Gone Viral – the Evils of Algorithms

Our music manager, Charlotte, discusses the irony of how an algorithm led her to a song about the evils of algorithms for our upcoming concert “Gone Viral” on Sunday 24th April at Cadogan Hall.

As the Pink Singers Music Manager part of my role involves repertoire selection. At the beginning of each season members of the music team are locked into a small room with only Spotify, YouTube, a spreadsheet and a packet of biscuits. Eventually, and after many hours, a smoke signal can be seen from the chimney and the choir know a new set list has been chosen.

More information about our upcoming concert…

Within the team my particular specialism is classical choral music and I am always tasked by our Music Director to find a piece of classical music that bests represents our diverse community. Every season I scratch my head for weeks sifting through centuries of undoubtedly powerful music (most of which written with the best of intentions) none of which quite fit the brief because they are either religious, politically problematic, pejorative, lacks equal representation throughout the voice parts – the list goes on….

This season I was absolutely stuck for ideas. Eventually in desperation I stopped for a while and switched on Spotify searching on choral music and letting the algorithms run down a rabbit hole. I love Spotify because it gives me access to more music than I could possibly listen to in a lifetime, so I think of it as very benign. However it has gathered a lot of personal information about me over the years. It knows my music tastes and my community preferences. It also knows my location, age, family members and friends. It can hazard a very good guess at my socio-economic profile through my podcast choices and it even knows my mood and whether I am happy or sad.

After about 20 minutes of me listening or skipping through Spotify presented me with the Hymn of Axciom with the opening lyric ‘Somebody hears you’ and guess what – Spotify had indeed been hearing me and gathering data on me in order to present me with music specifically selected to meet my mood and satisfy my needs. I was immediately hooked on the piece and needed to know more about the story behind the lyrics.

Charlotte, Soprano