To Download or Not to Download

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Ralph
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To Download or Not to Download

Post by Ralph » Sun Jul 31, 2005 6:28 pm

Jul. 31, 2005. 01:00 AM
Will you finally hold a symphony in your hand?
Downloads may give classics an iPod presence, eventually

JOHN TERAUDS
TORONTO STAR

Welcome to the latest round in a tug-of-war between gotta-have new technology versus the comfort of a status quo.

When the British Broadcasting Corporation scores more than 1.3 million downloads of a live performance of all nine Beethoven symphonies, as happened a few weeks ago, you can't be blamed for thinking that the classical music CD is about to be dragged into the mudhole of obsolescence by iPods and MP3 players.

In England, The Observer's Anthony Holden was rapturous about his iPod, concluding that "those little white wires are dangling from the ears of a better evolved human being." The New Yorker's Alex Ross came to a similar conclusion.

But a tour this week of classical music departments at the city's major music retailers revealed that disc-buying is still the way for most listeners to acquire new recordings.

Particularly informative was a twentysomething clerk, let's call him Nick (he preferred not to be identified, in case his bosses object to what he had to say).

Nick, who admits to having a classical music library of "between 5,000 and 6,000 discs," says that the iPod is not a factor among his classical clientele. He cites convenience and audio quality as the main reasons why he has no plans to get one for himself.

To listen to a CD, you stick it in your player, computer or Discman, and push the Play button. Remove disc, switch and repeat.

To listen to music on an iPod or MP3, you have to download the music from one of the many Internet music services, then copy these files onto the device. Although this may sound straightforward — and it is — it can be time consuming. Asked whether the preference for the real, as opposed to the virtual, recorded product may be a generational issue, Nick responds that he's seeing young customers in the store who are just as interested in discs as older generations.

"I'd say our business is better than ever," says Nick. He points to the growing number of DVD and super-audio titles available in his store's classical music section and says this is where business is growing especially strongly. "Most of our customers like to hold the disc in their hands," he says. "They also like having the liner notes."

Most of the people we see walking down the street listening to downloaded music are listening to popular works which, at three or four minutes in length, are easy to store and shuffle electronically.

But a Mahler symphony?

First, you have to wrestle with the software to make sure each movement doesn't get broken up into shorter tracks on your player.

If you want to listen to three different interpretations of, say, the "Ebben, ne andro Lontana" aria from Catalani's opera La Wally (let's say by Maria Callas, Wilhelmina Fernandez and Measha Brueggergosman), your tiny iPod screen has to show the composer, title and performer in a way you can understand — and in a way the machine can keep properly sorted in alphabetical fashion. No mean feat.

Apple's iTunes software uses a proprietary file format that compresses the data while leaving all the electronic information intact. Predictably, this uses a lot of available memory. So there are options to make the music files smaller — but at a cost to sound fidelity.

MP3 files remove electronic data as they compress the music into byte-size pieces. The listener has options to improve the sound quality, but it will not necessarily be as good as on a CD.

Then there is the iPod's portability and ability to shuffle hundreds of different works. It is this musical smorgasbord that ultimately charmed users such as Ross and Holden.

The 1.3 million downloads of Beethoven at the BBC created a stir among classical music labels and artist managers, who immediately raised a stink about giving professional performances away for free.

But this reaction assumes that all the people who downloaded the music would have gone out to buy Beethoven anyway.

The downloads have made classical music more accessible to fans of other genres — a trend that emerges as one peruses the growing web of classical music fan blogs. The iPod may not be tolling the eventual death of the disc, it may be ensuring its continued livelihood.

That's something that should make many of us feel more comfortable.
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Albert Einstein

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Sun Jul 31, 2005 6:38 pm

My father was showing off his iPod the other day (he's gone gadget crazy since retiring). It couldn't play the William Tell Overture in toto without breaking up and sounding like a sick fart in a blender.

He seems to like the frustation and tinkering of gadgets. I can't explain it. He constantly says "You're the computer geek. Why don't you have an iPod?" When I say the sound is garbage and the "convenience" of it takes hours out of a week he just looks at me and says "But I can store 532,739 x 10^34 bad pop singles on this!"

I want SACD sound, not iPod.

Ralph
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Post by Ralph » Sun Jul 31, 2005 7:26 pm

My kid seems to be permanently attached to his Ipod. He wants me to put my CDs on one an/d use it all the time. I won't-not interested.
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

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12tone
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Post by 12tone » Sun Jul 31, 2005 8:46 pm

I have a hard time with this one -- the whole downloading thing.

The i-pod generation I think has totally destroyed the music industry. It's nothing but a bunch of lazy kids who don't want to buy cds but merely 'download' the latest song. Albums? Pff. Album concepts? Huh? Art? Swuh?

The idea of having something in your hands is to me a whole lot better. The actual album, the concept of a whole idea and the art combine to make a (hopefully) great buy.

But what's this? i-pod shuffle? Not only can kids now download random songs but they can also play those randomly! Randomly played random songs. No wonder kids can't concentrate properly. The fact of an hour-plus album goes over their head. Why buy an album with only one good song? You know that's a great question. In one sense the kids are at least smart enough to know how dumb music can get. And once at that level music isn't worth to buy.

Pop music just keeps getting lamer and lamer. It's the whole industry's fault. Poor kids...they just soak it up...because it's just 'what's out there'. I know the whole 80's and 90's thing is big but still...we need better music.

There's no waiting anymore, no album concepts, no thought and no thinking required. No analysing the music and learning from it. No asking the artists hard questions (or questions better than the 'here it comes' "Q: So what would you tell your fans? A: Just be yourself") and no artist giving long answers. I ask you a question, all I want back is an Answer Meal with a large coke to go thank-you-very-much.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Aug 01, 2005 12:50 am

Brendan wrote:My father was showing off his iPod the other day (he's gone gadget crazy since retiring). It couldn't play the William Tell Overture in toto without breaking up and sounding like a sick fart in a blender.

He seems to like the frustation and tinkering of gadgets. I can't explain it. He constantly says "You're the computer geek. Why don't you have an iPod?" When I say the sound is garbage and the "convenience" of it takes hours out of a week he just looks at me and says "But I can store 532,739 x 10^34 bad pop singles on this!"

I want SACD sound, not iPod.

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Brendan, you get the top honors for post of the week, and the week hasn't even started yet. I laughed so hard, my dogs thought I was having an attack of some kind and need their immediate assistance.

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