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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for Nov. 19, 2003

DVD-Audio Seeking CD Compatibility - DVD-A sales continue to be way down in comparison to SACD sales. Now that all SACDs, including Sony’s own products, are hybrid - playable on any CD player - the DVD-A camp is struggling to find a way to provide compatibility with their format. Attempts at a dual-layer disc failed because most players couldn’t play them. Now the DVD Forum seeks a double-sided DVD/CD hybrid to save DVD-Audio. They are considering something called DVD+, which bonds a standard CD back-to-back with a DVD-A of only half thickness. Such a disc pushes the standards for disc thickness and may hang up in either CD or DVD-A players. There are over a billion CD players out there, so the potential for lawsuits is high if the new discs get stuck in players.

Caged Silence - Avantgarde musician Heinz Klaus Metzger has in a crumbling medieval church in Halberstadt, Germany begun a performance of John Cage’s Organ2 so slow that it is supposed to continue for six centuries. He began the piece, whose tempo was given by Cage as “as slow as possible” on September fifth, but fans haven’t missed a lot since the piece begins with a rest. The shortest notes in the piece last six or seven months, and there will be an intermission in 2319. [This is not an April Fools...]

European Music Industry Supports CD Copy Protection - The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) says it will continue to support copy protection on CDs though it realizes the current systems do nothing to prevent large-scale commercial piracy, and often prevent legitimate listening on portables, car players and computer CD-ROM drives. The IFPI Chairman reported that last year they seized 50 million CDs, 90 million blanks, and 7000 burners from pirates, but they start again the next day. He said Russia, Poland and the Ukraine were the top countries for pirated CDs. He also indicated that SCMS was a good step to control digital copying, but they would have pressed for greater protection if they had known about the coming of CD-R. The Chairman of BMG said all their European titles are now protected and it is a situation of “the sins of the minority are suffered by the majority.”

Audio Fingerprinting - Philips has an amazing technology which can name tunes and even identify different versions of a piece. It is based on every recording of a song having unique audio characteristics - for example a certain relationship of high and low notes over a tiny slice of time. Their software simply represents these relationships in numbers to create a code for that particular version and no other. Even when a song is compressed and equalized by broadcasters the system can still extract a description of its unique characteristics and match it with the database to identify the particular track. The director of the audio fingerprinting project says they presently have almost any popular song that has been recorded.

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