Thus, the media has imposed limitations: how do you fit a 45-minute long movement onto a vinyl LP? They have also created expectations for both the price and quantity of music being delivered. We feel cheated by a half-filled LP or CD, and I think this has sometimes resulted in an unhealthy practice of stuffing the recording with extra content that only distracts.
With digital delivery and playback, these limits have no meaning. Why package content delivery into multiple “discs?” Why pack the selection with bonus material?
BIS just released a fascinating recording through e|classical that the accompanying booklet states:
The present recordings are currently (February 2014) available only for downloading/streaming.For information about our physical products (CDs and Super Audio CDs), please visit www.bis.se.
Indeed, the recording has less than 35-minutes of music on it. Before one builds up a healthy outrage, note that their policy is to charge by the minute, so this recording costs just half of what a recording packed with another 35 minutes of material would cost. This is the future.
[Side note:] I blame some of the acceptance of such limits on our school education, where we were told to produce an essay of, say, 500 words. Even today I have co-workers asking me, “how long does it have to be?” My answer is always, “Just long enough, not longer, not shorter.”
The recording itself is a fascinating selection of the music of British composer Thomas Adès, a new name to me. Two works are included, his 2005 violin concerto, titled “Concentric Paths” and “Three Studies From Couperin”: two very different works.
The violin concerto is full of color, a contrast between consonance and dissonance. The composer’s own description explains:
‘This concerto has three movements, like most, [the movements are called Rings – Paths – Rounds] but it is really more of a triptych, as the middle one is the largest. It is the “slow” movement, built from two large, and very many small, independent cycles, which overlap and clash, sometimes violently, in their motion towards resolution.
The outer movements too are circular in design, the first fast, with sheets of unstable harmony in different orbits, the third playful, at ease, with stable cycles moving in harmony at different rates.’
The “Three Studies From Couperin” is a change of pace: loving arrangements of three of Couperin’s harpsichord pieces. No attempt at historical authenticity is intended or made: the chamber orchestra provides colors and textures that reveal these gems in a new light. This work isn’t going to offend anyone other than a purist, and made for a delightful contrast to the concerto.
The two works create a balanced program: not too long, not too short. I look forward to more programming along these lines: dropping the artificial limitations of the media. As for the future: I think fixed media will soon be gone, and I say good riddance!