Donald's Blog

  This old house was only a few blocks from the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. All the neighborhood cats lived in the basement during the winter. The house has long since been torn down, but in 1972 there were AR2ax speakers in the front room, and a lot of good music was heard there.

«Apr 2012»

In the 21st century I am just as opinionated as ever, and I now have an outlet. I shall pontificate here about anything that catches my fancy; I hope I will not make too great a fool of myself. You may comment yea or nay about anything on the site; I may quote you here, or I may not. Send brickbats etc. to:


April 6, 2012

Mediafire and a richer life

I belong to a Google group called SymphonyShare, where a number of like-minded individuals share music files. These are out-of-print classical records or broadcasts: the rule is, if it's in print, we don't share it. We have embraced this whole new method of acquiring and listening to our music partly because the record companies abandoned us, not the other way around; and if we still care about a commercial classical music industry, and somebody cares enough to make a recording commercially available, it is our duty to buy it if we want it, not share it for free. (Of course, we have to buy it through the mail or download a second-rate MP3, because there are no more record shops, but that's another complaint.)
      So I have three recordings of Stockhausen's Gruppen for Three Orchestras on my external hard disc, a piece which as far as I know has never had a commercial recording. With several other listmembers I remembered the conductor Karl Ristenpart and his Chamber Orchestra of Saar Radio: there were some USA budget LPs in the 1960s by this group, and it turns out that Ristenpart recorded hundreds of pieces by dozens of composers, nearly all of his work long out of print. There are more recordings available by Ristenpart and Jascha Horenstein and many others than there ever were during the lifetimes of these great musicians.
      There are a number of file-sharing websites that we use, of which the most popular seems to be Mediafire, because it is the most civilized: the others are always jerking us around, and one of them, recently shut down in New Zealand, was allegedly bootlegging Hollywood movies. Nobody cares about us sharing classical music, because there's no money in it. Yesterday I uploaded a recording of two Canadian string quartets made in the 1970s by Canadian Radio; the LP came from the library of WMHT in Schenectady New York, which was once a treasurehouse of classical music, but there was no money in it. For generations the major record labels complained that there's no money in classical music and jazz: did they ever give away records and record players to schools and libraries? Did they ever sponsor radio programs featuring their own new releases and back catalogs? They did not, because there's no money in it. Now they are out of the business entirely.
      But there's still a lot of money in Hollywood movies. Movies are such rubbish nowadays that I don't go to the cinema at all, which means that I miss the few movies that I might like to see; no doubt there is no money in movies for grownups: is that because they are drowned out by the trash? In today's Wall Street Journal the big flashy article on the front page of the arts section is about a one-man industry in what is called mash-up: he writes "novels" about how Jane Austen and Abraham Lincoln were really vampires, and sells them to the movies. Since this trash is aimed at children who think that entertainment is ultimately free anyway (and worth the price), the big-grossing comic-book movies will be bootlegged, so Hollywood is ganging up on the file-sharing sites. Pucky Mediafire has responded; you can read about it here.
      I predict that the Hollywood corporations will be the next ones (allowed by the Supreme Court) to buy politicians, and that future generations, if there are any, will be as puzzled by our addiction to crappy entertainment as by our destruction of the environment.