iTunes’ library contains a number of sub-libraries for the different files it contains: there’s Music, Movies, TV Shows, Books, and others. (There are also libraries for non-media content, such as apps, and ringtones, which are only meant to be used on an iPhone.) But one thing that’s missing is a Music Videos library. Music videos get mixed in with your Music library, under the genre, artist and album (if any) they are tagged with.
You can set any type of content to reside in a specific library. For audio content, you can choose Music, Podcast, iTunes U, Audiobook or Voice Memo. For video, you can choose Music Video, Movie, TV Show, Podcast or iTunes U. You can do this for any track by selecting it, pressing Command-I (or Control-I on Windows), then clicking on the Options tab. Choose the library where you want to store the file from the Media Kind menu.
I can understand the idea behind having music videos mixed in with music; they are often part of an album, or if they are pop songs, most iTunes users probably want to play them when they’re listening to music. But it would make more sense if they were in their own library, especially if you have a lot of them.
I have a number of music DVDs that I have ripped, along with some music videos that I’ve gotten with iTunes Store purchases, and I have them as Movies, because it’s just more logical. But they’re not movies; they may actually be TV shows (technically), or simply videos of concerts, operas or other performances. I put many of them as TV Shows, because they have multiple discs, such as the Barenboim on Beethoven set in the screen shot below. Organizing this with each disc as its own movie wouldn’t make sense. The same would be the case for, say, a long opera that is on two discs, or the Grateful Dead’s Closing of Winterland, which is on three discs.
I would like to see a Music Videos library, and give users the options, somewhere in iTunes’ preferences, to either store music videos there or in their Music library. For those who have a lot of videos, it makes sense.
(Note: you can create a Music Videos genre if you wish, and still keep these files in your Music library. Instead of being sorted with the albums they come from, or the artists on them, they’d be in their own genre and easier to spot. But having a separate library is still one step easier.)
Posted: 7/24/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: digital music, DVDs, iTunes, music | 6 Comments »
iTunes and the iPod are all about music, but as composer John Cage once said, “The music is in the silence between the notes.” In fact, Cage is famous for one of his works, 4’33″, where a pianist sits at the piano for 4 minutes and 33 seconds and does nothing. The music is in the silence; or rather the lack thereof. For true silence does not exist on our planet. Any performance of this work brings out the ambient noises of the concert hall, the coughs and rustles of the audience, and all the other noises we usually never hear. (Download a performance of 4’33″ here, or buy Cage Against the Machine, an album featuring a recording of this work and a number of remixes.)
You can have 40,000 songs on an iPod, providing you with hours of listening pleasure, but sometimes you just want to listen to silence. Not that you want silence for any long stretch of time – that’s easy; just turn off your iPod – but you may want to have certain playlists, or even albums, with a bit of a pause between certain songs. A time to take a breath, to appreciate the beauty of the music. So why not use silence in your playlists? After an especially poignant song, add a few seconds of silence – 15 seconds, maybe 30 seconds, or even a minute. Let yourself absorb the song, the world around you, the people with you…
Unfortunately, iTunes does not allow this, nor does the iPod. But there is a simple solution: I’ve created a few tracks of silence that you can download and add to your iTunes music library. You can use them in any playlist, or copy them and add them to specific albums. You can download the files here:
Note: the zip archive also contains a .1 second MP3 file, and a .1 second iPhone-compatible ringtone, as per this hint on the Mac OS X Hints web site.
Each of these tracks is a very low bit rate MP3 file; I encoded them at 8 kbps mono so they take up very little disk space. Each track is tagged with its name, and with the artist, album and genre marked as “Silence” so you can find them easily.
So, what can you do with these tracks? When you’re making a new playlist, think if you really need all the songs to follow each other in a mad rush, or if you want some of the music to sink in before the next song. Insert a Silence track and appreciate the music that you’ve heard before the next track starts. This is especially useful with classical music, where you want enough time for one work to fade away before another – which may be quite different in form or instrumentation – begins. (Many classical albums are engineered with long bits of silence at the ends of works for that reason.)
If you want to insert silence into an album, take one of the Silence tracks and copy it. Then, change the tags so it has the artist, album and genre for the album you want. Finally, you’ll need to edit its track number tag as well as edit all those that come after it on the album. (For example, if you want to insert it at the 3rd position, you’ll need to change track 3 to 4, track 4 to 5, and so on.)
Silence is especially useful if you make playlists for romantic situations; for mellow music that you want to listen to when meditating, doing yoga or simply watching the grass grow; or just to change the way you hear your music. You can also use them when you listen to your iPod in shuffle mode. Make copies of each of the tracks; make a few dozen of each, so you’ll get random silence from time to time, and discover the sounds of the world around you in a new way.
Addendum: a comment mentions another source for silent tracks. I’ll make a clickable link to that source here. You can try both and see which interpretation you prefer. This other source does have more choices as to length.
(Updated from an article originally published in 2005.)
Posted: 7/9/2012 by kirk | Filed under: iPod & iTunes Tags: digital music, iTunes, music | 22 Comments »
Back in 2004, the iTunes Store started adding digital booklets with certain albums. It took several years, but more and more albums come with booklets. However, in the classical music section, this is still quite rare.
I had wondered why so few classical albums come with booklets. After all, one is much more likely to want a booklet for a classical recording, with information about the work, the artists and the recording, and with texts of works that are sung. Labels already have these booklets, and for recent releases, these booklets are in digital format, so it should be easy, right?
I was talking with someone who works for a classical record label yesterday, and he explained why his label’s discs don’t come with booklets on the iTunes Store, and why most labels don’t provide booklets.
It turns out that Apple imposes a certain format on digital booklets. Their pages have to be a specific size, one that is not that of CD booklets. Here is one example:
The pages are in a 4:3 format – interestingly, the same format as the iPad, though Apple started using this format back in 2004.
Regular CD booklets, as we all know, are square. Some labels provide PDFs paginated one page at a time, and others in double-pages, as in this example, where the cover of the booklet is a single page, but each two-page spread is shown as you would see it when reading the booklet:
Here’s an interesting example. The just-released set of Beethoven symphonies by Daniel Barenboim has a cover in 4:3, but the remainder of the booklet is the CD booklet’s pages surrounded by a lot of white space:
In other words, instead of creating a booklet in 4:3 format, Decca decided to simply add the extra space needed for this one to fit. An interesting workaround, but that’s a lot of white space.
So, because of Apple’s intransigence, labels cannot provide the booklets that they already have in PDF format, that many labels provide on their own sites when they sell directly. The time and money it would take to create another layout for these booklets dissuades the labels from doing so. Because of Apple, music buyers have less access to digital booklets than they would have otherwise.
Posted: 6/21/2012 by kirk | Filed under: iPod & iTunes, music Tags: classical music, iTunes, iTunes Store, music | 10 Comments »
Just because I can. Using Doug Adams’ mySpins, which aggregates play counts from your iTunes library:
The first column is the number of plays by artist – you’ll note that I set the artist for classical music to the composer’s name, as it’s easier to navigate on iPods with the tag set this way. The Grateful Dead is in the lead, followed by Franz Schubert, notably because I listen to his lieder a lot; these are songs that are, on average, 3-5 minutes each. There’s much less Beethoven, because those are longer works: piano sonatas, string quartets, etc. Bill Evans beats out Brad Mehldau by a bit, in part because I’ve been listening to him longer. And Bob Dylan is very high up, as I have all of his albums, and listen to them regularly.
The second column is the songs I’ve played most, across albums (that’s what “pooled” means). In other words, I’ve listened to Playing in the Band, by the Grateful Dead, 151 times, over 59 different albums (lots of different live versions). All of the top ten pooled spins are by the Grateful Dead.
Note that these play counts are not absolute for all artists or songs, as removing then re-adding music deletes their play counts. I’ve done that several times with certain composers, and with many Grateful Dead concerts.
Posted: 12/21/2011 by kirk | Filed under: iPod & iTunes, music Tags: classical music, iTunes, music | 5 Comments »
Hyperion Records has released a 99-disc box set of the long-running series they have been publishing of all of Franz Liszt’s piano music. Recorded by Leslie Howard, with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra for the concertos, this series has been a labor of love for some 25 years (the first disc was recorded in 1985, and was an early digital recording). Hyperion claims that it holds the Guinness world record for the world’s largest recording series by a solo artist; I don’t know of any that even come close.
Liszt’s music is an acquired taste; I’ve been listening to bits and pieces from this set since I got it nearly a year ago, and while some of the music is too over-the-top for my taste, much of it is very interesting. It contains 7,266 minutes of music, enough to keep anyone busy for a very long time. Discovering an oeuvre like this is a long-term process, and having all the music available in one set makes it possible to flip around from period to period to hear how Liszt grew.
A large number of these discs are transcriptions: of music from operas, of songs by Franz Schubert (11 hours’ worth), of Beethoven’s symphonies (masterful transcriptions indeed). The one set of works that has held me spellbound is the Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, a series of “mystical” keyboard works. This set is full of surprises, and I have barely scratched the surface so far.
It’s currently listed at €186 at Amazon FR, £228 at Amazon UK, and $302 at Amazon.com, with marketplace sellers offering it for less. Hyperion – one of my sponsors – also has it available for download, in MP3, FLAC and Apple Lossless formats, with impeccable metadata, and full notes embedded in each track. They sell it for £200, but you get an immediate 25% “bulk buy” discount, making it £150. And you don’t have to rip the CDs.
Posted: 12/15/2011 by kirk | Filed under: music Tags: classical music, Liszt, music | 8 Comments »
Charles Ives (1874-1954) is one of America’s most iconoclastic composers. Not a “professional” music maker, his modernist music was largely ignored during his lifetime, but that didn’t prevent him from composing music that stands out as unique and surprising. After studying music at Yale, he went on to make a large number of money in the insurance business, composing in his spare time. He wrote four symphonies, two piano sonatas, two string quartets, 114 songs, a handful of other works, and the four sonatas for violin and piano on this disc.
It’s refreshing to see a violinist of Hilary Hahn’s stature record these four violin sonatas, which have seen a handful of recordings, but never one as high-profile as this one. The performances of these works are sensitive and intimate, and the sound is excellent. The rapport between Hahn and Lisitsa is also evident, as they perform these difficult works in close symbiosis.
Ives’ music is tonal at times, atonal at others (particularly as his music evolved over the years), and notably features a number of “quotations” of American popular and folk songs. Listening to this music demands a great deal of patience, especially if you’re discovering Ives’ idiom for the first time. But this recording is an excellent way to discover Ives’ unique sound world. (The other place to start is with his wonderful Concord Sonata for piano – I have a special appreciation for this recording by Donna Coleman – which puts to music the ideas of the great inhabitants of Concord, Massachusetts: Emerson, Hawthorne, The Alcotts and Thoreau. And while I’m on the subject, let me point out this astounding orchestration of the Concord Sonata, by Henry Brant, and recorded by the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, who is a champion of Ives’ music.)
I’d like to note one criticism of this disc. Too often, recordings are made where one cannot take the time to appreciate the end of one work – especially if it consists of multiple movements – and the beginning of the next work. Some labels pay careful attention to this, adding extra silence between works. On this recording, there is hardly any silence, and you go from one work to the next without realizing, at times, that it’s a different sonata. It doesn’t cost anything to add silence, and it helps the listener appreciate the music, when they have a bit of time to reflect after a work ends.
Here’s Hilary Hahn in an NPR “Tiny Desk Concert,” performing some Bach, and some of the tunes that Ives uses in the violin sonatas:
Posted: 11/25/2011 by kirk | Filed under: music Tags: Charles Ives, music | No Comments »
In the search for better sound from portable devices, such as iPods, a number of add-ons (or plug-ins, literally) are available. There are several small headphone amps that you can use with an iPod or other portable music player, and then there’s the $70 SRS iWow 3D. This device plugs into the dock connector of your iPod, iPhone or iPad, and has a headphone jack for you to plug in your headphones or earbuds.
I tested the SRS iWow 3D on a number of devices, and with several different headphones. SRS claims that this device “Deliver[s] natural and immersive sound with deep, rich bass,” and that it “Dynamically locates and restores audio details buried in source material.” It does indeed change the sound of your music; the question is, is that change good or not? I think this type of device is something you will either love or hate, and that there’s not much middle ground.
First of all, the SRS iWow 3D does provide a feeling of surround sound, or what the company calls “immersive” sound. It’s actually quite impressive; there is a noticeable separation among instruments when it is on. While I wouldn’t call it surround sound – which SRS does not – it is more spacious. I don’t know exactly how this voodoo is worked, but some of it involves equalization and a change in overall volume. When you connect the SRS iWow 3D to your device, you press a small LED-lit button to turn it on; if the LED is off, it is merely passing the sound through without altering it. You can instantly notice that the volume is slightly increased, so to compare, you need to adjust the volume to try to hear both signals at the same loudness. The high end and low end are noticeably increased, and there is an overall augmentation of bass, something that portable players often lack.
In my tests with Beyerdynamic DT 990 32 amp headphones, I noticed a bit of hiss at the high end, with some types of music (this was more prominent with orchestral music than rock or pop); it seems that this treble boost is too much for some recordings. Jerry Garcia’s voice on Ripple sounds less smooth; the drums on U2′s Sunday Bloody Sunday are too punchy; and the bass on Brian Eno’s Just Another Day is almost distorted; and Bob Dylan’s voice on Desolation Row sounds processed and hissy.
On the other hand, when I plugged in a pair of Sennheiser PX 100-II i headphones, Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road sounded much better through the SRS iWow 3D; Lou Reed’s voice on Pale Blue Eyes stood out much more; and the acoustic guitar background on Bob Dylan’s Forever Young took on much more space.
(Note that most of my tests with classical music showed that the device, at least with good headphones, doesn’t help much.)
I performed the above tests first on an iPod classic. If you have an iOS device, you can use SRS’s iWow application to choose the type of output (headphones, speakers or car), and choose from advanced settings, such as Wide Surround, Deep Bass and High Treble. This gives you a bit more flexibility in the way the sound is rendered, and you can adjust these settings to fit your headphones. Results were a bit better using the device with the app.
My verdict is this: if you have good, relatively expensive headphones, the SRS iWow 3D won’t improve the sound of your music, and the adjustments it makes may not work with your headphones. However, if you use earbuds or portable headphones, notably with limited bass response, the SRS iWow 3D will give them a much better sound. Also, if you use an iOS device, the SRS iWow app will give you a bit more control over the sound.
This said, I think each listener will need to decide if they like the type of sound this device provides. You should ideally test this with your headphones to see how you feel about the sound.
One note: the LED on the device is bright, and, together with the actual signal processing, the SRS iWow 3D uses up a fair amount of battery life. SRS claims that this reduces battery life by approximately 18%. That’s a lot, if you use your iPod for several hours a day, and could be a deal-breaker.
Posted: 11/22/2011 by kirk | Filed under: iPad, iPod & iTunes, music Tags: gadgets, iPod, music | 3 Comments »
While I have some issues with iTunes Match – notably the fact that it doesn’t match very well – I was ripping some CDs today, and realized that there is one feature that could be very useful.
I got a 12-disc set of Murray Perahia playing Mozart’s piano concertos, and had to spend a long time ripping the CDs. Wouldn’t it be great if you could insert a CD on your computer, have iTunes match it, then have it added to your library without needing to rip the discs? While you’d have to download the music, it’s still less labor-intensive than ripping CDs, at least for multi-disc sets.
I can see the reason why this wouldn’t work – it’s too easy for a friend to bring their CD collection to your home, and for you to insert one CD after another, matching them, then downloading the tracks. But since you could also just rip that friend’s CDs, it’s not that much of a difference, other than the time saved.
You may ask why I am buying 12-disc sets of music on CD rather than from the iTunes Store or Amazon? It turns out – paradoxically – that most classical box sets are much cheaper than they are by download. I bought this set from Amazon FR, for €30; on iTunes, it’s €60, and it’s not available by download from Amazon FR. Go figure.
Posted: 11/21/2011 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPod & iTunes Tags: iTunes, music | 3 Comments »