Friday, January 7, 2011

Name This Song!

Once upon a time, whenever I heard something I really liked on radio, I could only hope that the DJ would, at the end of it, tell me its title and the artist performing it. I'd make a note of it - actual, physical note - if he/she indeed did. Thereafter, whenever I had the radio on, I would be ready with a blank cassette and patiently wait till I hear the DJ say that the song would be played next, and then record it. I remember one particular song which was so rarely aired I had to call in and request for it (during the 3am-6am segment, for it would have been almost impossible to get through during "normal" hours). It was My Sentimental Friend by Herman's Hermits. What good ol' (difficult) days those were!

In 2007, I offered to help make a slideshow for a dear roommate to be played during her wedding, and she requested that I use a song which she really liked. I asked her what it was, and she said she didn't know its name, but she could give me the URL of the website on which she heard it. Well, finding out the song title wasn't even a challenge, for it was an English song - all I needed to do was to catch a few words of its lyrics. Google told me what it was in 0.24 seconds. With the help of YouTube and an educated guess, I found out who performed the version I needed. It was A Lover's Concerto by Kelly Chen.

In 2008, I, after haven't done so for a really long while, developed a liking for a song which, at that time, got a lot of airtime on the station I listen to every now and then while driving. Perhaps it had got something to do with my advancing age - every time I heard it I made a mental note to look it up online, but when I got online afterwards I could never remember to do so. This exasperating cycle went on like an infinite loop for a few weeks, and would have gone on most gleefully, if not for that time when I was hitching a ride with Big Eyes, and the song came on. I asked her immediately if she knew it. Fortune must have taken pity on me, for since her sister loved it too, she did. It was I'm Yours by Jason Mraz.

Recently, I joined the increasingly massive group of smartphone users - those who can't be apart a single moment from work, those who can't be apart a single moment from social networking, those who can't be apart a single moment from the Internet, those who think carrying a smartphone makes them smart, those who must have iPhones because they're the latest cool thing in town, and those, like myself, who simply want to (and can) have one. Being relatively new to the smartphone craze, I have to admit I'm still learning the ways to fully exploit all that the powerful little device can offer (while bearing in mind the battery drains several times faster than my tough old Nokia). So, it wasn't until last month that it occurred to me, that the moment I heard a song I'd like to know the title and artist, I could immediately google it up using my phone (yes, google is a verb to me). It is a grand idea, except that it isn't exactly feasible if I happen to be driving - and I only listen to the radio, which leads to the possibility of hearing a song I find interesting enough to want to know it, when I'm traveling in the car. Sure, I could wait till I've stopped at some traffic lights, or reached my destination... if I could still remember to do it.

Then, a few days ago, I stumbled across this application. It claims to be able to identify any songs playing, just by "listening" to a part (any part!) of it, including the user's singing/humming! I just had to give it a try.

In minutes, I'd had it correctly identify a contemporary pop (Terrified by Katharine McPhee), a relatively obscure oldie (Nothing Could Be Good by Bee Gees), a piano instrumental (The Sacrifice by Michael Nyman), an acoustic guitar instrumental (I Will by Ed Gerhard), a violin concerto (Chopin's Nocturn In C Sharp Minor by Joshua Bell), and even a Chinese karaoke favourite (无言的结局)! Amazing!

Of course, Reader, you wouldn't imagine I would test the app on only a small handful of songs, would you? Well then - I discovered that it couldn't identify any of the tracks from the album a Guitar for Elvis, and Warrior's Blue, from the soundtrack of Rurouni Kenshin. Out of sheer curiosity I had the app listen to Mamula Moon by Felix Mendelssohn and His Hawaiian Serenaders - but no, it couldn't find a match (not that I expected it to, but I had to know for sure!).

Needless to say, the next thing I did was to sing to it. I chose a song I had the accompaniment to - Dream a Little Dream of Me - and had barely sung past the first verse when a list of the closest matches was returned. In addition to the original version, the app showed several of the most popular covers of the song - the information given include the artist, the album, lyrics and the option to purchase the music.

"Try a Sarah Brightman song!" he said.

Being a little over my head with awe and delight, I overestimated my singing ability and launched into Think of Me. Three lines later, the incredible app identified the singing as that of Sarah Brightman, and the song from her album Encore. I felt absolutely flattered, though I am aware that Sarah herself would probably feel insulted if she knew.

Though this app undoubtedly made it that much easier for me to find songs out, it still remains that using my phone while driving isn't something I ought to do. But hey, maybe someone will write an app that would allow me to snap my phone out of its idle mode by shouting a preset password, and then let me scream my way through starting apps and getting stuff done (which includes "ID this song and bookmark it!")...

This is how far we've come!

1 comment:

Chin Aik said...

Google Android VoiceAction will probably be able to do it soon :P