Music as Madeleine

There are certain pieces of music that, when I hear them, instantly evoke memories. In some cases, they are very strong; some music remains firmly attached to specific incidents in my life. In others, they form a nebulous connection to a period of my life. Like Proust’s madeleine, music can take you on a trip back in time.

Today, browsing Apple Music’s For You section, I noticed that in the New Releases section there was an album by Blaine L. Reininger, a remastered version of Night Air, his second solo album from 1983. That reminded me of Tuxedomoon, an avant-garde post-punk band he co-founded in the late 1970s. I went in search of some of their music, and started listening to Desire, their second album from 1981.

What a rush of memories. I listened the heck out of this album back in the day, both on vinyl and on cassette on my Walkman. This quirky, slightly askew music brought me back to a time when I had a bunch of friends all interested in this type of music, much of it on indie labels like Factory, Rough Trade, Les Disques du Crépusucle, and others. I remembered walking the streets of Queens at night, heading to a friend’s house or back home, with this as my personal soundtrack. I remembered the friends I used to share music with, including Richard B., who passed away earlier this year, and who I was very happy to see again, briefly, when he and his wife passed through Stratford-upon-Avon last year.

Music can do that; it buries itself in the depths of our brains, forming indelible links with time and space and people and places. Sometimes, when you listen to a piece of music after a long absence, it can be surprising how much it reminds you of.

The Next Track, Episode #76 – Mirror Balls and Polyester: Looking Back at Disco Music

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxDoug and Kirk were teenagers when disco hit. They didn’t care for it then, but has their opinion change after 40 years? Is it time to reevaluate disco music?

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #76 – Mirror Balls and Polyester: Looking Back at Disco Music.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

The Next Track, Episode #75 – Movies about Music, Part 2: Documentaries

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxDoug and Kirk discuss their favorite music documentaries.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #75 – Movies about Music, Part 2: Documentaries.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

Bruce Springsteen on Broadway

Bruce Springsteen is performing a true residency at the Walter Kerr theater on Broadway. For four months, he’ll be performing five shows per week.

I’ve never seen Springsteen. Even when I lived in New York, in the late 1970s, it was impossible to get tickets to see him. I actually once got snuck into the Palladium with a friend who knew someone who worked there, around 1978 or so, but we got spotted up in the last row before anyone was allowed in.

I’d love to see one of these shows, but, obviously, that won’t be happening. In part because it’s so far, but also because tickets are trading at $1,000 or more. Bruce is on stage, playing about 15 songs, telling stories, all just with his voice, a piano, and an acoustic guitar. (His wife joins him to sing harmonies for two songs.)

This, to be honest, is my favorite Springsteen: the songs from Nebraska, The Ghost of Tom Joad, Devils and Dust; those Dylanesque acoustic numbers that grab you right in the heart.

The first reviews are in, and they range from very positive (the New York Times) to extremely negative (NJ.com). The former says:

At other times, in the startling intimacy of the 939-seat theater […] “Springsteen on Broadway” seems like a radio monodrama broadcast from the deepest interior of a single troubled soul. His voice, still quite capable of what he calls in the memoir his “Jersey-Pavarotti-via-Roy Orbison singing,” more often sounds like the howl of a dog caught in a barbed-wire fence. His guitar sounds like the barbed wire.

And the latter says:

Sorry to break the bad news, Bruce fans, but Springsteen’s choice to develop this four-month residency in New York by himself, without the help of a stage-savvy director, has proven a cavalier and foolish decision by the rock icon — the arc of this disjointed production is saved only by its music and the exclusivity of its venue. He would’ve saved himself some trouble simply rocking a straight, two-hour acoustic set and selling his audiobook with the candy and cocktails.

No matter. I’m sure this will be filmed (at least I hope so) and recorded for CD release (I’m sure of that), and it’s certainly a major moment in Springsteen’s career. It could also be his swan song; at 68 years old, and with a grueling schedule of very long concerts, he might be tired of the road.

I wish I could see one of these shows…

The Next Track, Episode #74 – Jeffrey Norman on Restoring, Mixing, and Mastering the Grateful Dead

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxWe welcome Jeffrey Norman, who has been mixing, mastering, and restoring Grateful Dead recordings for more than 35 years.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #74 – Jeffrey Norman on Restoring, Mixing, and Mastering the Grateful Dead.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

The Next Track, Episode #70 – Movies about Music, Part 1: Fiction

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxDoug and Kirk chat about their favorite movies about music, and some that they don’t like.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #70 – Movies about Music, Part 1: Fiction.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.a

Why Major Record Labels Are Touting High-Resolution Music

MusicAlly presents a transcript of a discussion among representatives from Universal, Sony, and Warner Music about high-resolution music. These major labels are jumping on the high-res bandwagon.

Of course they are. Because they see it as a way of getting music fans to buy their favorite music again, just like when the CD was introduced. The difference is, however, that CDs did sound better than vinyl (and still do), and, even though there was rampant price gouging, the result was better, more durable recordings. With high-res music, most people won’t hear a difference, unless they have very good audio equipment. And since the majority of music is streamed, or listened to on Bluetooth speakers, it’s just a waste of money.

But the record industry is going full propaganda. For example:

… the devices that support hi-res audio are becoming much more affordable… it’s no longer [just] high-end premium audio for audiophiles… Portability and affordability, I think, are two amazing factors to capture that opportunity and to make hi-res audio more accessible to younger generations.

[…]

We’re talking about Gen X and Gen Z that are now discovering this hi-res audio. You saw it in the resurgence of vinyl sales that was mostly driven by the young generation…

“Younger generations” are streaming music, they won’t have the bandwidth for high-res, and they certainly don’t have the hardware. Thinking that they will shows that the music industry is once again trying to create an alternate reality.

This delusion is especially evident in this statement by Morvan Boury, VP of global digital development for Sony Music:

It’s very important that if you ask your Sony speaker or your Google Home speaker or your Alexa speaker ‘I want the hi-res version of Beethoven’s Symphony’, that you actually get it…

Not only are these cheap speakers, but they’re not even stereo. Sure, some people may stream from a device like this to a stereo, but I think that number is very low. Pretending that high-res makes a difference on an Alexa or Google Home speaker (or Apple’s coming HomePod) shows that these people are living in a land of make-believe.

High-resolution music has it’s pros and cons. Some think it’s great, others don’t see the need. (Listen to this episode of The Next Track podcast for a cogent discussion of the good and bad of high-res.) But these people from record labels are pretending that it’s somehow magical, that it will sound better on a smartphone with earbuds, or on an Alexa speaker. All they want to do is take your money.

Qobuz Lies about High-Resolution Music

I got an ad on Facebook today from Qobuz, the beleaguered French music service that offers both streaming and downloads.

Qobuz lies

You may have seen similar graphics before about high-res music; I think Sony was using this in the past. But it’s simply a lie. Digital music files do not create stairstep waveforms, no matter what the resolution. Encoders extrapolate the data in the files to create fully fluid waveforms. Using this sort of illustration is just another way of trying to get gullible people to pay more for music.

And even if it weren’t true, it wouldn’t be a correct visual interpretation of the differences between music files. If a high-resolution file is 24 bits – as Qobuz claims its music is – then where does that show up in the graphic? This stairstep graphic has been used to illustrate differences in sample rate, not bit depth. (And it’s still a lie.)

The issue is how Swift’s fans can prove their devotion. They can preorder the CD of her forthcoming album, Reputation — and to receive it on the day of release costs $48.09 (That’s £37, but the CD itself costs $15. And you are allowed to buy the album 13 times to boost your place in the line.) You can buy merchandise from her online shop. If you do not want to spend money, you can get a smaller boost to your position by repeatedly watching her new video, or by posting about her on social media.

To a great many people, this doesn’t look like ensuring real fans get access to tickets. It looks like gouging as much money as possible out of them. It is “nothing more than a transparent cash grab”, said US magazine Alternative Press. “It makes getting tickets for a Taylor Swift concert into a game in which people with the most money get ahead,” suggested Jezebel.

If you haven’t read about it, Taylor Swift has introduced an odd way of selling tickets to concerts (which aren’t even scheduled yet). If you buy more copies of her new CD, then you get a better chance to get tickets. The problem is that it’s not guaranteed, and superfans can buy 13 copies of the albums to boost their place in line.

This is not only a bold-faced scam of her fans, many of whom are teenage girls, and which is probably illegal. But it’s also an attempt to game the album sales, to get it to top charts and eventually be declared gold or platinum (which would probably happen anyway).

I don’t go to enough concerts that are affected by the current ticket-selling madness – notably the “secondary market,” to which artists funnel tickets to make more money, but apparently this is a big problem.

But what Taylor Swift is doing is morally repugnant, and may even be criminal. I’m waiting for tickets to her concerts to go on sale, and for these people who ponied up extra cash to find that they still can’t get tickets. Then the lawyers and attorneys general will have their day.

Source: Bad blood! Is Taylor Swift’s ‘verified fan’ system a way to reward followers — or rip them off? | Music | The Guardian