So, I get in the car this morning for the daily commute to San Jose but quickly realize I left my iPod in the house. To compensate, I decide to stream last.fm from the phone by playing the John Cage Radio Station. For those not familiar with this, you enter an artist's name and last.fm then plays music by artists similar to that artist based on what other people have played and tagged.
The first 10 minutes were great as I heard music by John Cage and then Olivier Messiaen (Oraison, new to me and recommended), all from my car. I'm amazed.
But then I got on the hedonic treadmill because I started to get annoyed at the tracks that followed, even though all of them were by European 20th century composers of note -- Schoenberg, Ligeti, Scelsi, Bartok, and Nono. All of these are good of course but I was hoping to hear from avant-garde American composers who might nominally be contemporary peers and colleagues of Cage e.g. Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, Earle Brown etc. and who had an experimental bent.
As I got closer to work, finally it was Charlemagne Palestine's Schlingen-Blängen, an hour of radical organ music. Great. Then when I pulled in to the parking lot and put the music on pause so I could finish it at work, I had a new problem. Pause in this context means put the station on hold. Subseqently resuming plays the next track on the station, not the paused one. Not so great.
All in all, I was a little disappointed with last.fm since, as good as it was, the music didn't remind me of Cage's music. Presumably, those few who listen to Schoenberg also listen to Cage but not necessarily for reasons of musical similarity (even of Cage did study with Schoenberg).
On the way home, I decided to try the same experiment with Pandora. That's the service that has tagged hundreds of thousands of tracks with various musical attributes to enabling me to have a John Cage station based on music that matches the the attributes in his music.
For example, twice today, the station has served up tracks from Tangerine Dream's Phaedra:
Based on what you have told us so far, we're playing this track because it features use of modal harmonies, emphasis on instrumental performance, a slow-moving bass line, the use of clean-sounding organs, and synth riffs.
I happen to love that album and maybe there is some connection between that and John Cage that I had never imagined. But still, not what I was expecting.
To complete today's journey on the hedonic pendulum, I stopped for an ice cream cone...