New Recordings: Downloads, CD or Vinyl?
There are exciting times ahead with some interesting CD projects coming. First to become available will be OUP Emerging Voices. Most of the tracks have now been recorded and the project now has its own pages on this site. Do take a look, there’s a lot of new material. You will be able to hear samplers of the tracks. Want to hear the whole track? (I hope so!) Well, how to make them available is the question! It costs a lot of money to produce a CD – money I have to put up front! So I have been tempted to go for the low financial risk solution of pay by track downloads only. I started a small debate on social media about CDs v Downloads to test the waters. Interesting result! My thanks are due to those that posted replies. I think we have a generational divide. Most of those of my generation were strongly in favour of CDs. Reasons given included the better quality of the audio (i.e. not .mp3) convenience of handling (e.g. play it in the car) the availability of a quality printed booklet (in spite of the fact that companies such as Hyperion provide these as .pdf downloads), an actual tangible product you can handle (particularly important if it’s boys singing so parents can hold it and say “my son did that”) and, rather intriguingly, your CD collection is a legacy you can pass on to the next generation.
Well, I’d question the last one on two counts. First, the track record of technology as an inter-generational legacy is pretty poor, to say the least. I will be very surprised if the technology to read CDs is still much in use when my grandchildren are grown up – ask any archivist about the problems of data curation. It amuses me that we have a “retro logo” of a cassette tape for Boys Keep Singing – and that we (supposedly) have to explain to boys what one of these is. Cassettes are retro? I used reel to reel tape when I was the age of the lads in the new CD! It grieves me still sometimes that nearly all those recordings were lost when I stored them in a damp cupboard (including most of my old Rochester tapes). Equally, I have lost most of my cassette collection, but seem to worry less about this. The playback quality was awful (in spite of Dolby) and there’s just too much exciting new stuff to worry about “legacy”. As for my VINYL collection, I got rid of it when CDs came in. I was heartily sick of pops, cracks and surface noise and just cannot believe that people want to go back to that. I had a state of the then art broadcast quality SME arm with rather expensive cartridge – maybe that was the trouble?
Yet, as a recent visit to Newcastle’s premier music shop illustrated, apparently large numbers people of people now want vinyl. I haven’t yet seen any “classical” choral stuff coming out on vinyl though. But would it be a novelty that would attract youngsters to buy Emerging Voices? Maybe. I haven’t actually researched this, but I suspect that even the boys in the choirs I’ve recorded won’t buy a CD. CDs are for oldies! Boys will probably just expect their parents to buy one (where have we heard this before?) and then rip any tracks they might want. They might buy the odd download, – but I doubt it. We shall see.
On the subject of “ripping tracks”, I am glad to see that Youtube seem to be working their way through the illegally uploaded CDs with increasingly frequent “sorry, not available” messages. We complain about young people not respecting intellectual property, – but the example that is set by too many adults is often a dreadful one. My late mother could never understand why, as a writer, I wasn’t as rich as J.K. Rowling. You don’t get rich by writing academic books on boys and singing, neither do you get rich by producing CDs of it. You might break even or even make a small profit (to invest in the next recording). Equally you might make a loss – and yes, you do have to pay dues to the MCPS. Might I humbly suggest active discouragement of listening to illegal Youtube uploads? – they look innocent but in reality they are theft. Is it really too much to pay 99p for a legal download of a particular track? My original point, I think. I now do that quite frequently, building up a bespoke library of genres and occasions that I file according to my own tastes, which is not a point mentioned by any of my social media correspondents.
I mentioned other projects. I am delighted to publicise and commend the forthcoming CD of renaissance music sung by the boys and men of Romsey Abbey. This is not just “another choir CD”. It’s actually a significant step in the direction of “historically informed” choral music and an important event in the development of applied musical scholarship. On some of the tracks, the boys will be singing not as “trebles” but as “meanes” and I am beside myself with excitement about this! An historic 5’ pitch organ is also being used in connection with the very latest scholarly edition of Byrd’s Second Service. I shall be documenting the process and outcomes in connection with a new book I’m working on entitled What Did Taverner Hear? Looking into 2018, there are plans for another choir to record Taverner’s Meane Mass with boy meanes on the top line. So we might have some kind of answer! If meanes are still a mystery to you (as appears to be the case with quite a few people I talk to), follow this link.
Comments are closed