The Death of the Compact Disc

February 14, 2006

It was sad to learn from my students that our local Rhino Records CD store closed it’s doors for good a few weeks back. Another CD store in Hollywood also went under. The overwhelming and enormous Amoeba Records seems to be doing quite well selling and buying used CDs, LPs, cassettes and DVDs.

Yes, I guess I’m ready to make the switch myself as our “progress” makes our electronic physical reality smaller and smaller. I used to have huge rack of synthesizers, digital processors and mixers in my studio, now, they all inside my Apple G5 tower, and all that old electronic stuff is sitting in my basement.

I have a wall of LPs from my own life, as well as a small opera collection I inherited from a friend, and I have a closet full of CDs and cassettes as well. I have digitized a handful of my LPs, but as my turntable still works, I don’t see the necessity in doing so. The thing that makes me nervous about the downloadable next chapter is the lack of program notes. I want to see who wrote what, and who is playing on what, and what the composer/songwriter has to say about the music. And, for that matter, I’d like to know what the piece/song is called. How often have you been driving in your car, you hear something, but the DJ doesn’t let you know what the music is until up to a half hour later? If you REALLY want to know, you can go to the radio station’s website and find out (as I did recently with Imogen Heap‘s new CD). Many of us miss the bigness of the LP, it’s artwork, and readable text, but who wants to schlep a huge LP collection when we move? No one. Well, I did. I still use them as a Professor at UCLA, where we still have turntables in our classrooms.

I see that the New York Philharmonic will be pursuing making it’s live concerts available as downloads. Other orchestras are doing the same thing:

“In the rubble of the current classical recording landscape, all sorts of experiments are being tried. Opera houses are providing online streaming. The Sydney Symphony in Australia will provide 10 streamed and downloadable concerts. The London Symphony Orchestra produces its own CD’s. The Philadelphia Orchestra has a three-year deal with the Ondine label, under which it will produce its own concerts and Ondine will distribute and market them. The Milwaukee Symphony this year began MSO Classics, which offers concerts for downloading on iTunes.”

Hail! Brave new world!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

JoeGreen February 14, 2006 at 6:38 pm

I never liked the compact disc in the first place! A quick google showed that the death of the CD has been discussed for a few years, but I can’t see it going away for a few more years yet.

Ideally I’d like something the shape of a cassette (but flattened) with the quality of a CD, the reliability of a flash card and the cover of an LP.

I share your lament about the lack of liner notes from downloads and the absurd unreadability of many CD booklets (for want of a couple of extra pages.)

I love LP’s at home, the sleeve is just the right size for enjoying the artwork and reading the text, and getting out of your chair to change sides every 20-25 minutes somehow seems just about right.

Regarding the New York Phil, the BBC offered a free download of Beethoven’s symphonies during its Beethoven week last year. I believe it was extremely popular at the time, but how many people are still listening to them I wonder? Will digital downloads increase or decrease our appreciation of music and the performance? That is the question.

Roger Bourland February 14, 2006 at 9:24 pm

Thanks JG:

Last year, one of my students checked out an LP from the library. I watched in horror to see that he had no idea how to take the record out of the sleeve, much less hold it correctly. OY! I realized that we have to train students HOW TO HOLD A RECORD.


JoeGreen February 18, 2006 at 2:47 pm

Gosh, what a thought! I hope they appreciated the beauty of vinyl. Holding an LP correctly somehow gives the music therein a certain value and respect that no other medium gives it. Did I hear right that some of Rufus Wainwright’s music was available on LP? That would be fitting.

Roger Bourland February 18, 2006 at 3:10 pm

Yeah, I’ve seen some of his stuff on LP on ebay. I haven’t bought it, but I’m fairly sure it’s legit.

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