The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library’s TEDxSomerville speaker songs 1: Brian Whitman

For the remainder of 2012, The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library will be releasing one recording per week of the 25 songs created to honor the speakers at this year’s TEDxSomerville, accompanied by videos of their TEDx talks (see all previously released at:

While the event was back in March, it has taken us a while to roll out these recordings (…and we’re still working on them!). Here’s a recap of our experience and songs, Tanya’s experience recap, and the story of how the songs were presented at the TEDxSummit in Qatar by TEDxSomerville Executive Director C. Todd Lombardo.

We start with what probably turned out to be the band’s favorite song, a dark dirge about Brian Whitman, co-founder of Echo Nest. I had met Dr. Whitman (whom we imprecisely refer to as Mr. Whitman throughout the song – please pardon our artistic license on that one) briefly at a Music Hack Day. I immediately thought that he was brilliant and that Echo Nest was doing absolutely the most innovative work I’d ever seen in a music startup. We decided that given his background in music and what we knew of his sense of humor, he wouldn’t mind if we musically shaped him into a sort of robot mastermind, teaching machines to use their music-analysis skills for world domination. Extra note: Brian’s brother Keith Fullerton Whitman, an electronic music, also performed at the event. He may actually also be a co-conspirator in that robotic takeover. Perhaps we’ll write the sequel about him another time…

“Brian teaches computers to listen to music. He was a frustrated electronic musician before packing it in for grad school at Columbia and the MIT Media Lab in natural language processing and machine learning to figure out what people talk about when they talk about music. Since then, he’s co-founded Somerville’s The Echo Nest, which powers discovery and the future of music for people like Spotify, Twitter, MTV, Clear Channel, major labels, and thousands of independent developers.”

Bm D A Bm
Brian Whitman wants to know the meaning of song
D A Bm
to teach the machines to sing along
how to read and write, make and listen
G A Bm
the robots are coming thanks to Mr. Whitman

Brian Whitman, The Echo Nest is lair
they do their work in Davis Square
teaching computer how to rhyme
changing music one listener at a time, Mr. Whitman