Back when I worked in a record store that specialized in classical music, those creepy audiophile dudes totally annoyed me—they still do. It’s just not in my makeup to discuss the superiority of this recording versus that recording of the exact same piece. Luckily, thanks to digital distribution, I no longer have any reason to encounter this particular species of music fanatic. Besides marking up the edges of their CDs with green markers in order to improve sound quality—yeah, and babies come from storks—these guys still insist that analog recordings are far superior than anything digital. Even if they’re right, the hissing and pops inherent to the medium can detract from the suspension of disbelief situation which recordings ultimately raise: Is it live, or Memorex?
Personally, I prefer live music over recordings. When I’m sitting (or standing or jumping for that matter) with an audience, I get to physically soak in the entire aura of the performance, which is far from audio-only. But whether or not you prefer live music, CDs, LPs, or MP3s, it seems that a lot of classical music junkies are in cahoots with the audiophiles to create some kind of angry lynch mob and burn their latest heretic, the iPod.
As for me, I wish these things had existed back when I was kicking around the international music festival circuit; I could have packed a hell of a lot lighter. The sleek little devices aren’t just MP3 players—you can store up to 80 gigs of data: audio, video, PDF scores, Sibelius files, Max/MSP and Jitter patches, and even better-than-CD-24-bit audio if you, for whatever reason, needed it (granted, the iPod won’t play these files, but you can transfer them to your laptop). Basically everything you’d possibly need to facilitate a performance or give a lecture about your work fits nicely into your pocket—not to mention a vast collection of albums, including cover art, on top of it all.
New York City has excellent tap water, which makes the first question you get at every single restaurant a moot point: Bottled or tap? No, it’s not some ploy to make money off the tourists, some folks really feel bottled water always tastes better. And to me, the difference in quality between various recording media is a similar question: Water or water? When you’re really thirsty, the difference is negligible no matter what. But when you’re talking about recordings, I think tethering yourself to the gourmet variety ultimately limits you. It’s just a recording after all, a documentation used to signify a performance or rendering of a piece of music. If your ears are so damn sensitive, why not use your sonic prowess to fill-in whatever it is you’re missing?