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The Great Digi-Debate: Does Classical Music Benefit from Technology? Simulcasts (and Sales) Prove Performances Do

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Aug 14, 2014 04:01 PM EDT

It's interesting to wonder what genres in specific are affected most (and least) by the digitalization of music--just how accessible it is in our day and age? The markets have shifted from album sales to singles, yet sales are still based on a scale that is dependent on CDs, 7" and LPs.

But the scale doesn't merely reflect audio sales, there are also simulcasts that broadcast entire performances to audience across the globe; all sharing in the same experience at the same time.

I've always pondered the idea of owning a "record," or rather a performance, a physical and tangible disc that you can play over and over again and each time sounds exactly the same.

Like David Grubbs duly brings up in his great new book Records Ruin the Landscape, I, too, often wonder if recording--in general--changs music. Because if it's recorded, does it means there is a best seat in the house?

However, as music recording has evolved even further to the point of being immediately accessible, owning a physical print of anything is considered clinical insanity.

Thus, there is the question of which genre benefits (or loses) most from digitally archiving its canon.

According to Tom Service at The Guardian, classical music finds a better footing than most other genres in this latest digital mold.

Service writes:

The irony [is] - as anyone can see - that however hard the industry tried to make it seem as if each new set of Beethoven's symphonies [is] "better" than the last, what you ended up with in reality [is] a chaotic collection of interpretative differences, which realised precisely what the whole recording process [is] designed to refute; i.e. that Beethoven's symphonies can be many things to many people, and can't, in fact, be reduced to a single idea or interpretation.

Tom continues:

...The fluidity of today's technoverse might well be a worry if you're a band trying to sell a single, or a perfected studio version of your songs. But for classical music and its musicians, it means technology may finally have caught up with the essential, life-enhancing and life-reflecting power of the art-form, the way it's endlessly renewed and recreated in the hands of generation after generation of performers, and the ears of its listeners.

The debate still remains, yes, but the times have to keep on changing here.

Service poses a well-informed rebuttal. As classical continues to expand its audience, it is the advent of new technology that it has to thank; I mean, the Met's latest simulcast did attract some 3 million viewers amid the heat of terrible salary negotiations.

Apropos, as the Met continues to expand its simulcasts, here's a preview of what's to come.

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TagsDavid Grubbs, Tom Service, The Guardian