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  • richardmitnick 2:58 pm on May 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , music players, , , , , , Zune   

    The Road to Digital – Are You On It? 

    The Road to Digital – Are You On It?

    I have not written here since March 2010. This blog has always been issue oriented. Since the advent of WQXR and the re-birth of WNYC’s 24/7 New Music stream as Q2 there have not been for me any real issues.

    I started a new blog, “MusicSprings” because there were and are subjects of a singular nature about which to write, artists and composers, musical events, albums, and the like.

    But, now I have an issue: Going all digital, for music an video.

    This started about two years ago. I ripped all of my CD’s to .mp3 at 320k. I ripped all of my DVD’s to .mp4. I found new and loving homes for the physical media. I also found new homes for most of my sound equipment. The rest of this has taken some time.

    I think that this started when WNYC tossed out day time music on FM.

    I used Public Radio Fan and Shoutcast to find new sources for music “on the radio”. I gravitated to three stations: KUSC, Los Angeles; WCNY, Syracuse; and WCPE, Winston Salem, NC. KUSC got most of my attention. I also took subscriptions at home and at work for streams in especially New Music at Live365 I use Winamp for streaming audio, with the stations listed, and also WPRB and WBGO.

    KUSC


    Finally, one of my favorite of all time music sources, Music from the Hearts of Space was kicked out at WNYC. So, I took subscriptions at the web site.

    Today, I have 396 gigs of music and video. I keep everything on three 1 TB Western Digital Passport external hard drives. Three drives for three computers. And for redundancy. Hard drives break.
    pp

    For video, I don’t want to watch on the computer. So I have a Western Digital WD-TV HD Media Player, to which is attached a fourth WD Passport, with all of the .mp4 videos.
    HDTV

    I also have four 120 gig Zune .mp3 and .mp4 players: Classical music and Spoken Word, Jazz, Rock, and video.
    Zune

    Last and probably least used, but very useful in a pinch, is my Roku HD-XR Player for streaming movies (wirelessly) from Netflix.
    Roku

    So, what do you think? Did I jump off a bridge? Too early? I gave away thousands of dollars worth of physical media and equipment. There is no going back. But I welcome all opinions.

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  • richardmitnick 3:18 pm on December 7, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , music players,   

    An Ipod to replace a Zune? I don’t think so. 

    An Ipod to replace a Zune? I don’t think so.

    I maintain four 120 gig Zunes to hold all or most of my music and video. One is for Classical Music and Spoken Word; one is for Jazz; one is for Rock and its offspring; one is for videos.

    So, one Zune dies. I have a contract on it. I take it back to the big box store. Because I have the contract, they give me store credit (it’s beyond their anything goes 30 day return policy) for the Zune AND the contract. They no longer have 120 gig Zunes.

    I consider a 180 gig ipod. No, the last time I installed iTunes it disabled an optical drive with high and low filters that my OEM had to correct. This must be a common problem with iTunes on some Windows machines. The first tech broke my “rule of six” – six calls to get to someone who knows what you are dealing with. He knew exactly what to do. He took over my machine and in two minutes in the Registry got rid of the filters. I immediately had the optical drive back.

    Then, I thought, what the heck? Most ipods are used on Windows machines just because Apple has such a tiny part of the installed market of PC’s.

    So, I pick up a 180 gig and an accessory kit. When I go to pay, the clerk offers me a contract, which I decline. He says, and I paraphrase, you know, when the battery dies in a year, this contract will replace it for free. Die in a year? Yes he says, it is right in the fine print on the box.

    Thanks, but no thanks. I am not going to buy a product where the box tells me it is guaranteed to fail in a year.

    I went home. I went to Amazon where I found 11 new black and 22 red 120 gig Zunes in amazon’s inventory. For cheap. US$209.00 with no shipping charge.

    If they get down to US$169.00, I will probably buy a couple more for insurance,

     
  • richardmitnick 12:04 pm on September 23, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , music players, , , ,   

    Jazz Is Very Serious Music 

    Jazz Is Very Serious Music

    Jazz is hard work.

    Classical music is, at least for me, not so hard. I learned to love Classical music as a child. My father had a very large collection of LP’s, Beethoven through maybe Sibelius and some Aaron Copland. French Impressionists. The Russian Big Five. Some Opera. I recently rebuilt what was essentially the core of his collection, but in digital form. I go from, now, Bach, through the Romantics and into the 20th century, Nancarrow, Partch, Varese, and Antheil. Part and Messiaen. Glass, Reich, Riley, Young, and Adams. Mark O’Connor and Osvaldo Golijov. After my father, my best teachers have been John Schaefer and David Garland at WNYC. The element of Ambient music I learned from Stephen Hill and Hearts of Space.

    But, none of this has been really difficult. If I am buying the Beethoven symphonies, does it really matter among Bernstein and the NY Philharmonic, Von Karajan or Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic? Violin concerti, I want Hilary Hahn. Terry Riley’s “In C”, Bang On A Can. Reich’s Music for Eighteen musicians, The fabulous Grand Valley State University players (Innova).

    My knowledge in all music is five miles wide and a half of an inch thick. Anyone reading this that is really knowledgeable will see that immediately.

    If you like Bach, Bartok, Sibelius, and Stravinsky, you might just take well to Jazz.

    Jazz is really hard. Everyone has their own starting point. My father started in Classical at Beethoven, but I have some Bach, by Glenn Gould AND Keith Jarrett.

    My starting point in Jazz is Bop, MDD (Miles Dewey Davis), and John Coltrane. I use MDD really to honor Michael Tilson Thomas, known as “MTT”. If this great conductor can be MTT, then Miles is for me MDD. My first teacher was Steve Rowland. Steve has two radio projects, “The Miles Davis Radio Project”, and “Tell Me how Long ‘Trane’s Been Gone”. I bought these two series in .mp3, put them on my Zune .mp3 player and listened to them on walks, on planes, at the dentist. Wherever. Over and over. I started to acquire their music. Amazon’s Jazz library is just literally huge.But, what was it? Bop? Bebop? Post-Bop? West Coast? Who was it? Which quartet or quintet? Each had two great bands, known by various names. Miles had The First Quintet and the Second Quintet. Coltrane had the Classic Quartet and the Second Quartet. Who was in each band? It matters.

    Coltrane played with Miles. Twice. Everyone played with Thelonius Monk.

    You cannot study this music and these people without immersing yourself in the work of Eric Dolphy. You need to hear Ornette Coleman and Sonny Rollins, himself a saxophone colossus.

    You need to pay attention to the producer Rudy Van Gelder. Why? Everyone wanted to work with him.

    You need also to read about these people. Wikipedia is a very good resource. Gary Giddins’ books, Visions of Jazz – The First Century (1998) and Weatherbird (2004), are very worthwhile. The first is basically portraits in word of artists. The second is a collection of the writer’s reviews of concerts and albums.

    Terry Teachout wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal that Jazz, taken out of the club and into the concert hall, is dying a slow death. . If Terry were to listen to Jazz on WPRB, WBGO, any of the countless outlets in the database of Public Radio Fan or the niche streams at AccuRadio and Live365; if Mr. Teachout were to give a listen to the Jazz Calendars presented by WPRB and WBGO, he might change his tune.

    Bill Evans and Gil Evans matter. Differently. Bill was the consummate piano virtuoso. Gil was Miles’ other half as an arranger. There is a short film, “The Sound of Miles Davis, with Miles’ quintet (which one?) playing with the Gil Evans Orchestra. In this video, Coltrane’s solo in “So What” (from Kind of Blue)blows the whole group away.

    To understand McCoy Tyner, you need to hear Paul Hindemith. Dave Brubeck studied with Darious Milhaud and wrote Jazz fugues for The Octet. It matters. Miles studied at Juilliard. John Coltrane studied Bela Bartok.
    “The Birth of the Cool” really matters. Miles and Gerry Mulligan tried to emulate the sound of the Claude Thornhill Orchestra in nine instruments, a nonet. This matters big time. Some consider this the most important album ever produced.

    MDD’s “Bitches Brew” matters because of Jazz Fusion. The work was one of the first projects in Jazz Fusion. Wayne Shorter played with Miles in the Second Great Quintet. But, he also played with Joe Zawinul in Weather Report which was a Jazz Fusion band. But Joe wrote Mercy, Mercy, Mercy for Cannonball Adderley’s quintet. This is not Fusion.

    I am just going through my collection as I write this. Chick Corea is an incredible pianist, as is Keith Jarrett. Both can write and both can improvise. Chick has had the Elektric Band and the Akoustic Band. And, the Fusion band, Return To Forever, with especially Al DiMeola. Keith has had the Standards Trio, The American Trio, The American Quartet, the European Quartet. He also has himself in all of the solo albums and solo concerts. The Koln Concert album is one of the best selling piano solo albums of all time. All of this matters. It matters also that Keith recorded Bach’s Goldberg Variations on harpsichord. It matters that Keith and Chick concertized and recorded the Mozart Double Concerto. Master musicians. Who they are and what they do matters.

    Who is Percy Heath? Jimmy Heath? Albert Heath?

    I have some Thelonius Monk, some Charlie Parker and some Dizzy Gillespie. But I have not yet gotten well educated enough to appreciate them.

    But, I go further back with a very modern band. I go to Dixieland with the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, Ken Field’s very able crew from Boston, Mass. I love this band. They are so hip, so cool in the modern sense of the word.

    Since Steve Rowland, my best support has come from Will Constantine and Dan Buskirk at WPRB, Princeton; Josh Jackson and the concerts from WBGO, Newark, and NPR/music. At NPR, there are the Jazz Profiles, over seventy biographic accounts of great Jazz composers and players. These are available for download. Again, I put them on my Zune and took them with me everywhere. NPR also features concerts from WBGO at The Village Vanguard and J&R Music.

    Latin Jazz matters very much. The movie “Calle 54” is the best introduction one can have for this sub-genre. I got it from Netflix. Latin Jazz, Jerry and Andy Gonzalez, Paquito D’Rivera, Chano Dominguez, Michel Camilo, Gato Barbieri, Eliane Elias, Bebo Valdez and Chucho Valdez, all very important.
    The Modern jazz Quartet began, in a sense like David Byrne’s “Music for ‘The Knee Plays” at Philip Glass’ “Einstein on the Beach”, as a sort of intermission entertainment. It was, first, The Milt Jackson Quartet, and they played as part of the Dizzy Gillespie orchestra. When the orchestra took a break, this quartet filled the time. Look what happened. It is important.

    Singers like Mose Allison and Nina Simone are very important.

    Pat Metheny and Al DiMeola are consummate Jazz guitarists.

    I just watched a video, “Keith Jarrett – The Art of Improvisation”. The video goes way beyond improvisation. It is a valuable biographical story of Keith’s oerve. One piece, played by the European Quartet- they matter a lot – is called “The Windup”. I recognized it immediately. I searched my hard drive. I could not find it. I got the album, “Belonging” (1974), so I could listen a few times. Actually, it was not as good as I remembered. This arrangement (8’22”) is too fast. Then, I remembered that I had an album, “Fort Yawuh” about which I learned from Dan Buskirk. Maybe it was there under another name. These days, I have a large library of Keith Jarrett’s recordings. But, for some time, this album had been my only Keith Jarrett work beyond the well known “Koln Concert”. Sure enough, the first track of “Fort Yawuh”, ‘(If the) Misfits (Wear It)’ (1973) is the same melody, but the exposition is for me much better at 13’15”.

    I am done. I could go on forever here. Here are some things which are important. There are three other important Coltrane’s: Alice, Ravi, and Oran. Steve Gadd is all over the place as a drummer. Cyro Baptista who I first encountered with Paul Simon, is all over John Zorn’s work. John Zorn: he deserves a huge weblog post all for himself. Some players have been around for a long time and deserve respect. None more than Brian Blade. Cedar Walton is still making music.

    Whoops, I never mentioned Duke Ellington. There are no words. His big orchestra is not my style. But I did get his “Black, Brown & Beige”, “The Far East Suite”, “Latin America Suite”, and the absolutely fantastic “Such Sweet Thunder”. Somehow, for me, The Duke is a Classical composer.

    This is not anywhere near complete. No mention of Kenny Clark the drummer, Philly Joe Jones, Connie Kay, also drummers. Stanley Clark, Ron Carter, two bassists extraordinaire. Or Kurt Rosenwinkel, Stanley Turrentine. Sun Ra, off somewhere in a world of his own creation. There are just so many people, each unique in what they bring to the music.

    If you give Jazz a go, expect to be very serious about it and expect to work very hard.

     
    • Classical Music 8:27 am on September 24, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      It provides all tracks in the universally compatible MP3 format at prices as low as 27 cents ( 23c) a track. Classical Music

      • richardmitnick 11:47 am on September 24, 2009 Permalink | Reply

        I looked at your site, it is very nice. But I could not find where one would buy music.

        >>RSM

    • Lori 11:13 am on October 5, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Just wanted to tell you that I read your comment on the WQXR/NYC deal, and was sufficiently intrigued to check out your blog. Very interesting, well-written (unlike this comment?). Keep up the good work.

    • richardmitnick 11:27 am on October 5, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Lori-

      Thanks. I try very hard to be relevant. I appreciate your comment. Comments, good or bad, are hard to come by.

      >>RSM

  • richardmitnick 12:46 am on May 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , music players, , , , , ,   

    Confessional 

    Confessional

    O.K., it is confession time. Last night I sent my 320 gig Passport external hard drive to the dust bin. I tried to copy in a 4 gig video and was out of space. I probably should be embarassed, but, actually, I am quite happy with my collection. I am a collector. Of music in mp3 and video in mp4.

    So, I hotsied myself to Best Buy and picked up a 1TB Western Digital My Book. I fully formatted the disc. No quick formats, please.
    I copied my library, shut down, disconnected both drives, rebooted, cleaned out the libraries in WMP, Winamp and Zune, shut down, reconnected only the new drive, checked the drive letter, re-configured the three players to only monitor the music and video folders on that drive, and re-scanned all three players. The formatting I did overnight, and it took all night. The rest of the work took just a few hours while I was at work, and, actually working while it went on.

    My biggest section is Jazz, 45 gigs, for which I am grateful for the generous help of Steve Rowland. Classical, a meager 16 gigs, but, a very good core collection from Bach through Golijov, and including Partch, Nancarrow, Varese, and Antheil. I have a lot of Jazz concerts recorded in mp3 from WBGO/NPR plus Jazz Profiles available as downloads.My Avantgarde is a highly respectable 20 gigs. But, I include some people there that others might put in Classical, Hovhannes, Schoenberg, John Adams, , and, hey, John Zorn, and Jon Hassel (The afore mentioned Partch, Nancarrow, Varese, and Antheil some might have put in Avantgarde). If you read them in Wikipedia and see from whence they cometh, you might see why I have them in Avantgarde. I have a lot of Zorn. I put Lamont Young there, also. More typical might be David Diamond, Elliot Carter, Henry Brant (nine DVD set from Innova, thank you very much). Stockhausen, Michael Gordon (Trance and Decasia from BOAC in mp3), Milton Babbitt, Boulez (really, I have some Boulez) and Robert Moran.

    In other genres, I have all of Enigma, all of Dead Can Dance (thank you Hearts of Space) , some Electronica where I got help from John Schaefer and Stephen Hill, a whole bunch of New Sounds and Soundcheck programs, all of the American Mavericks audio interviews, plus the interviews by Philip Blackburn for Innova at “Measure for Measure” and “Alive and Composing“. The interviews go on my Zune for my exercise walks, on the plane to California, to the dentist, wherever.

    I have a lot of Rock and a lot of Rock concerts, some ripped from my own DVD’s, some from unnamed sources.

    Videos, egad. Bob Dylan, the Scorsesi “No Direction Home” four hours, the Pennebaker “Don’t Look Back” four hours and the Dylan at Newport 1963-65 Murry Lerner film; all of Ken Burns Jazz series; Bernstein’s Freedom Concert, the PBS version and a European version with no pitching, plus the PBS “Leonard Bernstein-Reaching for the Note”; Rolling Stones “Steel Wheels’ concert; every inch of Traveling Wilburys video I could find; some Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Sting and the Police; Buena Vista Social Club; Calle 54 (all about Latin Jazz); an ELO concert; from PBS a Philip Glass documentary and a Jerome Robbins documentary; Paul Simon a Graceland Concert and a Rhythm of the Saints concert, this last, HBO, Concert in the Park, NYC);an MJQ concert, the Qatsi Trilogy; Cream; a Pink Floyd concert; Weather Report at Monteux 1976; U-2 Rattle & Humm (with the New Voices of Freedom choir on “I still Haven’t Found what I’m Looking For” , and some assorted others. Videos are a mere 84 gigs.

    So, that’s my confession. I am a collector. Who need 80 Jimmy Smith albums? Hey, he’s great. And, I have a Jimmy Smith video with a very young Donald Bailey on drums. Terrific.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:30 am on May 19, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , music players,   

    My Project with “American Mavericks” 

    My Project with “American Mavericks”

    So, I finally finished my “project” with the material from the American Mavericks radio project from Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). I had built a book from Kyle Gann’s thirteen essays, and from the text interviews. I also recorded with my mp3 recording software all of the approximately seventy interviews available in the audio section. I put all of these on my mp3 player (then an iRiver H10 20 gig, but now a Zune 120 gig) and took them on walks, on airplanes, to the dentist, whatever.

    I have stated before, I have absolutely no music education of any kind. When asked what instrument I play, I respond a Fisher 500, which was back in the 1960’s a standout receiver.

    My aim was to use this book and the audio interviews as a guide for buying music.

    The project is finally a complete success. I am describing it here in the hopes of motivating others to do the same thing while MPR keeps the web sites up. When I described this book to Alan Rich, he responded to me that this was an invaluable resource.

    While the subject of the project is music in the United States, with Steve Reich owning Europe, and with Osvaldo Golijov, the Berkeley John Adams and Bang On A Can active here, the truth is that this is where it is at.

    As a corolary on the audio, many of the interviews were conducted by Philip Blackburn of the American Composers Forum. Philip has also at Innova’s web site two series of very similar interviews with the composers and musicians active today. There is “Measure For Measure” and also “Alive and Composing”

    For the book, I saved each successive essay and then the interviews in a Word document. The pages are .html with some graphics in color. I made sure that each successive file started on a recto page, but about half way down the page, to leave me copious room for copious notes. I did page numbers. I did a Table of Contents, using the web pages with the listings and then adding in the correct page numbers for each starting file. Each essay and interview is a file. The book printed out to 515 pages.

    So, here are the necessary links for anyone who is interested in getting this material:

    First, the page for all of the audio files.
    Second, the page with all of the essays and text interviews.

    My “book” is 3.9 megs. I would be happy to put my it up on sendspace.com or email it; but I am afraid this might violate somebody’s copyright.

    So, if you are seriously interested in serious music/classical and avantgarde, I urge you to access this material from the web sites before it goes away.

    I bought all of the music in mp3 at Amazon.

    So, who or what did I buy?

    A bunch of Lamonte Young;a lot of Lou Harrison;some Milton Babbitt;David del Tredici; Michael Gordon; and Amy Beach. These were my choices to add to my already humongous collection. Your choices might be very different.

    Now, I am on to the collected internet files of the critic Greg Sandow. My purpose here is the same, to use Greg’s work as a guide for buying music. But I am in the middle of that, so any description here would be premature.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:55 am on March 25, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: music players,   

    Music players on the computer 

    Music players on the computer

    For someone like me, a bit claustrophobic, cheap and lazy, concerts are pretty much out. Except I told one Jazz band leader that if he comes to New Brunswick or Princeton, I will be there.

    So, music players on the computer are very important. I have paid versions of anything I discuss. Windows Media Player is paid because it is part of Windows. So here is a look.

    The library functions in all players are very similar, and can be organized pretty much to the taste of the user. Nothing is perfect, because every player reflects the views of the people who wrote the code. It is the other functions which separate the players and make some good and some worthless. Also, I want to be able to launch one player and do everything from that player: my own library, streams as bookmarks, or Favorites, from PubRadio or Shoutcast, and streams from Live365.

    Music Match: Before Yahoo got their hands on it and emasculated it for their ill-fated music store, Music Match was great. Syncing, ripping and ID-3 tagging were smooth and efficient. But that is gone. Except if you have a working copy on an XP machine. This was and still is the only software which has a utility to allow the export of a library to an Excel spread sheet. I have a working copy of the software. I put it on my brandy new Acer Aspire 1635 netbook. I immediately had a need for it. I got my hands on a huge compendium of one composer’s music. It looked like there were really two libraries, tagged differently in the file names. So, I was able to export that all to an Excel spread sheet, search on actual file names which put identical tracks in order. Thus was I able to remove the duplicates. But, that’s the end of the line for Music Match.

    Real Player: This was a great player from a company that would fail to realize that it rode on Windows and needed to compete. Real Player could handle Live365 streams saved as Favorites. Real Player also had, and probably still has, a massive database of terrestrial and internet radio streams. But, something happened between version 10 and the current version 11. Real Player stopped being able to handle Live 365. Real now provides an embedded player at the Live365 site. Also, the geniuses in charge of statistical reporting by the software decided it was wise to drop reporting of bit rates on streaming audio and whether a stream was stereo or mono. This last was recently important because WPRB had an mp3 stream which normally one would think is better than their WMP stream or RealAudio stream. Not so: the stream was mono, the others were stereo. So, Real Player has become worthless.

    Windows Media Player: before WMP11 in Vista, this player was an also-ran, not the best at anything. But WMP11 in Vista is a champ. Ripping and syncing, when I still did them, were slick and quick. The library views are the best of the bunch, still not perfect, but good enough. WMP will handle all streams except Live365. This is not a failure at WMP. It is a failure at Live365. How does a purveyor of niche streams not function properly on the most ubiquitous player in the world? WMP is not great on statistics. Never was, probably never will be.

    Winamp: This is my player of choice. The library function is quite adequate. Winamp handles streaming audio better than any other player. Winamp not only give the data transfer rate right on the top level, it also has a crawl for what ever the station wants to communicate in text.

    Zune: Only important if one has a Zune player. If you have a Zune player, then you know why this is excellent software. Zune does not really compete with WMP. On the computer and the player, it really shines for video. WMP can be problematic for video, the user might need to go out and find a codec for mp4 or whatever one is using.

    iTunes: No comments. I had it for a while and decided to drop it.

    Songbird: Why???

     
    • Antony Shen 1:23 am on March 26, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I was on Windows years ago, the default music player was WinAmp. Later I tried Music Match. It was not that bad, but still preferred WinAmp.

      In my early days of internet, Real Player was the only solution for streamed radio and video. Somehow I never liked the interface (the later version the worse). I only used it for listening and watching internet radio and streamed video. My main music player was still WinAmp.

      Since I switched to Mac, iTunes is the main music player for me. Real Player and Windows Media Player both did not work well on Mac (and later Microsoft stopped Windows Media Player for Mac).

      BTW, way before Windows 95, probably in early 90s, my first media player was QuickTime Player (on Windows 3.1).

    • richardmitnick 5:22 am on March 26, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      For anyone who does not know, SillyDog, based in Australia, is the best forum on the internet dealing with issues and problems we might have with Firefox, SeaMonkey, and Thunderbird. Anthony Chen is the Architect-In-Chief at SillyDog. He is a very good friend.

      >>RSM

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