Music as a Thing

May 20, 2009

I was saddened to see that two blocks from my home, the last sheet music store in Los Angeles, Hollywood Sheet Music, has closed its doors. Petelson’s days are numbered, so I hear. (Can’t they just move to an online business??)

With Ralph Jackson and Mark Carlson at lunch yesterday, we wondered about the future of sheet music. Yes, musicians will now get their sheet music online. UCLA bought some music tablet screens as sheet music replacements a few years back, where music (PDFs) is downloaded into the device. We couldn’t get anyone to use them. Nonetheless, something like this will exist in our future. Choruses and orchestras can’t handle the huge amount of sheet music that amasses as the years go by. One chorus I know of (over 200 members), will destroy 196 copies, keeping four, and reprinting when needed.

I decided to buy the new, larger Kindle from I’m going to try out NOT having a physical book. I know, this is a huge paradigm shift, but I think I’m ready.

I am having a hard time switching over to music-as-download mp3s. I find I still want some THING in my hand that tells me who wrote what and who is playing on what and the what the names of the songs are, and what the lyrics are. I know: it’s old school, and I need to get over it.

The move away from information as a THING as opposed to something invisible that is downloaded to your PC or hand-held device, can be challenging.

This all came to mind as I was thinking about buying WEST SIDE STORY. The image that sprang into my mind initially was holding that red LP, turning it over; and then POP. Oops. I meant CD, but CDs seem to be fading, sooooo, mp3s? And nothing to hold and look at. Just listen. Hmmm, maybe that ‘s not so bad.

I applaud the increase in excellent program notes that some record companies are providing with online album purchases. I don’t see what ALL CD makers don’t embed copyright info, as well as program notes and credits in every song. Some do, many don’t.

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