Sid Smith is the official biographer of King Crimson. He recently updated his book, In The Court Of King Crimson – An Observation Over 50 Years, that tells the tale of this seminal band. We talk with Sid about everything crimson.
Slow news day, so here’s a minor rant. When I look at albums on Apple Music, I want to see their original release dates. (This applies to all streaming services, but not to music retailers; if I’m buying an album, I want to know when the specific version was released.) Here’s an example: in For You today, Jethro Tull’s Stand Up stood up. I hadn’t listened to that record in ages, so I put it on. When I started listening, at the very beginning, during A New Day Yesterday, hearing the way the music was split across channels – a very early/mid 60s technique – I wondered what year the original album was released. Because this is what Apple Music tells me:
I know the original was not released in 2001; I went to Wikipedia to check, and it was 1969, which is what I had thought. But I consider this part of the essential metadata of an album, especially because there are “Editors’ Notes” here mentioning that it was the band’s second album.
I’d love to see a lot more metadata on Apple Music. While most people don’t care about this, there are times when I want to know more, such as the date of an album, the musicians on it, the producer, etc.
Lewis Shiner’s latest novel Outside the Gates of Eden is a saga that begins at a Dylan concert in 1965, then follows a musician and his friends as they age, up to the present. This novel has a huge scope, with moving scenes about music, and about a generation growing up.
Doug and Kirk spend a half hour or so discussing Apple’s new apps that replace iTunes on the Mac. They rant, they praise, they shrug, they laugh, and they reminisce on what was, while imaging what could have been. It was a very good year.
Philip Thomas has recorded a 5-CD set of all of Morton Feldman’s music for solo piano. We discuss with him one of the most interesting of 20th century composers and the unique nature of sound in Feldman’s works.
I’ve always liked having lyrics available when I listen to music. I don’t look at them often, but there are times when I want to know exactly what the words of a song are. Sometimes when I’m listening to Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row, and want to be precise. (I still haven’t memorized all the lyrics; but it’s more than ten minutes long.)
A nifty new feature in the iOS Music app is Timed Lyrics. When a song offers this, you see the lyrics, each line highlighted as it is sung.
You’ll probably see this in the Music app the first time you play a song that offers the feature, if you have your iOS device’s screen on with the Music app up front.
Tap the Lyrics button at the bottom of the Music window and enjoy.
I regularly use Apple Music, and sometimes the recommendations I receive in the For You section are spot on. They learn from what I listen and what I love (though I don’t love tracks or albums very much), and they recommend music by the same or similar artists, or from similar genres. On any given day, I’d say a quarter of their picks are things that I really would like to listen to. And I think that a 250 batting average for this type of recommendation, which is all done by algorithm, is pretty good.
However, when they recommend classical music, they tend to strike out a lot more. Last night, I listened to an album of Schubert’s piano trios, and this morning, I see these recommendations:
It’s fair to say that I’d be potentially interested in listening to many if not most of these recommendations, but are they really “like Schubert: Piano Trios, Op. 99 & 100?” No, not really. There are two recordings of violin concertos, an opera, some vocal music (Monteverdi’s Vespers), and some solo piano music.
What would be “like” those Schubert piano trios? Perhaps other chamber works, such as piano trios by Haydn or Beethoven. Maybe some string quartets by Schubert, Beethoven, or other Romantic composers. Or some other music by Schubert: his piano music, lieder, etc.
It’s not clear why these recommendations were chosen. With pop, rock, or jazz, the recommendations tend to be based on the artists performing the music, whereas here, this isn’t the case. None of the three artists who performed the Schubert trios I listened to (Andreas Staier, Daniel Sepec, and Roel Dieltiens) are present in the recommendations. Two of the recommendations are on the same label, Harmonia Mundi, and, in classical music, that can a good reason to recommend music, as independent labels do have a specific character. But I scratch my head to try to figure out how these recommendations were chosen.
The Igor Levit set is in my iCloud Music Library, and I have listened to it before, but I don’t know any of the other recordings. The only commonality I find is that the Schubert I listened to was released in 2016, and five of the seven recommendations were released the same year, with two others in 2014 and 2015.
It isn’t easy to tailor recommendations for classical music, and I suspect that Apple Music is simply looking at what other people who have the Schubert recording in their libraries are listening to, or what’s in their libraries, similar to the way the Genius feature works. Providing better classical recommendations would require additional metadata for classical recordings, beyond just the “classical” genre. There would need to be metadata for eras (Baroque, Romantic, etc.), ensemble sizes (trios, quartets, orchestras, etc.), and styles.
The classical market is too small for the big streaming services to provide this sort of recommendation, and other players, such as Idagio and Primephonic, are entering the field in an attempt to do so. This is probably not something that can be done by algorithm, in part because of the absence of extended metadata specific to classical music.
To be fair, a bit of browsing on Apple Music allows me to find plenty of classical music, but I really would like the kind of recommendation that pushes me in the right direction, especially for composers that I don’t know well. I’m not that interested in paying for another streaming service, because that sort of fragmentation with music is just an annoyance. But I wish the big streaming services – Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon – would take classical music seriously.
The Sony Walkman was introduced 40 years ago. When it first came out, it was the biggest change in musical listening since the record player. It ushered in an era of personal listening, and, with the popularity of cassette tapes, changed the music industry.
Listen to The Next Track: Episode #154 – Remembering the Walkman and Cassettes.
Sony Corp marked Monday the start of a two-month long event in Tokyo celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Walkman, with interactive exhibits showcasing various models of the iconic portable music player.
The highlight of the event, dubbed “#009 Walkman in the Park,” is an exhibit called “My Story, My Walkman,” which chronicles each year of the hit music player’s history with nostalgic stories by 40 creators, artists and other public figures of that generation. Visitors can listen to songs chosen by the celebrity on each of the Walkmans on display.
The event starts from ground level, where a 2.5 meter tall Walkman modeled after the yellow waterproof sports model introduced in 1983 stands, and continues across all four basement floors of Ginza Sony Park in Tokyo’s shopping district. Other exhibits include a “Walkman Wall,” which displays all 237 models of the Walkman over the years and a “Custom Walkman” corner featuring Walkman skins designed by artists.
The Walkman ushered in the biggest change in the way we listen to music. Shortly before the first Walkman was released, I had a Sony Pressman, which was much larger than the first Walkman, because it had stereo microphones – it was designed for reporters to use recording in the field – but also a big battery pack; I think it held four AA batteries. It was about as heavy as a brick, but I used to walk around with that and the ability to have my own personal soundtrack – something we now take for granted – was revolutionary.
I must say, it was hard to find a photo of the device I had. Even Sony doesn’t have a photo of this on their website, where they have an archive of their products, but I found a Time Magazine article with a photo.