Tag Archives: music

Sound of Summer

mechloesiren(1)

The best archivist I ever knew was also a coder and my best friend. Her name was Chloe Weil.

Recently, Chloe committed suicide. It is a tragedy for many reasons. She was stunning. She wowed people with her creativity. In everything Chloe did, she left a piece of herself in it. This made her work feel authentic, thoughtful and personal. Her work let others into her world. On her blog Chloe wrote 101-word journal entries, guided us through her artistic process and shared some really cool web projects. Chloe has left behind an online archive that is almost as rich and profound as the girl we loved being around. This post and my next will show off two of Chloe’s web based projects that expanded my ideas about sharing personal archives online.

I have been meaning to write about Chloe’s work on Library Manifesto for a while. I haven’t until now because she was too great a writer. No one could explain her work better than she did. Her posts were always humorous, conversational and succinct. She explained highly technical web projects in accessible ways and used her personal life to make web jargon more relatable.

"Above, I explain computers to a room full of guys." - Chloe Weil

“Above, I explain computers to a room full of guys.” – Chloe Weil

Chloe loved music. She was sometimes a human version of Shazam – she could tell you the name of a band or artist playing overhead at a bar. Chloe knew more obscure bands than anyone else I knew in High School and anytime after. Her love of music and web development came to a head in 2012 with Sound of Summer. Sound of Summer came from Chloe’s urge to catalog the emotions of her life through sound. Put simply, Sound of Summer is a personal music archive that lists Chloe’s most played songs in her iTunes library, every summer, starting from 2001.

Chloe tracked all of her music intake. In High School she began using iTunes data fields in ways they weren’t intended; tagging and organizing songs by when she listened to them most. Chloe wrote, “To organize music based on artist or album or even year released is extrinsic; the music has always been about me.” While others would balk at sharing such personal details of their life, Chloe embraced it.

I encourage you to look at the site. You’ll be immediately drawn to a stack of coral colored columns, each representing a year between 2001 and 2013. Select a column for a year, say 2012, and you are taken to that year’s songs, 74 for 2012. You might look for songs you listened to that year too. If you click on a song a music player pops up displaying an animated beating heart while playing back a snippet of the song. The beating heart reminds me of Chloe’s playful details. The project introduced me to some amazing music I had never heard before from bands like The Stranglers and The Go-Betweens. I learn about a new band every time I go back to her site.

“Do you remember in High Fidelity when Rob is organizing his record collection autobiographically? That’s the closest analog to this model. Each of my season-year playlists has the emotions and experiences of that three-month moment encoded into every song it contains. I’ve inadvertently managed to create a detailed narrative of my life just from the way I ended up organizing my mp3s. If want to feel how I felt my freshman year of college, I just filter my library for 2003FALL and I get all the tracks I listened to then, all the emotions I’d experienced, and the general mood of that period in my life. Say I want to re-experience my first year in Portland, although I don’t know why I would want to live through that again. I filter my library to 2009 and get 2009SPR, 2009SUM, 2009FALL, and 2009WIN. Say I only want to experience every summer of the past ten years. I filter my library by SUM and I’m having those rich emotional experiences again.”

I’ve listened to Chloe’s most played songs over the last 13 summers. I will never know what it felt like to be her but when I listen I get through to another layer of her identity. It helps me understand her a little bit better each time. Chloe made something emotional, scientific and vice versa.

Here’s Chloe’s conclusion from her technical write up. I’ve included it because I find it inspirational.

“There were entire weekends spent typing the same commands in the terminal, entire evenings spent refreshing the browser without accomplishing anything. But all it takes is one right thing to move forward, whether it’s modifying one line of code, or approaching your problem from a different point of view.”

Photo: Chloe and me at a summer music concert. Taken by Ruchi.
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The People that Gave Us Great Music

Jason Lazarus

Inspired by a project by artist Jason Lazarus, Library Manifesto asked some friends to send in photos of someone who shaped their taste in music.

Lazarus asked people to send him a photo of the person who introduced them to the band Nirvana. I thought the resulting gallery of images captured quintessential ’90s adolescence and were a lot of fun to look through.

People form parts of their identity by finding music that they love. The photos Lazarus collected show other parts of this experimentation: teenagers hanging in basements, sporting XL tee shirts, blue jeans, buzz-cuts and bad dye jobs.

shoko music memorials

SHOKO My dad played me “Behind Blue Eyes” by The Who when I was in elementary school, and it went right over my head. Ten years down the line, he watched me smash a guitar-shaped pinata on my 22nd birthday.

taz music memorial

TAZ Here I am with my friend Lauren in 2003. It’s the summer before I headed off to college. We’re sitting in my bedroom with walls plastered in collages. A year before this photo was taken, Lauren and I first started to hang out. We immediately bonded over a shared taste in music and movies. I knew about Joy Division before meeting her, but she really gave fuel to the fire of my obsession with their music, and she introduced me to The Smiths and Modest Mouse. Joy Division’s vibe really spoke to our suburban ennui. We loved the darkness and danceability of their music.  Lauren did and still does an amazing impression of Curtis’ seizure-like dance moves. She can really kill it on the dance floor.

alex music memorials

ALEX I don’t think I can say that my brother, Eric, introduced me to any one particular artist, but he totally shaped my musical tastes growing up. I was always a few years ahead of the normal age curve of music nerddom because of him. When I was in fifth grade or so my brother got me into classic rock when the rest of my classmates were more focused on radio pop. Then, by the time everybody was onto classic rock in middle school, I was in my punk/proto-punk/glam phase. And by the time they were onto that stuff, I was listening to Eric’s Flaming Lips and Neutral Milk Hotel albums. The only things I liked before he got around to them were hip-hop and jazz, but he has since voraciously devoured both genres to an extent I never reached. I am the musician in our family, but he is definitely the greater music appreciator. I have him to thank for most of my musical knowledge.

natalie music memorial

NATALIE This is a photo of my Uncle Harry and me at a softball end-of-season awards ceremony. I was a bit of a tomboy and he was our first base coach. Uncle Harry was obsessed with Fleetwood Mac. When I was ten he gave me my first CD, “Tragic Kingdom” by No Doubt. I listened to it on loop for months. I think I connected with Gwen on “Just a Girl.”

Top image from Nirvana by Jason Lazarus.

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Reissues that won’t be regifted

media gifts

Library Manifesto’s down-to-the-wire shopping suggestions for film and music.

1. Your special someone who thinks he’s heard it all: “A Band Called Death” DVD

Three teenagers formed the band Death in early-1970s Detroit. Directors Mark Covino and Jeff Howlett argue that they are the world’s first punk band.

2. Drinking buddy who doesn’t think it gets any better than The Beatles:  The Beatles “On Air Live at the BBC Volume 2”

The Beatles recorded hundreds of hours of footage at the BBC. “On Air” compiles performances from what some say was the band’s peak live show.

3. Documentary filmmaker intern you hired to follow you around: “Grey Gardens” on Blu-ray

Criterion Collection digitally restored Grey Gardens, a classic of cinema verite. The touch up gives the Maysles’ film a fresher look but all the quirks of Big Edie and Little Edie stay in tact.

4. Jazzy sister with the best vintage dresses: “Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934-41)”

Mosaic Records compiles the collaborative work of Chick Webb, an innovative drummer nicknamed “The King of Swing,” and the beloved Ella Fitzgerald. The collection sheds some light on the history of jazz.

5. Self gift – cause no one else would get it for you: Scott Walker “Scott: The Collection 1967-1970”

Scott Walker has always been an enigmatic person (he was most often photographed wearing dark sunglasses). This collection will help me get to know him better.

6. Neighbor who loves Turner Classic Movies: “James Dean: Ultimate Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray

Three films that made the icon. East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant. Dean outshines today’s leading men.

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