Thursday, 4 September 2014

The Enduring Charm of Classical CDs

Interesting article entitled 'The Classical Cloud' by Alex Ross for the New Yorker (can't seem to access it via work's IE6) where he discusses his abiding fondness for CDs over digital music streaming, despite the accumulation of damaging and space-occupying petroleum-produced objects. Among the benefits of CDs he particularly lists the liner notes (the comprehensiveness of which is almost unique to classical music), and how much information they provide that streaming platforms cannot; cover art; the joys in browsing spoines and selecting discs at random, and the memories provoked from seeing an old CD – where it was acquired, where it was most enjoyed, where it has lived and travelled … Spotify is singled out for its poor handling of classical music tracks, mixing up movements, symphonies, confusing artists, etc. Who'd have thought?!

What with classical music’s interest in supporting information (composer and artist biographies, work analyses, performance reviews, instrumental detail, recording dates, locations, libretto, extracts of original scores, etc,), the anorak nature of so many of its more devoted listeners, the need for high definition sonic clarity, and the money and support behind the industry, classical certainly does the CD format better than most genres. I too still value classical CDs more than others, often even over classical vinyl. I recently even bought some, all $5 a pop brand new, or rather still in shrinkwrap but having lingered in the dust filled (now defunct) warehouse of a certain music distributor. I even recalled handling these when working there many moons ago:

James Dillon: Book of Elements (NMC)- dizzyingly complex piano music, with enough strange hooks to cut through the chaos. Dillon was a semi-staple on Dead and Alive, reckon we'd have played more of him if we'd kept at it :

Player Piano 6 - Original Compositions In The Tradition Of Nancarrow (MDG) - Core Dead and Alive repertoire - wonderfully strange sounds from player pianos in post-Nancarrow language, a world I'm obsessed with. Music by Daniele Lombardi, Tom Jonson, Krzysztof Meyer, James Tenney, and interestingly pianists Marc-Andre Hamelin, Stefan Schleiermacher, kind of like writing themselves out of work:

Bernhard Lang: DW (Col Legno) - Using samples and turntables to produce a type of high-brow, refined hauntology; ice-cold and terrifying:

Luigi Nono: Orchestral Works & Chamber Music (Col Legno) - Part of what I always thought looked like Col Legno's "budget sampler" range:

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