December 05 2009
Consider your music collection. I have been recently, a lot. Maybe it’s the modern equivalent of the old “as men get older they start planting trees” thing, but as my iTunes library gets towards the 10,000 tracks mark (pretty puny, by many people’s standards), I spend more idle time “gardening” it. Now I’m slowly replacing music digitised years ago with higher-quality versions, attending to getting the cover art and descriptions better (see the TuneUp software featured previously).
There’s no doubt that digital music collections are starting to have the same visceral, emotional importance in people’s lives as walls of LPs and CDs. The problem with music stored on software such as iTunes, however, is that it’s not “on display”, either to you or to visitors. Spotting music you haven’t played for a long time or at all, or that you don’t play enough is part of the pleasure of owning a collection. It’s just not quite the same on a computer because they remain primarily a work tool. An iPod makes serendipitous selection easier, but it doesn’t feel quite right for use at home. And from your visitors’ perspective, while leafing through someone’s music collection, as one did back in the day, was both educative and socially acceptable, spooling through someone’s computer or iPod is weird and stalky. Even when you’re invited to, it’s like trying on someone else’s socks.
These were the issues being pondered by Bob Stuart, co-founder of the Huntingdon-based Meridian hi-fi outfit when it recently bought Sooloos, a tiny American virtual company consisting of young music-mad software geniuses who mostly work from beaches around the world.
The boys in Sooloos – the name, an old version of what is now Sulu, an island province of Midanao, was chosen because it was, like, cool and is totally palindromic, which is also, like, cool – set out to invent the perfect system for living with, and enjoying to the max large music collections digitised onto Terabyte and higher media servers.
And by “large” they don’t mean my strictly-for-pussycats 10,000 tracks. We’re talking 30,000 tracks and upwards. Meridian’s new Sooloos system is its answer to that challenge. A combination of Meridian’s supremacy in turning digital stuff into big, sweet sound and the Sooloos boys’ talent for giving it a human-friendly interface means that you have a big, handsome screen to select music on, stored on a hidden media server, by leafing through big album covers, almost like the real thing.
But that’s only a part of it. Sooloos’s real cleverness is in building playlists based on an almost infinite combination of your fleeting emotional requirements. You have a hankering for an evening of 1960s and 1970s modern jazz which will evoke feelings of happy nostalgia that remind you of being at university? Sooloos will shufti through your 100,000 albums and come up with a lot of what you fancy. Oh, and Meridian will do as much or as little as you like of the grunt work of putting your music collection onto a server and cataloguing it. Which is also, like, cool.