Friends and guests, dumsmacked at seeing my proliferating collection of CDs, often ask me: “why not do downloads, or streaming, or rip them all to computer and get rid of the objects?”. There are a number of reasons.
First, the price. Used CDs on the marketplace are cheap, much cheaper than downloads, on whose price you have no option. And, unlike used LPs, there is no deterioration in the sonic quality of used-CDs that might deter you from buying them.
Then, the liner notes. Half of what I know in music comes from reading the liner notes. Sure, there’s Wikipedia now, but a world of downloads is a world of ignorant listening.
Then, the sonic quality. When you buy a download, you don’t know what quality of transfer you’ll be getting, unless you go to websites like HD-tracks – and are ready to pay even more. And once you’ve paid, you can’t send it back for refund.
Which brings me to the issue of re-selling: you can with a CD if you wish to, you can’t with a dowload.
Here’s one more: you can’t review streaming, and I’m not even sure you can usefully review downloads. How do you even refer to them? Do they have barcodes, or label numbers?
And then: even though it takes a lot of space, I like the object, I can relate to something you touch, and stack on shelves. You don’t stack downloads on shelves.
And finally this, which is the true reason for my writing this blog post. Back in 2013-2014, when I was doing all my Tippett reviewing, there was an important recording of the first three Piano Sonatas, by Paul Crossley, on Philips – not his later remake (and make of the fourth) on CRD from 1984, which I’ve reviewed here, but his earlier one, from 1973. Crossley is an important interpreter of Tippett’s sonatas, as he commissioned and premiered the third and fourth. But that earlier recording had been CD-reissued only in a 6-CD Tippett collection, which wasn’t worth the buy for me, since I had most of its material on individual discs. Fortunately the three sonatas were available (on the European Amazons only, back then, but for some reason not on Amazon.com; I don’t know if it has changed since) for download, so I bought them in that form (I also have the original LP).
But then, we know what happens to computers. They are very perishable products, and every some years, you have to replace them: I’m trying to eke out my current one, although the t and é keys don’t work anymore, you can’t imagine the ordeal it is to have to go through the ASCII codes for these two letters, Alt 116 and Alt 130 (and I’ve discovered that there are so many ts in the English language!!) – and I consider myself lucky that the shift key and the d key miraculously came back! Changing computers isn’t an entirely simple process, because you have to transfer ALL the contents of one to the other (if you can afford a bit of cleaning up in the process, it’s even better), not only all your documents (simple enough I guess), but the e-mails from your mail client (millions of them – and that’s only the useful ones), all the bookmarked links on your browser, your antivirus. The longer I can avoid that ordeal, the better it is
So, okay, the other day, transferring my reviews, I looked in my computer if I had transferred those Crossley downloads. Zounds, I hadn’t, and I don’t even know why, because I HAD transferred many other music files. I’m pretty sure I have those tracks on an external drive somewhere – but I was burglarized some months ago, little was stolen because who could even steal some dozen or hundred thousand CDs of classical music, or only a fellow music lover with a huge moving truck (had it been Michael Jackson or rap music, I don’t say) but I’m wondering if they didn’t take that external drive.
So, bottom line: why not downloads? Because it’s easier to steal (or lose, or damage) a computer or an external drive than one hundred thousand CDs. Ultimately I may have to purchase those downloads again, which is frustrating – and I need to make a note to always keep a copy of my electronic music files on CD.
And if you are wondering if I really have 100,000 CDs in my collection, answer is: I don’t know, I don’t count. But a year ago I had shelves built that could house roughly 10,000 CDs, and I was happy that (I thought) I was going to be able to finally shelf in one place all the CDs that I hadn’t yet listened to (so I’m not talking here about those I’ve heard and put up, they are in another place). To my great disappointment it turned out that my stock of unheard CDs numbers probably three times that much (I don’t know, I don’t count, but I see the boxes and reckon).