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More iTunes stuff

OK, here’s where those of us who listen to jazz get all cranky about how the database hearts of music players don’t accommodate us. No, there’s no need to get started about orchestral music, which certainly deserves its own players and databases; can we focus on my whinging for a minute here? Thank you.

When setting up my robotic dj to amuse me aurally, I want it to come up with stuff I wouldn’t have thought to put on, so I want to more or less maximize randomness, but on the other hand, I don’t want to be annoyed, so I regulate that randomness in a variety of ways, one of which is to make sure that songs do not get played more than once a day. Actually, I probably wouldn’t mind listening to a good song once in the morning and again in the afternoon, but I don’t want to listen to it three or four times, or twice in an hour, or like that. You know. And the system understands that; it remembers when the song was last played, and you can control how long before repeats are acceptable. Which would be fine, if there was only one version of each song. And in rock and roll, that’s pretty much how it is. Oh, you may have a studio version and a live version, and if you are a nut, you may also have a bootleg or even two, but probably at least one of those will suck, so you can relegate it to the bin of only-when-I-deliberately-choose-them. So realistically, you are talking about two or three covers of a song in your list of a couple of thousand or more, and if once a year or so you happen to hear the two versions on the same day, you can either just enjoy the coincidence or switch windows and hit the forward button. Hitting a button once a year seems like a reasonable amount of aggravation.

But the whole cover thing is very different in jazz, and even more so in the popular music that preceded rock (and its later practitioners). I currently have more than thirty songs with five or more different versions, a dozen with seven or more versions. That is only going to increase; if I buy a Count Basie album, say, or Queen Latifah’s new album of standards, it’s fairly likely to have a cover of “Caravan” or the “Honeysuckle Rose” or something else. That’s the point, really. Not to mention that (a) I actively sought out versions of “My Funny Valentine” for a couple of years and still do to a lesser extent, and (2) the inclusion of the “St. Louis Blues” on a track listing is a selling point for me.

So, let’s choose for example “On the Sunny Side of the Street”, a magnificent song of which I have seven recordings, each quite a bit different but each sticking pretty close to the melody. I would be perfectly happy listening to one version once a day over a week, that is, the Nat King Cole version on Monday, and the Sidney Bechet version on Tuesday, and the Judy Garland version on Wednesday, and so on. I don’t want to listen to two different versions in the same day, much less in the same hour, nor do I want to relegate six perfectly good versions to the bin. Can I do that in any of the popular jukes? I’d be willing to do some sort of clicking (or even typing) on these versions to indicate that they are connected, but I don’t think there’s a way. Is iTunes, or Real, or WM or Winamp or any of them prepared to do it? In other words, include or exclude a song based on not how recently that file has been played, but on how recently another file has been played, with which that file has a relationship?

It occurs to me that within the rock field that could be used for people with really big collections who don’t want to listen to the same vocalist twice in a day, or even two tracks of the same album. I don’t think that’s as likely to be an issue, though.

Oh, and while I’m at it, does iTunes not have a tool for checking to make sure all the tracks are still there, and deleting from the library all the ones that are no longer associated with actual files? Real has it, but I can’t find a way to do that in iTunes.



Sadly, I don't think this is possible in iTunes, though parts of it sort of are.

For example, you can create a Smart Playlist that consists only of the most recently played version of a particular song. Unfortunately, there's no way to chain multiple playlists together, or to chain multiple sets of "AND" and "OR" conditions together in a single playlist.

It would probably be fairly easy to write some AppleScript code that would create a non-Smart Playlist that meets the criteria you're talking about, but I haven't done much AppleScript programming, and I haven't ever written a script to control iTunes (though iTunes scripts do exist). I wouldn't be too surprised if someone has already solved this problem; might be worth a little Googling for such a script.

Speaking of scripts, there's a script in the iTunes Scripts for Mac OS X package from Apple called "Remove Missing Tracks" that appears to do what you want re getting rid of tracks whose files are missing. (And for future reference, if you manage your tracks within iTunes rather than on disk, the files shouldn't be missing very often.)

Hmm. Since I'm not using OSX (or, on my main computer, Mac OS at all), that doesn't help much. I wonder if Windows Media does the things I'm talking about; I've never tried to use that as a juke.


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