Monday, May 17, 2010

What We Need Is Psychic Search

Sunday afternoon, out having lunch at a noisy restaurant.  I hear part of a song I recognize, enough to say to my wife “Good song,” but then we can not hear the rest.  For the life of me I can not think of the song, and it drives me nuts all the way home.  Easy enough to Google lyrics, right?  Wrong, the sequence I heard was nothing but harmonizing, just background singers singing “Ahh ahh AHHHH….ahh ahh AHHHHH….ahh ahhh AHHHHHHH” where the third one has gotten higher, and then presumably it moves into the next verse which is what I can’t remember.

Try googling “song opening ahhh ahh ahhh” and see what happens. I got lots of hits for Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, which I think is funny because it is both an accurate answer to the question, and also not even close to what I meant.  There were also lots of hits on modern dance club songs, but I’m old and don’t really know those enough to say one way or the other.

So I post on Facebook, and my friends begin guessing.  One says “At the Hop”, that old 50’s tune that starts “bahh bahhh bahhh bahhh, bahhh bahhh bahh bahhhh At the hop!  Well you can rock and you can roll and you can stomp and you can stroll at the hop….” (or whatever the words are).  Again, an accurate answer to the question pretty much, but not at all what I was looking for.

Undaunted I started googling for “Hum a few bars” hoping to turn up one of those search engines where you can sing into the microphone to guess your song.  I find nothing but hits from the 2006-08 era, none still active, so I’m wondering if I searched wrong.  I do try the iPhone app “Shazam”, but it can not recognize the tune so chances are I’m singing it too poorly.

I do strongly think that it is a 60’s tune, what I described to my friends as “hippie era” :).  Running out of ideas I google “summer of love music” and find a list of hits from that year (1967, I believe?)

And there it is.

Groovin, On A Sunday Afternoon by the Young Rascals.  My “ahh ahh AHHHH'” sequence is right there in the middle.

Now what I need is for somebody make the connection from my original query to the query that ultimately found me the answer.  We’ll make millions. :)

 UPDATE : Adding to my own post because the more I think about this, I think it’s not that far off.  I knew that it was a 60’s tune, right? Imagine if for my music search engine I was able to start there.  Just like the other folks I mentioned knew that there’s was a dance club song, and I knew mine was not.  From there maybe the engine could offer up some guiding questions like the tempo (this one is pretty slow), single or group (group), background harmony (definitely)…and so on.  I know that recommendation engines like Pandora break songs up into N different parameters and then match, saying “If you liked this song with these values then you’ll probably like this other song with similar values.”  But what if instead of doing that you offered up an interface where the user could just select those values on sliders?  “I want strong lead vocals, meaningful lyrics and a fast drum beat.” 

A slow 1960’s song with a harmonizing group certainly wouldn’t guarantee finding my song, but it would at least help narrow the search, and that’s huge. 

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