Saturday, March 25, 2006

The time space (bar) continuum

This is quite fun, if a little frustrating. If you've got a song buzzing around your head, but can't think what it's called, go to Song Tapper. The idea is, you tap the rhythm on the space bar, and the title of your song pops up. Older readers might remember a batty man (as in eccentric, not a Jamaican homosexualist) called Joseph Cooper, who had a similar trick on the poncy, olden-days BBC2 quiz show Face The Music. He would play some ditty by Chopin or Liszt on a piano that had had its hammers removed (ouch) and the likes of Joyce Grenfell and Richard Baker would have to guess what he was playing. Seat-of-your-pants entertainment, eh? I believe the show is being revived, with the late Mr Cooper replaced by the lovely, albeit subnormal Myleene Klass. She's a concert pianist, you know.

Well, um, yeah, OK. The first tune I committed to the mercies of Song Tapper ('Big Spender') came up OK, but then things started to go awry. Beethoven's 5th did make a showing, but the software thought it might just as easily have been 'I Was Born A Unicorn' by The Unicorns, whatever the hell that might be when it's at home. Or, of course 'Danny Boy'. 'Satisfaction' is confidently identified as 'Killing Me Softly'. 'Don't Play That Song' is supposedly that well known Bob Marley/doughnut punchline 'Jammin'', if it isn't 'Yellow Submarine'. In fact, everything seems to be bloody 'Yellow Submarine'; 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' gets the nod as well. Then I tried out 'White Room' by Cream, because I think it sounds a bit like 'Teen Spirit' - and got 'Satisfaction'. 'More Than A Feeling' (which is the song that Cobain was allegedly ripping off) is either 'Too Much Too Young' or 'Hit Me Baby One More Time'. Oh well. Whatever. Never...

Sorry. It's a fab idea, but I think the problem is that the database is user-driven. If the program can't identify your song, it asks you to identify it. So you've got the problem of thousands of users who haven't got a bloody clue what they're babbling about (the Wikipedia effect) coupled with the high proportion who have no sense of rhythm. And an entire generation grows up thinking that 'Hound Dog' and 'Hurt' are the same song.

Try it out. And let me know how wrong things can get.


Noel said...

Hi Tim,

Ah, this is indeed a fun time waster. Entered three songs and had no hits. Dylan's Blowing in the Wind brought me both The Star Spangled Banner and West End Girls by the Pet Shop Boys.

'Twist and Shout' brought me the theme song to the Nintendo game Zelda and a song called "Date Rape" by Sublime.

Well it's a neat idea.

Tim Footman said...

When theme songs to Nintendo games are perceived to be real music, we know that popular culture has gone to shit.