Recent Articles

Viewer Mail… part 3

A couple more verbal answers to commonly asked questions. This week’s topics: WHY DOESN’T PANDORA HAVE WORLD MUSIC? CAN I BAN AN ARTIST FROM MY STATION? HOW IS BOOKMARKING DIFFERENT…
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Happy Father’s Day from Pandora

Some people hold the misconception that musicians are irresponsible ne’er-do-wells and slackers. It’s a misconception that we are pleased to dispel. In honor of daddies everywhere, we meet three musical…
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Play Listen Repeat Vol. 38

What’s in a voice?
degas.singer-glove.jpgYou could make a good case that popular music is all about the voice, since for some listeners a likable or even lovable voice is all it takes to make or break a song. But, as with most things musical, what can be stated simply – “I love that voice!” – turns out to be practically unfathomable upon further reflection; and so it appears to be with the human voice.
To start, there are some purely technical dimensions to any vocal performance: things like dynamics, pitch, and rhythm. Obviously, these determine to some extent a voice’s effectiveness and power in music (though I might argue that they are really only noticed to the extent in which they are missing and thereby reduce the believability of the vocal). Be that as it may, surely we’d all agree that the various technical aspects of singing can and sometimes do provide the basis for an effective vocal performance.
But of course we all also know that there’s much more to our experience of any vocal beyond the simple technical facilities of the singer. For example, while timbre (the texture and sound of the voice) has a musical dimension, it also engenders a kind of basic, animal sense of attraction or aversion. Just as we find some people to be beautiful and others not to be, the same is true of voices. This consideration is not technical, but it is certainly a primary determinant of our reaction to a voice, right?
OK. So far so good. We’ve established that technical and timbral qualities affect our reactions to voices (no surprise there). Now we can get to the good part.
We human beings are so deeply attuned to the nuances of other human voices that a whole bunch of other information comes sneaking in along with that pleasing or grating timbre, that good pitch, or that laconic phrasing. There is something fundamental and deep that is suggested simply by the way the voice is used in the song; and this ‘ethos’ (or ‘vibe’, if you prefer) is very influential in our determination of whether we like something or not.

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