During my first visit to the house I noticed that background music was constantly being played in the kitchen and living room. I found this noteworthy because both W and P often took no notice of it – it had been naturalised. The music came from an iPad Mini mounted on the kitchen wall which was connected wireless to bluetooth speakers. They used music streaming platform Spotify to play and manage the music. They would not play music if they wanted to watch together – normally a communal activity – as the sound from the music and the tv would clash.
For me, an outsider entering their home, this was a prominent feature of the constructed environment that W and P had built in their home. A constant background noise kept below talking level that created an ambiance around the communal areas of the flat. As such, I found the music played on this music player something interesting to investigate.
I signed into the Spotify account (W’s personal account) and connected it with Last.FM; a website which cumulates the music played over time allowing for insights into multiple features of the music played.
The listening history showed by Last.FM is extremely variable. Reaching daily highs of over 80 tracks played (on the Wednesday). When ask why somedays would be higher than others, P and W both agreed that it depended who was in the flat, and what they were doing. Rarely music would be left playing when no one was in, whilst W said that one of the first things he did when he came home was the start playing music. P said he enjoyed the music being played because otherwise the flat would be too quiet. When asked why Tuesday was considerably higher than other days, neither W or P could conclude a specific reason, so hypothesised that it was because they might have been in their rooms most of the afternoon and evening; they would not play music if they wanted to watch together, normally a communal activity. (in fact P went for a run – see here; whilst W had returned from an unenjoyable day at work – see here).
I asked them why there was such a wide range of artists played from the music player (101). They assumed that this was because they often played music through regenerated Spotify playlists that appealed to various moods, styles, and even activities. Streaming is emphasised by the considerable ability playlists have to curate the future of music. Playlists liberate songs from albums, allowing audiences to approach music more passively. Playlists are becoming a social medium through which identity can be performed. W and P were choosing music to fit their eclectic needs, rather than playing specific artists or albums.
Above is a word cloud of the genre of music played in the flat. A main appearance is music you would associate with background music (“atmospheric”, “classical”, “acoustic”, “soundtrack” etc). This large portion of the music listened to would have been played through the playlists W and P picked to suit playing music as a murmur in the room – not a main focus. I asked the participants what the felt was the playlist they listened to most was. W said “Downtempo Beats” (see here), whilst P said “Evening Acoustic” (see here).