June 8, 2012

greed... vandalism... high culture...

Imagine a restaurant which serves food in the following manner:  They begin by  serving you a part of your first course.  After you finish that, they clear the table and a bit later bring you the remainder of the first course along with a part of the second course.  And that's how your dinner continues, with each course being split between two servings.

The reason why no restaurant would ever dare to implement the above serving policy is obvious.   The very first group of customers would simply burn the motherfucker down without even waiting for dessert.  And afterward they would drag the owner to a nearby parking lot for a brief chat about the importance of making one's business model conform to some minimal standards of rationality.

There is one line of business, however, where the customers accept this kind of perverse treatment willingly, even enthusiastically.  The product in this line of business is "food for the soul", and it comes in the form of recordings of classical music.

As a typical example, consider this fairly recently issued live recording of an opera in three acts: 

The timings for each act (in minutes and seconds) are 78:14, 73:01,  and 78:06.  The capacity of a compact disc is 79+ minutes.  How many discs do you think the customer would have to pay for to get this opera recording?  If you think the answer is "Three", you are an over-educated slave of reason and logic whose mind is trapped in the realm of Plato's ideal Forms.  In the real world the correct answer is an emphatic "Four!".   

This is not a matter of greed alone.  If it were, one could at least pay for the four-disc set and then burn the opera onto three discs to be able to listen to each act without annoying interruptions.  Alas, the folks in charge of that record label are not just greedy.  They are greedy fucking mongoloids who think nothing of the fact that the opera in question is through-composed, with the music of each act having no natural pause from beginning to end!  To get that extra disc into the set (by splitting each act between two discs) they chose to end discs 1, 2, and 3 with fade outs and to begin discs 2, 3, and 4 with fade ins.   So burning each act on a single disc still will not allow you to enjoy the musical and dramatic arcs of each act without maddening interruptions.  (Your only hope is to try to use sound editing software to undo all those fade ins and fade outs via "volume shaping" function, in which case you will add the cost of your time and patience to the already inflated price of that recording.)

If there is a more memorable way for a business to fuck its customers, I am yet to discover it.  But at least the customers seem to enjoy it.  I have looked at dozens of droolingly enthusiastic reviews of this recording in specialized publications as well as on Amazon.com, and not one of them did so much as mutter a word of complaint.*  

Perhaps there was some deep wisdom, after all, in the words of a shemale hooker who once sat next to me at the counter at Denny's on Sunset Boulevard many years ago:  Sophisticated people like to be fucked in more ways than one...

*  After a bit or additional web search I managed to discover one review which did  complain (albeit too briefly and timidly) about the extra disc.



Anonymous said...

You say it! The pure truth! One could add many examples - from Deutsche Grammophon for example...

Anonymous said...

Actually, they could burn all four disks onto one DVD (4.7 gig). I gave up playing disks long ago, but I would be surprised if many people out there had CD-only players.
In any event, who the hell buys CDs/DVDs any more? In a year or two they will be as out-of-date as vinyl LPs. Every time I have to take a disk out, insert it, etc etc, I get a rash. All my music is now stored on a hard-drive.

Dave MacD said...

Preface: I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

Is it possible that those awkward breaks in the recording are a result of limitations in the recording technology used to make the master in 1955? I used to have some LPs of Shostakovich that had annoying fade ins/outs.

Appendix: I really don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

Boom said...


This recording was made by a team of Decca engineers. When faced with a continuous piece of music whose duration exceeds the capacity of a single tape reel, the standard practice would be to use two tape recorders with overlapping material (later spliced into a continuous performance).
Even in the era of 78 rpm wax recordings, two cutters were used to capture live performances of long compositions. That's how Fred Geisberg (of EMI) recorded Bruno Walter's Mahler (9th symphony and Das Lied) in Vienna as early as 1938!.

MatoTheEmperor said...

holy shit i hate this!
i have wagner's tristan and isolde - 3 act opera divided to 4 disks... it's recording from some 50's conducted by furtwangler. well, this isnt my worst experience (in fact, who would ever listen to the whole wagner opera without video??)... have you ever try to listen to mahler's 8th or strauss' alpen symphonie divided in some thousand parts?? (well, not so much... alpen - 24 parts, mahler - 16) when listening on CD player, it's ok, but playing it on my shitty mp3 player which makes 3 sec pause between each track...