Sunday, May 21, 2006

On the dangers of buying too much music

Nope; not a cautionary tale about allowing a teenager to use ones debit card to purchase music from iTunes. Not at all. Andrew's actually been very restrained; to the extent of asking 'is it better to spend 99 cents for one tune or 10 dollars for the album?'. To which the only sane answer is, well do you want just one tune from the album or do you want the whole album?

I'm told that it's common these days for an album to consist of the two good tunes that get airplay to tempt the listener and ten crappy ones; at least that's the common refrain that arises in any discussion about musical piracy from the pro camp. I wouldn't know. Most of the albums I buy are a complete symphony or whatever and it would defeat the purpose to think of a symphony as a collection of three, four, five or six tunes.

I'd note that here in Arizona the '99' cents for a download from iTunes actually costs $1.08 including tax but who apart from me even thinks of that?

In early December 1974, having just won a composition competition and with the prospect of not just hearing but conducting my first symphony less than a month away, I was working at a small radio/TV repair shop in St. Albans, an inner western suburb of Melbourne.

The boss was a pretty nice guy even if he did tip the local newspaper off; a reporter complete with photographer descended one afternoon and insisted on a shot of me reaching into the back of a TV set. The story ran with the caption (so far as I remember) 'Rob is a young genius'. The interview itself is mercifully forgotten; I fear I was rather more than somewhat full of myself. There are those who would, even to this day, opine that not a lot has changed!

As for why I was reaching into the back of the TV? I imagine the photographer was hard put to come up with any kind of relevant hook given the lack of musical instruments in the workshop.

Of course I bought ten copies of the local newspaper! So did Mum. I have no recollection of what happened to my copies of the front page article and photo but I know Mum's were lost in the 1983 bushfires. There's a distant possibility my youngest sister still has a yellowed copy but I doubt it.

The day after I was interviewed I was repairing a radio. Pretty easy work if you can get it and it didn't take long to track down the fault. I tuned it to 3AR Melbourne (now called Radio National) and heard the most wonderful violin concerto. As I've always done when I hear some new work that I like I listened to the end to discover who and what it was. I imagine we all have at one time or another and it doesn't sound like much if you're talking a 3 minute pop song but it's somewhat more difficult to manage if it's a 35 minute violin concerto, especially if you factor in the notorious unreliability of newspaper listings. Half the time they listed 'Concerto presented by Douglas Hofstaedter*' or some such generic listing.

Came the end and the all important credit; it was Aram Khachaturian's[^] Violin Concerto. Note made I went out and bought a copy. Enjoyed it immensely! What a pity that a few weeks later I found that I'd already purchased a copy at least a year earlier, as part of my World Record Club membership and had completely forgotten it. On the other hand, I enjoy hearing different performances of favourite works; I have three different performances of Mahlers 6th. Each has its merits and it's defects. Of course, in 1974 I still had to learn that little truth about music.

*Deliberate malattribution.

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