Back in my day, making mixtapes required patience and creativity. Spending hours recording songs from CDs or tapes onto a blank cassette meant taking time to sequence songs, making sure each song flowed into the next.
Then music transformed from atoms into bits, and mixtapes into playlists, which only take seconds or minutes to make, instead of hours. But with less time came less care, and with that, playlists lacking the flow and cohesion that came with spending all of that time on the process.
Enter MixShape, a Microsoft web app that visualizes your playlist’s song properties and orders the sequence accordingly, combining the speed of digital playlists with the flow of the cassette variety. The app takes songs from any Spotify playlist, applies music data from The Echo Nest (publisher of Evolver.fm) to analyze them, and then optimizes the resulting playlists for Microsoft Internet Explorer 10 and (especially) Windows 8 touch interfaces, so that you can change the shape of the mix with your fingertips.
MixShape allows you to choose a mood for your playlist, which affects its shape (or flow) and song selection (in that the app throws out songs that don’t fit). You might want to create a work playlist, which should hopefully set a completely different mood than the one you put on during a date. Each mood has its own unique curve, to which your playlist will mold. The curve may start out slow and build up speed or remain relatively steady the whole way through. In addition to work and romance, MixShape has exercise and party curves.
Individual songs are visually represented by a cluster of color-coded geometric shapes. The shapes represent tempo, while the colors are based on key signatures — a concept loosely inspired by Russian composer Alexander Scriabin’s experimentation with colour and key.
Once songs are placed onto the curve, you can interact with the playlist by making adjustments to the order, provided you are using one of the previously mentioned Microsoft touch interfaces. The web app does work on other browsers with a mouse, but is definitely optimized for Microsoft tablets and touch-sensitive computers.
MixShape can also extend or shorten a playlist to fit a desired length of time — or, if you don’t have any Spotify playlists, it can build playlist based only on the mood you pick.
Whenever you’re satisfied, hit the “Play in Spotify” button to listen to your MixShape. As with other Spotify playlists, these can be synced to portable devices if you’re a premium subscriber, or played for free on the desktop. Fun, useful, and pretty, this is an app worth checking out.
Note: Evolver.fm is on a reduced publishing schedule due due to family logistics on the part of the editor.