Sunday, July 9, 2017

Signal and Noise from Music Choice

I used to be a faithful subscriber to Sirius/XM as one of the more reliable sources of music for serious listeners. Unfortunately, the prevailing climate of property development here in San Francisco put an end to that. For about a year (at least), I have had to live with the fact that there is no longer a clear path along which I have been able to receive an effective signal from a Sirius/XM satellite. As a result I discovered the Music Choice service that I can receive as part of my Comcast service.

The good news is that this service provides channels that offer an impressive variety of both classical and jazz recordings, and the classical selections have turned out to offer a fascinating journey of discovery. The bad news is that the listener is not always sure just what it is that his/she is discovering. There is an abbreviated display of composer, title, and performers, which definitely provides more content than my old XM receiver; and, for my money, I prefer those displays to the babble of announcers that do not seem to know that all much about what they are playing.

Unfortunately, many of those displays have serious noise problems. Thus, one will read the name of an orchestra conductor while listening to solo piano music. On the other hand, when the music is orchestral, one may read the name of an ensemble that did not even exist when the conductor was alive!

This system is obviously driven by a data base. The problem is that the data base has been "fed" by a process that has no check for data accuracy. Given the size of the library available to Music Choice, one can appreciate their need for efficiency; but efficiency in the absence of accuracy does not count for very much!

For the most part this is little more than an annoyance; and, like those depicted in E. M. Forster's "The Machine Stops," we live in a world in which we tolerate annoyance, because we no longer have the technical skills to remedy it. Nevertheless, one has to wonder just how many other instances there are as disinformation being presented as legitimate content for no reason other than the premise that fact-checking costs too much and takes too long to do correctly. Meanwhile, my network connectivity is such that it may be worth checking on whether I can receive Sirius channels through an app on my television or Blu-ray player; but can I count on them to provide more reliable content?

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