Influences, the nature of liking and relationships

I’m meant to be smashing out some wireframes for a client, but instead I’m sitting here with my headphones on, listening to Jean-Michel Jarre and thinking about relationships, influences, and what it means to like something (in the traditional sense of the word, not clicking a button).

I recently deleted all my music off of my phone to clear some space. That meant that I had to decide what to replace it with. I didn’t think a lot about it and added every Depeche Mode album I own, some early Bowie, the most recent two Bowie albums, my favourite Pet Shop Boys, Ultravox, Pseudo Echo and Vampire Weekend. A couple of days later I hit the ‘shuffle’ button and realised that these albums all went together well and there was a very clear thread there. I hadn’t even spotted that I had such a love of synth/pop/electronic until I mashed them all together. If someone had asked me what kind of music I liked, I’d have said triple j style indie rock.

At the same time I’m doing some work on a large media collection, and thinking about how we can make better recommendations for our customers – something that goes beyond ‘you just watched a comedy, here’s another comedy’ (genre) or ‘other people liked this so you will’ (which falls apart the moment you have one very popular thing in the mix). So I’m always musing on how two things are related, deep down, not just because we assign them categories via language. I love seeing the threads in art and fashion – watching how Dior’s new look influenced a whole new fashion, how other designers took it, stretched it and influenced new things. How you can see how Picasso was influenced by Munch, Cezanne and Braques; and how he influenced Miro, Dali and so many more. I want to do a lot more work on this and figure out how to use these concepts of relationships and influence to better tie together content and tell stories.

Anyway, in musing about this and looking for something to listen to, I came across Jean-Michel Jarre – someone I haven’t listened to since the 80s. And I finally put it all together. As a teen, I was in love with Pseudo Echo (and listened mainly to radio pop music). When I read an interview that said they loved Jean-Michel Jarre, I went out and bought Oxygene. It was completely new to me – I had never heard electronic music. I spent hours lying on the floor with my headphones on listening to the depth of the music and being fascinated by the way it moved around my head (I also don’t hear well, so being able to hear detail in music is amazing to me). But then I went to university and started to watch rock bands, listened to triple j and forgot all about it. Until today.

Now I know where it started. I can trace that thread. Pseudo Echo mentioned Jean-Michel Jarre. I put a lot of electronic music into my head during my teens. I picked up other things seemingly at random for 30 years. I bought the new Depeche Mode album 2 days ago and fell in love with it. And now I see how these are tied together.

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