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Digitally Conscious: Let me ride

It was a Sunday drive years ago, when I passed a group of crawfish-boilers on Esplanade who were on the front lawn blaring some truly funkdafied rhythms on the loudspeaker they had set up. The beer was flowing, the crawfish were getting sucked and pinched in various orders, and the vibe was all party. I wanted in.

The music sounded like something you might catch on WWOZ during DJ Soul Sister’s Soul Power show (Saturdays, 8-10 p.m., 90.7 FM), and I had a vague sensation of Jazz Fest, but I couldn’t quite place the feeling.

I wanted to stop and ask what song that was (OK, I was hungry for crawfish and Abita beer), but I thought that would be a bit much. “Oh well,” I said to myself, “maybe I’ll remember to google the lyrics when I get back home.”

I wanted to own that song for personal use whenever the mood was right, and I didn’t want to let it slip away from me. It was too good; the moment, too ripe. My head was already nodding to the beat, and as far as attachment goes, you might say I was being less than Buddhist about it. But, eventually the scene passed, and so had the moment.

It turns out that there are multiple apps for mobile phones that allow the user to get satisfaction out of that scenario, instead of a relenting sigh. One of them, SoundHound, can be acquired for $6.99 on iTunes and is my personal favorite.

What these apps do is pretty amazing. Today, I am able to hear a song I like, open up my “miniature super-computer” (iPhone), tap once on the bright orange SoundHound icon, and then sit back — or in this case, drive slower — while the song is magically uploaded into the app’s database for analysis via the phone’s onboard microphone.

SoundHound has been around for years and is one of the more reliable apps, although other options include the popular Shazam and its multiple versions (Encore, RED), and MusicID, another great choice. Most of these apps are available not only for iPhone, but for Android and Windows phones as well.

Depending on how popular or evident the song may be, in roughly 15 to 30 seconds of listening, SoundHound and its peers analyze the song’s components via advanced algorithms, and then spit back their best guess as to the song’s origins. Supposedly you can hum to SoundHound and get results, but I’m not endorsing that. Then again, I’m a terrible singer.

In a few more seconds, it returns options to link to the iTunes Store to purchase the song, and it even provides lyrics synced to what you are actually hearing.

“All in under a minute,” you ask? Well, welcome to the Digital Age! For a born music lover, and someone who is prone to impulsive behavior and wish fulfillment, these apps offer bliss.

The song that inspired this journey turned out to be Parliament Funkadelic’s “Mothership Connection [Star Child],” and I recognized the refrain: “Swing down sweet chariot, Stop and let me ride!” Never mind I’ve always thought it was, “Swing down, sweet cherry stop.”

The beat, refrain (courtesy of the rapper Dr. Dre) and carefree dancing at that crawfish boil were very familiar to me as a NOLA native. I knew that song; I knew that feeling. I couldn’t quite place the song, but I “needed” it to make my life complete.

Part of what I remembered about the song was that I probably heard it years ago at Jazz Fest when I was invited by a friend to join him for VIP access to Parliament’s circa late 1990s performance. I remember being so close to George Clinton on stage that I think he sweat on me (he gets down). It’s a great memory.

Thanks to local revelers on that Sunday drive, and thanks to an app like SoundHound, I can revisit that memory anytime I want now. So, people… please.

“Put a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip, and come on up to the Mothership.” Next time you need that music fix, I trust you’ll be prepared.

Brooking Wilson writes with a New Orleans accent about cyberspace and psychology for NolaVie.


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