Map to Santa's House

For the DMRN day in a little over a week, I’m using a Christmas-themed data set for my audio collection browser demo. Mostly because this is a workshop 3 days before Christmas.

I’ve grown quite frustrated with automatic arrangements of songs, at least based on content analysis. Metadata-based techniques can be better, but you run into problems with long-tail content and it’s difficult to arrange individual songs, you’re usually only getting reliable results at the artist level. Audio-only interfaces are very fragile; they need to be robust and intuitive or users get confused. This means that it needs to be obvious why songs are where they are. So since I’m using a small handpicked set anyway, I’m just going to arrange them by hand as opposed to automatically by some algorithm.

These are the 44 tracks (with SoundCloud or links where possible):
Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley
Carol of the Bells – uploaded by stretta on SoundCloud
Cha-Cha All the Way – Capitol Studio Orchestra
Chilly Winds Don’t Blow – Nina Simone
Christmas Is – Lou Rawls
Christmas Kisses – Ray Anthony
The Christmas Song – Mel Torme
The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
Christmas Trumpets/We Wish You a Merry Christmas – Ray Anthony
(Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man with the Bag – Kay Starr
Frosty the Snowman – uploaded by Jofro on SoundCloud
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Jimmy Smith
Good Morning Blues – Count Basie
Holiday on Skis – Al Caiola and Riz Ortolani
I Am Blessed – Nina Simone
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus/Jingle Bells Bossa Nova – Eddie Dunstedter
I’d Like You for Christmas – Julie London
I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Elvis Presley
I’ll Be Home for Christmas/Baby It’s Cold Outside – Jackie Gleason and Jack Marshall
I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm – Billie Holiday
I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm – Dean Martin
If Everyday Was Like Christmas – Elvis Presley
It’s Christmas Time, Pretty Baby – Elvis Presley
Jingle – uploaded by DJD MUSIC on SoundCloud
Jingle Bells – Johnny Mercer
Jingle Bells/Jingle Bell Rock – Hollubridge Strings
Last Christmas – uploaded by amysue on SoundCloud, by Amy Subach
The Nutcracker Suite – Les Brown & His Band Of Renown
Ring Those Christmas Bells – Fred Waring & The Pennsylvanians
Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo – Alvin Stoller
Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer – uploaded on SoundCloud by nickmcIntyre
Run, Run Rudolph – uploaded on SoundCloud by rnbmama
Santa Claus is Coming to Town/White Christmas – Jimmy McGriff
Silent Night – Dinah Washington
Silver Bells – uploaded by amysue on SoundCloud, by Amy Subach
Toys for Tots – Peggy Lee
What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? – Ella Fitzrgerald
What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? – Nancy Wilson
White Christmas – uploaded by amysue on SoundCloud, by Amy Subach
White Christmas – Elvis Presley
Winter Wonderland – Peggy Lee
Winter Wonderland – Shirley Horn
‘Zat You, Santa Claus? – Louis Armstrong

What I really like about this collection is that it’s music that I’d enjoy to discover. Yes, there are a ton of terrible (Christmas) songs, but why would you want an interface to “discover” them?

So how would you arrange this music? What would make sense to you? I’m thinking something like one dimension being upbeat songs to slower, low key songs versus a second dimension of large orchestrated pieces to smaller instrumentations. So the four corners of the above list would be something like: What a Wonderful World (big instrumentation, low key song), a guitar/vocal version of White Christmas (small instrumentation of low key song), Jingle Bell Rock (big instrumentation of upbeat song), and guitar/vocal Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (small instrumentation of upbeat song). But there are also a number of different version of the same song and common styles, like latin beats or big band or only instrumental, that could instead influence the arrangement.

Changing the arrangement of the songs is not difficult and can be done up to the day before DMRN, so let the suggestions flow. How would you arrange these songs in two dimensions?

2 thoughts on “Map to Santa's House

  1. The word “arrange” is a bit ambiguous – I thought you were talking about cover versions / orchestral “arrange”ments until near the end. Anyway

    If it’s axes you want, I’d definitely have one axis as
    so people could choose whether to head for the cliché/camp side or the more po-faced side. That’s gotta be important for differentiating christmas songs.

  2. First off, I really like your sample set. You’ve got some great old recordings in there.

    I’d be interested in “thickness” of composition. How much is going on? Are there many harmonic parts played by multiple instruments, or is the arrangement sparse and minimal?

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