Our mission here at ITYWLTMT is to promote music appreciation and music collecting. This page is dedicated to some of my thoughts and suggestions in the area of music collecting, an endeavour that has change significantly over the last decade.
Now, this is NOT a picture of my old record collection, but it wouldn’t have looked too dissimilar – lots of vinyl LPs, cassettes and CDs. Today my record collection looks more like this:
And rather than using up a bookshelf, it all fits in here:
Quite a change! Sure, going from analog to digital makes things more handy, easier to organize, etc but it has the drawback of losing out on the experience of music buying. Oh well…
Let me now explore some random thoughts on music collecting in the digital age (some of which apply to the analog age too) addressing newbiesm dinosaurs and avid music collectors.
The Myth of the Basic Music Library
Classical Net goes to great lengths to define and suggest a basic repertoire, that is the « minimum set » of works a serious music collector should make every effort to own, sometimes suggesting even specific performances.
I found this to be an interesting read (which is why I provided the hyperlink) but also found the whole concept to be too confining. What “is” the basic repertoire, and what should one own? Are all 104 Haydn symphonies part of the repertoire, or just some? What is the special quality that a piece of music has to “make the list”?
Though I don’t entirely disagree that one should sample and taste a little bit of everything, now that we have embarked in the digital age and that quite possibly most of the basic repertoire (and then some!) can be found within a few mouse clicks on the web, doesn’t that change how we view what to own?
Build your collection in the way that makes the most sense for you and your listening habits. In my view, owning “all music” is a fool’s pursuit, but owning most (or all) the music one loves should be achievable. The most important thing – as I wrote on my music appreciation page – is to sample a little bit of everything, and find the stuff you like. The act of acquisition becomes then limited to either trolling the web for “free tracks” or purchasing tracks outright.
I think a solid approach to collecting is to embrace the web as a “resource” for the basic repertoire. Bookmark a site like la Bibli Musicale MQCD Musique Classique as a go-to resource to look for (and sample) pieces and decide whether they are worth adding to your collection.
How can ITYWLTMT Help Build My Music Collection?
What would you say if I told you that there was a way to get 250 hours of downloadable, MP3 format classical music ready to use on my digital companion (MP3 Player, tablet, …)? Sign me up, maybe?
Well, that’s exactly what ITYWLTMT’s music content (podcasts, Once Upon the Internet playlists and some complete operas) gives you. Thousants of MB of music, at your fingertips! Now that’s a great way to start (or augment) your Classical Music collection!
More details on my Content page.
The Tuesday Blog has series that cater to collectors
Every month, my Tuesday Blog on TalkClassical issues posts that should be of interest to music collectors:
- Once Upon the Internet is a monthly set of tracks which I have uploaded to the Internet Archive that I once downloaded from sites that (generally) aren’t active any more – sites like the original MP3.COM and the Japanese Public Domain Classic.
- La Chronique du Disque is my monthly report on recent acquisitions, usually from on-line music stores and other digital sources.
Tools of the Trade
There are tools that the Digital Collector can’t do without, and luckily these tools can be found on the Web for free. Of course, much of the tool problem comes down to the Operating System you use (Windows, Mac or some LINUX derivative), and with the other equipment you own, but in general terms, everybody needs something to listen to and organize their music, a tool to edit and convert digital files of varying formats, and other handy-dandy gadgets. Here are a handful you may want to try out.
- iTunes. Let the debate begin : iTunes or Windows Media Player y This reminds me so much of the « vi » vs « emacs » debate for UNIX users… Look; if you like WMP, go ahaead and use it. Both tools do essentially the same things… I happen to like iTunes, and it’s more than just an iPod user talking… I like the intuitive interface, I like how easy it is to organize and maintain digital files within it, and I like that it does everything WMP does but better.
- Audacity. At one point or another, you will need to do some basic editing of an audio file: cut out some applause at the beginning or the end, do some basic noise reduction, or splice a file. There are probably a dozen or so of these tools, which cater to all kinds of people and skillsets. What I like about Audacity (other than it’s free) is that it is supported by an open software community, and that it has lots of add-on features that make it an all-singing all-dancing digital file tool. It supports all the codecs (MP3, AAC, APE, FLAC, ..) and can be set-up as a « digital recorder » so anything you hear on your computer from any source can be recorded to a digital file. And did I say it’s free? Supports many platforms. I have used Audacity successfully to convert my old analog media to digital.
- Bit Torrent. I know this is shaky ground… If you are considering playing the « file sharing » game, then you will need this little gizmo.
- YouTube to MP3 Converter. If you « google » YouTube to MP3 you will get dozens of hits. Of all the converters I have tried, this is by far the best service I have encountered. If you like to troll YouTube for music, a tool like this one is a “must have”.
Other Sites with Musical Content
YouTube is an excellent source of openly available music and ITYWLTMT is responsible for lots of musical content you can leverage in your own musical appreciation journey, however the Web is full of places where you can find music for download or streaming. In an early Tuesday Blog post, I discussed some of these – others have since vanished thanks to Copyright laws… Here are some currently active sites you may want to visit:
- La Bibli Musicale MQCD Musique Classique is a comprehensive music library stocked with « public domain » performances (50 years old and older) spanning a wide spectrum of composers.
- Music Library of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, keeps archives of many chamber and small ensemble works performed within its galleries.
- CebtreStreams, the streaming audio service of the Canadian Music Centre provides archival recordings of works by Canadian composers, many from the audio archives of the CBC. You will need to sign up (free).
- The Piano Society, a virtual community of amateur and professional pianists who provide free downloadable musical tracks
- The Luna Nova Ensemble a chamber ensemble from Tennessee, specialised in contemporary compositions.