Philosophy of the Arts


The boredom of computerisation

Listening to the radio is not just about the music. JazzFM, SkyRadio, and many other radio stations broadcast randomly chosen selections from a selection of music. Perhaps the initial selection (of what should be in the database) was made by humans—or maybe they used an algorithm such as iTunes’ Genius.

…With computerised radio stations the switching is done unhumanly…

After a few hours of listening to such radio stations the net result may be … boredom. Why?

Surely, each of the tunes picked may be to your taste, so that is not the problem.

What is wrong

What is wrong is something to do with the switching between tunes. With computerised radio stations the switching is not done by someone who appreciates one tune’s expression, and thinks his thoughts, and develops his associations, to find what he feels are similar feelings, which induce him to pick the next tune (as appealing to those newly acquired associations and feelings). His audience follows through these processes.
With computerised radio stations the switching is done unhumanly. And the listener has no clue how to empathise with the choosing of the music.


What this teaches (me at least) is that a radio broadcasting station is more than the frequency at the FM-bandwidth it broadcasts from. It forms a practice, at the heart of which is the disc jockey, who feels for the music and for his audience (and whom his audience feels for). The disc jockey appeals to associations induced by the expression of music.


1. The argument is analogous to my objection to the view that music amounts to what is in its score. Human manipulations (of discs, or of an instrument) must be audible and traceable.
2. The semantics of the in-between tunes is similar to that of the cinematic in-between shots that is used through editing to make the shots tell a story, and of the interrelation between sound and image in music-videos (more here). (Someone should look into these analogy.)


– Rob van Gerwen. 2011. “Roger Scruton on Hearing the Musician.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. (In Press).
____________. 2002. “De ontologische drogreden in de analytische esthetica.” Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte 94:109–123.