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The Art of Curation & The Human Touch: Music Playlists

How curation will represent itself as a form of value in the AI era

With our ability to create now being augmented by AI, along with AI curation steadily cementing its place, it is the aspect of human touch that will define "Art" & the "Art of Curation" in this next era.

From my perspective, all creation is a form of curation — and vice versa. There are meaningful distinctions though for sure.

Creating relies on our capacity to curate and convey the essence of our meaningful experiences (or of our direct intent), in a manner that can be understood by others, expressed through a medium of our choice. To create is to determine what you want others to perceive.

Curation is to put oneself in the seat of one or many creators; of self or other. To shape the journey that others embark on to fully immerse themselves in their creations. To curate is to determine where, when &/or how you want others to perceive.

Both dance on the foundation of why you want people to perceive what you've chosen to present them.

A Playlist Title Says it All

Throughout my life I've done an extensive amount of music curation. Making playlists of my favorite songs for various moods, occasions, themes, expressions & ideas. Some of my earlier playlists have unfortunately been decimated in the wake of Google Play Music being deprecated some odd years ago. Today, however, I count over 135+ curated playlists on my Apple Music, Spotify & Youtube.

Some of these playlists, current & lost to time, have moved me through my most profound life experiences. I made it a point to let the titles tell of such stories, prefacing the mood or expressions therein:

A glimpse at some additional playlists titles,
curated by Mr. Wildenfree on Apple Music.

• "A Lightbearing Trip"

• "A Helping Hand"

• "A Love Let Go & Cherished"

• "A HipHoppa's Delight"

• "An Optimission Possible"

• "And It Happens In Waves"

• "A Duct Full Of Tears"

• "A Tumultuous Time"

• "A Black Boy's Sorrow"

• "Ascend Young Man"

Alongside many others, as hinted by the visual here.

Notice how the titles of each of these playlists help you to orient yourself accordingly for each experience. I find it important that the title provides enough context to make what you hear when going through the playlist more relevant than not. Sure, I have some seasonal or in-the-moment playlists that are just mashups across the spectrum of musical experiences. By & large though, I tend to be very thematic in my approach. I do this because it feels right. So too, for my listener's sake.

So many of my playlists had also been intentionally ordered for a sonic journey indicative of my perspective & current tastes — I've not been one to rely on the shuffle feature that much.

What it means to be a Curator

Curation is one thing, but to be a curator is yet another depth to that experience. What I have begun to realize as I started taking my curation more seriously is this...

To be a curator, is to provide an answer for those that didn’t yet have the inquiry. 

When thinking about curating, I ask myself these kinds of questions:

  • "How can I help people find a song they love but didn't know to look for?"

  • "How does this song end? How does the next one begin? Does the transition feel good?"

  • "Does the preceding song shift the mood meaningfully, in a way that invites the feel of the next song?"

  • "How can I preface this playlist by way of its title, to provide a potential listener with enough context to know what kind of experience they will be stepping into?"

  • "How do I craft this playlist in such a way that the listener wants to play it all the way through? That they don't want to hit stop or skip to the next song?"

To some this might be overdoing it. To me, this was a natural manifestation over time of my personal "art of curation". The intentionality that developed by innate fascination with the experience of it all.

The Human Component

Indeed, there is intention behind the ordering of the tracks that can supersede melodic indicators. I find myself creating this metaphoric, scenic path through a feeling, emotion or expression, that is shaped by the music heard as you journey toward its end. It is this level of nuance and quilted detail that I find worth something deeper to the experience of music & music discovery.

AI won't take long. It's already good. Great even. Yet, human curation becomes precious when it is tied to, and appreciated for its connection to, the person who arranged it. Even if AI can one day craft a musical playlist so vivid & cinematic in its storytelling that it makes these works of mine feel redundant or outdated... the one thing it would never be able to take from the experience is the human component. The perfectly imperfect curation that speaks to my perspective & emotional climate in the times they were crafted.

A Vision for a Gallery Where Playlists Reside

I still contemplate how I might present these playlists in a way that would give them the right attention & experience. It's certainly been proven that the environment in which art is placed, matters. It is why we have galleries, and visually curated digital spaces with UX/UI refined to accentuate art in a specific context. That is itself an aspect of the art of curation.

Since I have not yet determined the tangible value of a personal playlist gallery at this time, I will leave it at the bottom of the queue. Perhaps if this post & my music curations begin to garner meaningful attention that warrants it, I can revisit the idea.

Wildenfree Playlists, in the Wild

For now, I wish to share that I have indeed begun to publicly share some of my curated playlists — as in actively calling for attention on them, starting with "A Velvet Sound, I 🧣🌾". If you're on Farcaster, you might've seen me post about it at some point.

You can find this playlist at either of the links below:

They are deep links meant to take you right into the app, which is helpful.

From this initial post, my playlist was also featured as a part of ghostlinkz' Outcasters Snapshot 014 newsletter, which was a pleasant surprise. I went on to share "A Velvet Sound, ii 🧣🎋" roughly a week later...

This one you can also find at either of the links below:

Curation as a Passion, but no Career?

All in all, it should go without question at this point that there is something I enjoy about the art of curation & weaving together songs in a track list that I sonically get to narrate. This has been a unrevealed passion of mine for so long... I find it strange how it wasn't even obvious to me until I looked back and saw the breadcrumbs. I knew I enjoyed music, but the curatorial component had the element of surprise. An inherited bonus from my love of music.

It is welll known that the major music streaming platforms have both AI generated playlists & editorial playlist curators. I never held enough focus on my curation to consider what a professional career with it would look like, or if it'd be worth pursuing. A part of me feels as though something I love might be reduced to plain 'ol work & tedium... thinking about it now in reflection. Though, that could be a fear-based limitation in my perspective. I feel I might be enlivened by the opportunity should it be a lucrative freelance endeavor.

The corporate route had previously failed to keep me fully satisfied before, in other less-than-ideal paths. However, I'm so far removed now to the point that I shudder at the thought of going back to being an employee. I'm a Creative Entrepreneur through and through. Due to that conviction, along with my diligent exploration in the Web3 space... I am learning that there will be meaningful ways to generate value reciprocity off of music curation.

Perhaps, I'll go in detail about that in a future post (or update).

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All the best,
Mr. Wildenfree 🐺🍵🎵

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