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Culture

Microsoft patents music learning

If ever there was something to take the magic out of music, it's reading a Microsoft patent on teaching people to understand songs.

On Tuesday, the company was granted patent rights to the process of "training a trainee to analyze media, such as music, in order to recognize and assess the fundamental properties of any piece of media, such as a song or a segment of a song." In English, that roughly means the company has a recommendation tool for music that is run by real people, and it needs to make sure that people are rating songs the same way.

Reading the patent is a sobering look at music appreciation through the eyes of a computer. Forget "It's got a good beat, I can dance to it." Try: " a new listener enters the tutorial session on a networked or standalone computing device and sees the fundamental properties grouped into three main areas: Rhythm, Zing and Mood."

A listener who rates a song's zing-y-ness correctly gets to graduate to the status of official "groover."

There are a host of other recommendation systems out there that use real people's input, such as Siren Systems' Soundflavor. Maybe there will be a patent battle over this, it's not clear to me how close these are.

What is clear is that I hope I never have to go through the grooving process. I'd rather just get the shivers when I hear a Charlie Parker solo, and not worry about whether it ain't got that zing.