Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Last Roses of Summer?

OK, so this latest hiatus has been ridiculous, to the point that you might well wonder if I'd stopped blogging for good. (Would that mean I'd started blogging for evil?) But, it's always been my intention to get back to it - there's just an enormous amount of inertia to overcome the longer one of these gaps lasts. I've also managed to get behind on a number of non-blog projects, so it's been hard to justify taking the time to put a post together, but here I am. I think it's fair to say that Twitter has consumed some of my potential blogging energy, but it's also been a source of lots of interesting discoveries, inspirations, etc. If you don't *do* Twitter, I can't pretend it's the easiest thing to make sense of from the outside, but I am ever followable there at www.twitter.com/MMmusing. Also, my first 1000 (!) tweets are archived here.

I could be wrong, but it sometimes seems to me that the classical music blogosphere is less energized than it was when I first started at this in 2007. Of course, it could just be that the blogs I follow the most have gone through natural cycles of diminishing activity. It is a lot of work to keep the content flowing, and I strongly suspect that Facebook and Twitter have each served to siphon off some blogging energy. While it's easy to be critical of that, what I would say, in Twitter's favor at least, is that it facilitates a kind of regular back-and-forth dialogue that is harder to achieve with a blog - but, depth of content is inevitably lost, just as blogs provide less depth (but more sense of two-way communication) than journals and the like. So, I'm committed to get back on track here. Goodness knows, I've written dozens of blog posts in my mind this summer. (They were all brilliant!)

Well, anyway, I'm here today to report on a minor bit of Twitter inspiration that reminds me how much I love the back-and-forth of the Internet. It began with a couple of Twitterers posting about this astonishing story, in which music industry types are revealed to be seeking payment for the 30-second audio samples iTunes provides in its online store. I realize the intent is probably to get iTunes to pay up behind the scenes, not to make users pay directly for each sample sampled, but nevertheless, it's hard to imagine how the music industry can't see that free samples are a valuable advertising tool.

Still, if I'm honest, I'll admit that I often use iTunes free samples as a way to check up on tempi, performance style, etc. without a real intent to buy. Even more intriguing is the rare iTunes sample that actually is an entire work, making a purchase seem altogether pointless. A few years back, Scott Spiegelberg had a post about the shortest complete tracks on his iPod; that led me to think about the shortest complete pieces I could think of, and I remembered Ned Rorem's tiny little setting of Gertrude Stein's "I Am Rose." Sure enough, it appears four times on iTunes, in lengths ranging from 19 to 30 seconds. (Go to the iTunes Store, search "rorem am rose," and you can hear them all.) So, as I commented on Scott's blog way back then, you can essentially get this song for free.

I was reminded of this by the "let's charge for samples" story, and so I tweeted about the songs briefly here. (I realize that "briefly" is a redundancy where Twitter is concerned.) A couple of tweets later, the thought of four sopranos being timed on this song gave me excuse to plug my "Callas vs. Fleming" mashup from March, and the MMmusing wheels were pretty much in motion. As I tweeted next, "...if you've been following my past few posts & if you know me well (wife nods, frowning), you'd know this had to happen: http://tr.im/zmkO." So, yes, I tossed these four bits of Rorem into a little collage, made all the more delightful by the variations in tuning among the pianos involved. There's a lot more I'd like to say about this, but why waste material that could make another blog post? So, for now, I just leave you with this little oddity, with animations I added this evening. Enjoy!


Elaine Fine said...

I'm glad you're back, Michael. You'll never catch me having anything to do with twitter, and facebook lost its charm very quickly for me, though I did give it a try.


Hi Elaine,

I understand what you're saying. I'm actually on Facebook pretty rarely now, although I do value it as a way to share pics with family, etc. And I've made some good re-connections with people.

As for Twitter, there have definitely been times when it's occupied too much of my time, although I think I've gotten a good hold on that. It's really quite difficult to describe what makes it worthwhile, although I can assure you it's more than just people writing about what they had for breakfast. Almost every media description of Twitter and virtually every critique of Twitter (by non-Twitterers) dismisses it on that basis.

I'll be blogging in the days ahead about some of the fun and interesting stuff that I've encountered on Twitter - not with the intent of persuading anyone to join, but simply to communicate something about its unique qualities.