Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Feeling the urge

but URGE[^] doesn't quite cut it, yet.

As I wrote a few weeks ago[^] the idea of an online music service for a nominal monthly fee is very appealing. In theory they can maintain a much larger music library than I ever could.

Your idea of nominal might differ from mine but 15 bucks a month for unlimited access to 2 million tracks sounds good. So I signed up for their 14 day free trial. Unlike a lot of other services they do the trial well; they don't require a credit card with the all but inevitable 'forgot to cancel on the 14th day' jeopardy.

They also allow usage of the service during the trial period to be exactly what you'd experience once signed up. That means 3 PC's can access the service on the trial account and you can download to your portable device.

This is the way a trial ought to be!

So why does it not quite cut it yet? Well, to be fair, it's still billed as a beta but there are two major shortcomings for me. The first is breadth of coverage. Yes, I was delighted to discover they had The Execution of Stepan Razin[^], a cantata by Shostakovich that I first heard about 33 years ago and last heard over 20 years ago! For a text in Russian so long unheard it was quite the pleasure to hear it again and still know quite half the words.

I have no more than a vague idea of what the words mean but I remembered them well enough to have to restrain myself from singing along :-) God knows what the family would have thought at the sight and sound of me, headphones on, singing 'si byoronyay bazhit boyarchonochik!'. (Which is probably a gross mis-transcription).

Nonetheless, there's a dearth of the composers I'd love to listen to. Nothing by Gustav Holst. One lousy album of Delius that I already have on CD. Only 11 Mike Oldfield albums? I have 27 and I don't have all of the albums he's released. The only Gilbert and Sullivan are 'best ofs'. They do have Bruckner's Symphony 0! Busoni? You'd have to have read an encyclopedia to even know he wrote a piano concerto with choral accompaniement going by what they have.

This may, however, be a temporary thing. An hour ago I went searching for a composer whose work I heard once, briefly, in 1990 and was unable to obtain on CD. One Geirr Tviett[^]. Strange music. An hour ago I found an album that just might have been the one I'd heard way back then but do you think I can find it now using exactly the same search term?

Likewise the aforementioned Execution of Stepan Razin. I downloaded that yesterday and it's in WMP on this computer and on the Gigabeat player. But any number of searches on Shostakovich fail to find it. Searching on Razin does find it today but that's not how I found it yesterday. Go figure. Maybe a server is down? At the time of writing the entire web page as shown in WMP11 is unavailable yet a stream of Max Bruch's Violin Concerto at well nigh perfect quality is unaffected.

Then I did a search by genre. Classical and drill down into the sub genres. It almost hurt laughing at the results of the drill into the romantic sub-genre. Two, count em, two albums! Hmmm. That'll be news to a couple of thousand dead composers to say nothing of encylopedia contributors, musicologists, recording executives, producers and reviewers!

Ah what the hell. Maybe I'll give em the 15 bucks a month for a few months! I've certainly enjoyed what I've streamed and downloaded so far.

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