trance, House and very narrow categories like Lo-Fi, Acid Jazz and Porn Groove. Even if we ignore the fact that someone would need a degree in music to be able to aptly apply this broad categorization scheme, my basic complaint is that music just doesn't fit into simplistic buckets like this. The fact is genres overlap and change over time - in ten years we will need 100 more sub-sub-sub categories to keep the musicologists happy.

The way I've been dealing with this in my own music catalog is to ignore the default CDDB categorization and set genres into very broad buckets: Rock, Jazz, Classical, Country. I then use the Grouping field to add a comma separated list of qualifiers to the base genre: alt, jazz, jam, live, blues, that further describe the music.

I'll give you a couple examples. In my library, all of Neil Young's songs are categorized as Rock genre, but they have various grouping keywords: Country, Grunge, Folk, Live, depending on the work. Something genre bending like Gov't Mule might also be placed in the Rock category but then have grouping keywords such as: Southern, Blues and Jam applied.

Given the current music player's support for grouping beyond Genre, this isn't a perfect solution. I can create playlists that select from the grouping field, but I cannot sort by the keywords or list the albums that way. While that's not a huge deal, it still rather annoying.

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