Writings about Macs, music and more by Kirk McElhearn

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Well-Crafted Study Shows Listeners Cannot Distinguish Between CD-Quality and High-Resolution Music Files

08/16/2014

Archimago has posted results of a detailed, well-crafted study and survey about high-resolution music. He provided 140 listeners with three pairs of files (read the procedure used for the test), and asked them to determine which one was the high-resolution, 24-bit file. The results were as expected. For two of the three files, the results […]

The History of Hidden Album Tracks

08/15/2014

“On July 2, 1969, Paul McCartney recorded “Her Majesty” live with his acoustic guitar in Abbey Road Studios. The song, less than 30 seconds long, took three takes get down. It was meant to appear between “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam” on Abbey Road‘s now-famous B-Side Suite, but on July 30, McCartney decided he didn’t like that sequence. He asked the tape operator, John Kurlander — a young man just starting out in music production — to get rid of “Her Majesty” all together. Kurlander, as the story goes, knew to never destroy a Beatles recording, so he removed the song and instead tacked it on to the end of the album, leaving 14 seconds of blank tape between it and “The End.” When the album was pressed, “Her Majesty” didn’t appear on labels or album covers, making it one of pop music’s first hidden tracks.”

via The History of Hidden Album Tracks | Wondering Sound.

I was interviewed for this article, because I don’t like hidden tracks. It’s interesting to see the lengths that some artists have gone to in creating hidden tracks. But I still think it’s a futile exercise in doing something that’s cool just for the sake of being cool.

How much is a [classical] recording worth?

08/15/2014

“How much is a recording worth to you? What’s its value – both artistic and in monetary terms? This is something that’s been brought into question quite starkly in recent years. Firstly, the increasing numbers of super-budget back-catalogue reissues – or even new recordings from the likes of Naxos – have caused many a buyer to pause a little longer before shelling out for a full-price disc. More recent still, the rapid developments in online music – first downloads, then streaming – have made most of the history of music available for free or at the very least through an astonishingly good value subscription model.

How things have changed. An industry colleague this week told me of the price to a record collector, back in 1963, of Herbert von Karajan’s first Beethoven symphony cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic, issued by Deutsche Grammophon (the Ninth Symphony is the subject of this month’s Classics Reconsidered – see page 108). The eight-LP set, when purchase tax was added on, cost £14 and 8 shillings (£14.40). At the time, the average British weekly wage was about £15. In the US it cost $47.98 – about 40 per cent of the average weekly American wage at the time, but even so, still a very significant investment. (As indeed was DG’s in making the recording – the label spent 1.5m Deutschmarks and had to sell at least 100,000 to break even. They need not have worried as, one decade on, it had sold 1 million copies.) The set’s just been remastered and handsomely packaged. You can now pick it up for about £45, less than a tenth of today’s average weekly wage.

via How much is a recording worth? | gramophone.co.uk.

(I’ve added the word “classical” above; the excerpt comes from Gramophone, a classical music magazine. Readers on the site know it’s not referring to a pop or rock recording.)

While music sales have been decreasing, no one seems to have addressed the fact that the cost of music has dropped as well. Not just from the extreme mentioned above, but the price of an album. If you look at the standard $10 price of a download, that’s just a baseline. While iTunes doesn’t discount, Amazon does, with steep discounts on many new and popular albums, with some for just $3 or $4.

In classical music, the precipitous drop in per-disc price has been astounding, and it’s certainly a good thing for those who buy a lot of music. Yes, new, single CDs by big names cost the same, but lots of classical music can be had for a pittance. With the price of box sets dragging down the general price of CDs, it’s increasingly difficult to justify full-price any more. Even small box sets – say, 5 or 6 discs – are now sold at the price of a single disc, while bigger sets often come in at $1 – $2 a disc. A set that once would have cost hundreds of dollars, such as Vladimir Horowitz Live At Carnegie Hall (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), is only $106 or £72 on Amazon as of today.

It’s tough for the recording industry to keep a balance between these low prices and profits. With classical labels selling fewer copies of each release – nothing sells like the million copies of the Beethoven symphonies mentioned in the article – it’s harder to break even.

Sony Releases Album of the Day iOS App: Will They Promote Classical Music?

08/14/2014

I doubt it. The goal of this app is to promote 24-hour discounts on albums from well-known artists. I can’t imagine that Sony considers any classical releases deserving of this treatment. I’ve downloaded it, and turned on push notifications, so I can see what they tout; maybe I’ll be surprised. (And I don’t only buy […]

Pat Metheny on Kenny G and “Musical Necrophilia”

08/11/2014

“But when Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing all over one of the great Louis’s tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have imagined possible. He, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician.”

Boom!

JazzOasis.com – Pat Metheny on Kenny G.

bill-evans

Is Jazz Boring?

08/11/2014

Oh, my, over at the Washington Post, they’re getting into click-baiting. A recent article states that All that jazz isn’t all that great, and begins with the following pronouncements: Jazz is boring. Jazz is overrated. Jazz is washed up. To be fair, I have to agree, somewhat. Not so much that jazz is boring, overrated, […]

Should We “Grow Up” in Our Musical Tastes?

08/11/2014

Jan Swafford, author of a new biography of Beethoven, did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit last week. He said something in this Q&A that I find surprising; even insulting. Someone asked “My questions concern your ideas on the future of classical music. [...] how do you see social media playing a role in […]

Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, New Biography by Jan Swafford

08/05/2014

51mBQbHwtGLI’d not come across a good, thorough biography of Beethoven (at least not currently in print). It’s good to see this huge (1,100 page) book just out by Jan Swafford, whose biography of Charles Ives I found very interesting. I’ve ordered it, and I’m looking forward to dipping into it to learn more about Beethoven and his times; a fascinating man, in a pivotal period for music.

Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon UK.

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