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Audio News for June 2, 2015

Classical Music CD Boxes – There is a huge trend of some of the large record labels re-packaging and re-releasing CDs in boxed sets that often have greater variety and at a lower cost than ever before. This is physical product, not downloads, and although in some cases the notes are abbreviated, very small type or gone, many have the original LP covers reproduced on the five-inch cardboard sleeves. The pioneering budget label Brilliant Classics – trying to compete with Naxos –  may have starting things with their set of the complete Bach cantatas, but now most of the major classical labels are getting into the game. Sony/RCA’s Original Jacket Collections has been a big hit, and in the remastering there is an effort to not split up works (by not having three movements of a complete symphony on one CD and the fourth on another CD). The sonics of the reissues are usually identical to the orginal recordings on CD. Forbes magazine touted three such sets recently: A Sony/RCA collection of Claudio Abbado recordings, another of Ference Fricsay recordings for DGG, and the Maria Callas Remastered box set of all her studio recordings.

Rock Music CD Boxes – Certain rock groups and musicians of the early 70s or so have also been scrounging the vaults to come up with multi-disc CD or DVD packages of their past work. Among these are Pink Floyd, Yes and Bob Dylan. Some even have DVD-Audio or various other hi-res tracks. Yes, for example, has just put out a box set of seven full concerts (12 hours) on CD from three weeks during a 1972 concert tour, all with the same exact set list of only seven full tunes, complete with all sorts of technical problems. No other band who never wanted to play the same song the same way twice ever released this many seemingly identical recordings. This one is obviously for diehard Yes fans, even more so than the trio of the long-running rock group, who generally think the whole thing is a bit crazy. (But makes money for them or they wouldn’t do it.)

Network Theory and Classical CDs – The BarabasiLab in Boston has published a study of the connections created between composers in recorded classical music. They looked at over 63,000 classical CDs and noted every time two composers were featured on the same disc, in order to build a network. 14,000 composers were represented and almost 10,000 of those were modern composers. Clear patterns emerged, showing how people connect. They found that classical music CDs are more narrowly tailored than a live classical concert. Unsurprisingly, certain composers dominated the data. The top 1% of composers accounted for 57% of all the connections that were measured in data thru 2009. But it also showed a “small world” property – where almost any of the 14,000 composers could be connected with another composer in a “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” style. The researchers found that “classical music is not a country; it does not have a border.”  The democratization of the recording process has allowed for an extraordinary number of composers to get their music recorded, even if it doesn’t find a large audience. Production is so democratized now that a small group can record a string quartet and sell it in a print-on-demand fashion. The study also found that modern music is very active, though the layman may not realize that.

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