Reaching the limits

The graph at the left tells a tale! The context for that tale is that since June 3rd 2021, I've been using Giocoso to play (almost exclusively) only those recordings which have not previously been recorded as having been played, in an attempt to ensure that by the time I come to kick the bucket, I can say, hand-on-heart, that I've listened to every recording I ever bought. On the one hand, the tale is of good news: the graph shows that only 7.1% of my entire collection has not yet been played by Giocoso. So, I've played around 93% of it, which is pretty good going.

It's even better going when you consider that for much of the time since June 2021, I've had time restrictions on my plays: in other words, I've told Giocoso 'play unplayed recordings that last less than 20 minutes' or something similar. As a result, I haven't listened to Wagner's Ring cycle with Giocoso, but I know for certain I've played those recordings multiple, multiple times in the years before 2021. Which is to say: even the 7.1% I haven't 'officially' played contains substantial chunks of recorded music which I know I've played using different tools... so the amount of my collection which is truly unplayed is significantly less than 7%.

But the graph tells a sad tale, too: it is evident that it is getting harder and harder to play the remaining unplayed parts of my collection: the graph slope has become, practically, a horizontal line. That's because of the earlier time restrictions I mentioned: by now, three years on, everything that lasts less than about an hour and a half has been played. Only the stuff which lasts multiple hours (looking at you, Herr Wagner!) remains unplayed. So, each new play of an unplayed item takes multiple hours... and, accordingly, the rate at which the last bits of my collection get played for the first time must inevitably slow down.

What's more, the news gets even worse if I drill down further:

Composer Count of Unplayed Works Total Unplayed Hours Average Hours Per Unplayed Work
Johann Sebastian Bach 251 242 1
Ludwig van Beethoven 270 185 1
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 219 158 1
George Frideric Handel 51 138 3
Richard Wagner 34 127 4
Giuseppe Verdi 39 96 2
Antonio Vivaldi 26 71 3
Gustav Mahler 49 66 1
Joseph Haydn 44 44 1
Anton Bruckner 28 36 1
Gioachino Rossini 11 30 3
Richard Strauss 6 18 3
Claudio Monteverdi 5 16 3
Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky 5 13 3
Philip Glass 5 13 3
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov 4 12 3

You'll note that for many of the composers in this list, their 'average hours per unplayed work' is 2 or more: the writers of long operas, such as Rossini, Wagner, Verdi and Rimsky-Korsakov have been victims of the time restrictions previously placed on my playback, so now they inevitably figure prominently in the list of who remains to be played.

The composers of the number of most 'unplayed recordings' are Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, by a country mile. All three have hundreds of hours of unplayed works, though the average length of each unplayed recording by them is relatively short. This is because of something else I've been doing since 2021: deliberately preventing the playback of any Bach, Beethoven or Mozart by mentioning them in Giocoso's excludes file (with occasional, manual editing to permit them the occasional hearing). It's simply because I have so much music by all three: multiple complete sets of Bach cantatas, for example; 22 complete Beethoven symphony cycles (plus a bazillion individual symphony recordings); two 'complete works' boxed sets of Mozart's, and so on. The size of those sub-collections threatened to mean I was listening to nothing much else other than Bach, Beethoven and Mozart! So I deliberately prevented their playback for much of the past three years... with the consequence that now, there's not a lot except Bach, Beethoven and Mozart to play, which might get a bit tedious really quickly!

In fact, it's obvious that the cumulative duration of all the unplayed Bach (at 242 hours) is almost double the number of total, cumulative listening hours (169) I've enjoyed of my all-time-favourite composer, Benjamin Britten, to date since June 2021. Attempting to play that stuff now would mean a hugely restricted music diet for months and years to come, therefore... and is clearly undesirable, even if it were tolerable.

The time has come, therefore, to recognise that reaching '0% unplayed' is an unreachable goal. Instead, I'm going to unleash Giocoso from all artificial restrictions and let it play anything it wants to play, at random, whether I've played it before or not. Some unplayed works will get caught up in that; but most plays going forward will, in all probability, be of things I've heard before. I'll instead institute a 24-hour time bar, so that if something by Bach gets selected to be played on Monday, nothing else by him will be selected for play until Tuesday: the size of his contribution to my overall collection won't become an overwhelming factor in what gets played each day, therefore. I'm also going to introduce, one day a week, a deliberate choice to listen to unplayed works, using Giocoso's selection filtering techniques:

Here, I'm explicitly saying I want to listen to something by Anton Bruckner, provided only that I haven't played it before. In this way, I'll still keep chipping away at the unplayed recordings, but it won't be the primary selection factor when choosing something to listen to, most days of the week.

The big bonus from this new, liberated way of listening to music is that I'll now be more likely to tackle my 1TB backlog of digital music to catalogue. I've been holding off adding new music to my collection (or, at least, only adding it in dribs and drabs) so as not to suddenly inflate the number of unplayed recordings in my collection! The result has been a 'how many recordings in my collection' graph that looks like this:


I mean, sure: it's gone up! Back in 2021, I had only 14,350 recordings; now I have 15,635. So I have added 1,300ish recordings in three years. It's just that there's about 7000 new recordings (I'm guessing, wildly!) in the backlog that I've been avoiding tackling in earnest all this time. Three years of buying stuff and not cataloguing it (or listening to it!) is a bit silly... and stops today! The new version of Semplice (that's almost ready for general release) will be getting a good workout in the next couple of weeks, therefore.

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