Sunday, October 16, 2011

Meanderings about math and music

I can't remember where I heard it -- probably on "Radiolab" the podcast that blows my mind every time I listen to it -- and I probably misinterpreted it anyway; but I sorta remember some mathematician somewhere saying there's really no such as random numbers -- or maybe no such thing as a random number generator. Anyway, I contend there's no such thing as random shuffle on an Ipod. Most of the time when I have mine on shuffle I don't really think about any underlying theme to the supposedly-random songs, but the other night I was driving and a song from the Monkees came on ("What am I Doing Hanging Round?")
followed by Eddy Raven's "I've Got Mexico."
I've got like 1600 songs on my Ipod. What are the odds that a song about a man who left Mexico and lost a girl would be followed by a song about a man who lost a girl and moved to Mexico? I was anxious to see what the next song would be, and it turned out to be Steve Earle's "Guitar Town" which has nothing to do with Mexico (although it does reference Texas and "San Antone" neighbors of Mexico. I got home before it could start another song but I'm sure it would have been Johnny Rodriguez's "Riding My Thumb to Mexico".
Unless of course the Ipod realized that I was onto this little game it was playing to amuse itself. I believe this is called the Observer Effect but I could be wrong and I'm willing to bet that I am. Today I got in the car, first song up was "Ragged as the Road" by Reckless Kelly,
and #2 was "Going Mobile" from the Who. And I thought to myself -- I might have even said it out loud -- "oh, so we're doing road songs, eh?" But then the next song was the mega-depressing Christmas song "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Dan Fogelberg, by no means a road song -- unless, and this just occurred to me, you count the road the wise men traveled to give the baby Jesus those useless presents they had for him. (A few songs later when the Ipod thought I had forgotten it did try to sneak "Highway 61 Revisited" by me.)

No comments: