Listen to your music a new way...alphabetically!

Published July 6, 2020 on Chandler Swift's Blog Source

I recently embarked on a journey to listen to my reasonably expansive Spotify library (possibly1 2941 songs, and about 178 hours) from front to back, sorted A-to-Z, and you should too!

(Although it is worth noting that this wasn’t originally a deliberate choice; I hit some unexpected behavior from a new client, and didn’t realize that Spotify wasn’t shuffling my music as usual until I hit two versions in a row of The Jackson 5’s “ABC”—talk about the irony!)

I wasn’t expecting this to be a particularly interesting week of listening, since my music tastes have gradually shifted, but jumping back and forth between 2019’s jazz, 2018’s choral music, 2015’s southern gospel, and 2013’s classic rock at random can be rather jarring2. However, it’s had some surprisingly pleasant results:

  • Turns out shuffling between (at the time of writing, the next four songs) The Beatles, Billy Joel, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, and Red Garland makes for quite the interestingly eclectic mix!
  • Since I’m listening to my entire library, I get to listen to quite a few songs I haven’t heard for a long time. It’s only as I hear songs I haven’t heard in a long time that I realize that Spotify’s “shuffle all” seems to be closer to “shuffle all, heavily weighted to songs I’ve saved within the last year”. I’m rediscovering some old classics that I’d forgotten I ever loved!
  • Since the songs are ordered alphabetically, when I’ve saved multiple versions of one tune (most recently, “All The Things You Are” by the Oscar Peterson Trio, Gerry Mulligan, Charlie Parker, Peter Nero, and the Dizzy Gillespie Sextet), I get to listen to all of them together, which gives me a better perspective on what parts of their styles I do and don’t like.
  • Specifically, it seems that I’ve managed to get it playing so that when I have multiple songs with the same title saved, they play in the same order I added them to my library. As a rule, I tend to only add a second rendition of a tune when I like something that artist did better than the previously saved artist. (Not that the song is necessarily better, but at least it has one part that is!) This means that, in general, I get to listen to renditions of songs in increasing order of how much I like them, which is quite nice! In the previous list, I added the Dizzy Gillespie first, and while it’s certainly a solid performance, it’s my least favorite of the five, while the most recent, Oscar Peterson, holds the top spot as usual.

I’m not sure this is something I plan to do on a regular basis (I still find Spotify’s “Made for You” playlists nice for day-to-day radio listening), but it’s certainly been a fun experience…and I’m not even through the A’s yet!

  1. Spotify doesn’t, as far as I can tell, give me a good way to measure the total length of my library, but selecting all the songs (select the first, shift+select the last) and adding to a new playlist does give count and total length. ↩︎

  2. Which has inspired an idea for the next listen-through: the library ordered by date added, gradually iterating through my music tastes. ↩︎

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