About neuroscience and music (mainly classical). Exploring the relationship of music and the brain based on experience of two careers.

December 5, 2012


by Carl Ellenberger, MD

To segue from the Nov 22nd post about the importance of recording of classical music--I am about halfway through Reinventing Bach--I hope you have discovered the magazine, Listen: Life with Classical Music, published by ArkivMusik. Responding to suggestions in my e-mailbox, I have purchased countless recordings from ArkivMusic over the years, ample evidence that the industry remains alive and well, even now when you can't find a neighborhood record shop selling 25 versions of Beethoven's Fifth. (To subscribe to 4 quarterly issues go to Listen. They are well worth $14.95.) Some articles are available online. The following tidbits caught my attention in the Winter issue.

"By studying encyclopedias and publisher catalogs, people have determined that that there has been about two million hours of music written since the Renaissance. And only about a hundred thousand hours of unduplicated music has been recorded. That leaves us one-point nine million hours to work with."

That wild estimate--but you get the point--came from Klaus Heymann, Founder of Naxos. He thinks physical CD's will be important for the next five or ten years, but "my estimate is not quite so rosy as some in the business, such as [one recording executive] who estimated the the CD would still be fifty-five percent of their business in 2017.... I estimated it to be only about 25 percent of our business by then." The remaining 75 percent, of course, would be "digital," streamed from the internet.

"Naxos also has one of the largest databases of classical recordings...nearly seventy-thousand albums from more than four hundred labels now--but it's so much more than a classical jukebox. You can search for a work by instrumentation, playing time, country of origin, year of composition, published. With all the liner notes and the hundred or so books we have published over the years, we have more content than Grove. There are more composer bios in the Naxos Music Library than on Wikipedia. It is a tremendous resource for students, teachers, program planners, radio stations, artists." Heymann lives in Hong Kong and New Zealand.

This month Esa-Pekka Salonen and his Philharmonia Orchestra with Touch Press will launch an iPad app called The Orchestra that looks at that amazing organization's inner workings. (What if Congress worked like an orchestra!) It features eight pieces of music through which the the musical and historical evolution of the orchestra is explained and experienced. iPad users can run several windows simultaneously: while the main screen may show the full orchestra performing, smaller windows can show the conductor, a diagrammatic layout of the orchestra that pulses in proportion to the amplitude of the section playing, video feeds of any of the musicians, a scrolling score and a graphical score of the sounds. 

Also included in The Orchestra is technical and historical commentary such as this by LA Times critic Mark Sved: 
"Having been asked too many times by composers to be gruff or comical, the bassoon got the reputation for being the clown of the orchestra, Bassoonists hate that label, of course, but like all great clowns, this baritone, double-reed instrument could just as easily be called the soul of the orchestra."
It is also possible, Mr. Sved, that certain people choose to take up the bassoon. ("Bassoon is not a great social ticket in high school." --Garrison Keillor) Bassoon students I knew at Eastman seemed to be a unique breed even before gaining much orchestral experience. Among other stunts they were experts of the pratfall, usually at inopportune times down the grand marble staircase at the far end of the Eastman foyer. (Their bassoon cases were empty.)

In case you are unconvinced of the vitality of the classical music recording industry (Norman Lebrecht?), here's a sampling of current recording labels from Listen, some of them personally produced by the musicians themselves: EMI, Virgin, Delphian, Harmonia Mundi, Sony, Naxos, Chandos, Deutchegrammophon, Decca, Analekta, Bis, SDG, Ondine, CAvi-music, Tactus, col legno, Opera d'Oro, Orfeo, Sono, Pentatone, Delos, Opus Arte, Atma Classique, Passacaille, LAWO, Evil Penguin, Globe, Philips, outhere, Avie, Na├»ve, DaCapo, Steinway & Sons, Linn, Hyperion, ECM, Tafelmusik, Alia-Vox, Accent, Sono Luminus, Reference Recordings, Chanticleer, Signum Classics, Ancalagon, etc.

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