Sounds for Alexa

Having decided to create a book listing all our albums, I soon realised that there were a couple of other things that could be included. First, there are several albums that I no longer have but which I have fond memories of. Second, for the last 4 or 5 years I’ve been reading The Guardian reviews of new albums and listening to samples of their tracks in the Amazon site and including those I particularly like in my Amazon Wish List. By subscribing to Amazon Music Unlimited, all these albums should be available to listen to through Alexa, so I’m going to include these in the book as well.

Since every album in the book would be playable either directly by Alexa or on the iPhone through Alexa, I decided to create simple colour coded icons for each of those mechanisms and to allocate one or both to every entry. To make it a bit easier to use the book in conjunction with Alexa, I’ll top and tail the book with some guidance about using Alexa, and with an index to the artists listed in the book. I also decided to leave some blank pages at the very end of the book so that there will be space to handwrite new entries as we discover new music that we like. All these elements combine together into the following Contents list:

  1. Su & Paul’s Digital Sounds Collection (Individual Artists, Various Artists, Singles, Soundtracks, Spoken Word)
  2. Albums that Paul has sampled and likes
  3. Albums that Paul likes but hasn’t got
  4. Albums that Su likes but hasn’t got
  5. Index
  6. Additional Entries

The title of the book has to reflect the fact that it contains more than just music, so in the end I decided to go with ‘Sounds for Alexa’ with a sub-title ‘A listing of Su and Paul’s digitised LPs, Cassettes, Tapes and CDs for use in the marriage of Alexa to Aye Fon’

With this structure in place I set about populating the sections. For our digitised collection I was able to draw on the digital folders and files for the titles and album art. I also included the track list underneath each album picture, by using Microsoft’s ‘Copy as Path’ function (select all the sound files in an album, hold down the shift key and right click the mouse). If the result is pasted into excel, it’s a simple matter to copy the whole of the standard path in front of the actual track names, put it into the Find and Replace tool, open up the replace section with zero contents and do ‘Replace All’. This deletes all the path information. The ‘.mp3’ extension at the end of the file names can be removed in a similar way. This leaves just the track numbers and titles which I then copied into the Word document.

The Amazon Wish List material was simple enough to copy and paste into the book – though I didn’t attempt to try and find track titles for each album – that would have been a step too far! The final section – albums I would like but haven’t got – was again populated by finding the album concerned within Amazon and copying and pasting the relevant information.

Although this initial population of the book was very time-consuming, it was at least relatively straight forward. The next phase – finding out what Alexa could and couldn’t play – was considerably more demanding.

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