Photo by Salt Water New England

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Adding Classics through Alexa and Sonos

Here are two ways I have found to add some classics to my day. 

Both take advantage of Amazon's ecosystem, including Alexa, and then Audible for the first and Amazon Music for the second.  I use my Sonos speakers as the main device, and apps on an iOS device.

Audible and The Great Courses:  Anyone can get one Audible program for free when signing up for their monthly program.  Even if you cancel after one month, you get to keep that book forever.  Many people will greatly enjoy "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, 3rd Edition" by Robert Greenberg (36h 34m), or "Classics of American Literature" by Brown University professor Arnold Weinstein.  After the first free month, the second month is $14.95, which provides the right opportunity to pick up the other before cancelling.

Screen captures by Salt Water New England

If you hook up Audible to Amazon's Alexa, all you have to do is say, "Alexa, play Audible" to continue with the last active program.  You also have all of the regular commands, such as "Alexa stop," or "Alexa, rewind 2 minutes."

By doing this, at any time during the day, you can effortlessly continue with intelligent and interesting thoughts.  Many will likely go through each course two or three times.

Amazon Music:  A second satisfying technique is to buy a few collections of digital classical music on Amazon.  (Some mass collections of 111 pieces of great music are incredibly cheap.)  Throw them all into a giant playlist.  My list is called "Classical."  Hook that up to Alexa.  Then, anytime you say, "Alexa, shuffle playlist classical," (or whatever you call your playlist), you get random pieces from your list.  Best of all, if Alexa plays you a piece of music that you do not like, say, "Alexa, thumbs down."  This permanently eliminates it from what Alexa will consider.  Over time,  this music becomes more and more aligned with your tastes.  And at any time, you can add new collections to your playlist. (One can use the Amazon Music app, but not be a subscriber.)

Both techniques take a bit of up front work, but can add a richness "on tap" that is incomparable.


  1. A very practical and beneficial entry, Muffy! And speaking of The Great Courses, I love them! I recently returned one to the library before I had finished it but, when I tried to check it out again, I was told it was lost. I spoke with the county's head librarian asking that the library reorder it, but she turned my request down saying "there's not that much demand" for it. I'm afraid I got a bit hot at that point and accused the library system of trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator instead of raising people up. It didn't work, so now I need to find a way to get on the library board. End result ~ I bought that particular Great Courses and it just so happened to be on sale. In talking with someone from the Great Courses, I learned they rotate items offering many of sale from time to time. You can really get some good deals! Sorry - off the subject I know - but I couldn't resist a chance to promote the Great Courses!

  2. Robert Aubry Davis has the best show on radio Saturday mornings on Sirius XM, "Baroque and Beyond." It is immensely informative and I've discovered many great composers, pieces, and musicians through him. Plus, he is a character.

  3. Amazon's ecosystem as you say (or perhaps you meant, echosystem) is their surveillance infrastructure.
    Check out their new product Sidewalk. Scary.

  4. Thanks for the information. Very much appreciated!