I finally made the leap to OSX a few months back, and I'm finding that iTunes is one of the first computer programs I've run across in a long time that has actually changed one of my regular life behaviors — the way that I listen to and think about music. I've been ripping all my old CDs to the hard drive. Having the bulk of my music collection available and visible at all times is completely different from having the CDs stashed away in a drawer, five of them playing at any given time. I suppose that most of the time that I played music on my little home stereo, I was listening to the the five CDs in the changer, usually the ones I'd purchased most recently, alternated with a few standbys. But now it's all always onhand, and searchable. iTunes let you search and sort by a bunch of different criteria — Artist, Title, Album, Date, Genre, your rating, etc., and allows you to generate smart playlists that automatically update — so for instance I have smart playlists for artists (Beatles, Bjork, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Johnny Cash), for genres, both those predefined by iTunes (Blues, Jazz, Latin) and those that I define (Funky, Songwriters, even those of a particular record label — Bloodshot). In some ways iTunes has given me access to my musical memory — the music of my teenage years mixed with my Blues period mixed with the bit of Latin and insurgent country and Built to Spill from my last Chicago period). A new hard-drive, a wireless connection, and suddently I'm always on my laptop and hardly ever sitting in front of the desktop. And I'm listening to music I forgot I even owned.
Last week Apple released the Windows version of iTunes. The iTunes, iTunes music store and iPod software/hardware cluster may turn out to be the smartest thing the company has done in its history.
In addition to the iTunes software itself, there are a bunch of little freeware and shareware programs for OSX to modify and enhance the iTunes experience. Clutter is one of my favorite of these. Clutter searches the amazon.com database for cover art of music in your library, allowing you to download the art into Clutter and iTunes, and in a neat gesture of retro-remediation, lets you stack the covers on your desktop and play them as you would CDs by clicking on any of the covers cluttered on your desktop. Kung-Tunes is a little widget that generates a webpage showing the current and last five songs played on iTunes and ftps it up to your server. I've had it running for the last few days, and threw a link to the playlist up on the left there. I'm not sure if anyone reading this blog would be interested in what I happen to be listening to at any given time — but why not? Similarly, iChatStatus is a little program that displays the current iTunes song on your iChat buddy list. iLyric is a cool idea — a script that searches for the lyrics of the song currently playing in iTunes — though the results I've come up with are often inaccurate or unsatisfactory.