Giving the Gift of Music: Are CDs Still An Option?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 - 12:28 PM

Yesterday, I found myself thinking about CDs and gift giving. When I give CDs, I tend to put a lot of thought into the process. I carefully match the person or the occasion with the music. It can be fun, but sometimes I struggle.

So, I'm curious to know about your memorable gift giving and/or receiving moments. What was the CD and why was it a successful gift? Was it romantic? Great music for dinnertime? A new artist or composer that struck your fancy? Good music for walking in the park?

On the other hand, maybe I'm hopelessly behind the times and you're going to tell me that CD's are no longer the way to go? Is it all about downloading now?

If you have a minute or two, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

And, thanks!

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Comments [26]

Ted from Manhattan

I still prefer CDs. I have an iPod and never use it because symphonic music simply sounds muddy to me thru this medium. I know that mp3 is portable and takes up no space in my tiny apartment but I love listening to cds through my B&W speakers and how it fills my space with glorious music. Also, I like reading about the works and/or composer/musician(s) that is included in most liner notes.

Nov. 18 2010 10:08 AM
Dawn Taitt from Brooklyn

CD or download? It depends on the generation. For some of us older folks CDs are always welcomed. It show us that you took the time and effort into purchasing the item even though it could still be bought online and shipped without leaving the comfort of your home. As for the younger generation, they do not care how they get the songs as long as they can have it "yesterday!"
Midge, a couple of my favorite works are Brahms's "Schiksalsied." The other, "Dona Nobis Pachem" by Vaughan Williams. Just lovely. I peformed these pieces with my college choir. Enjoy!

Oct. 19 2010 09:12 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

Recently Ms Woolsey said, before a particular piece played, that she was happy to see the piece "on my play list this morning." (I think it was the "Lincolnshire Posy" by Grainger with the herb conducting.) In the "old days" DJs actually selected the music that was to be played. That was their on air persona and if you liked what you heard, you stayed with that DJ. It was radio at its best.

Why not have the courage to present people with your own "best hits?" For the less daring, a "best hits" of the receiver's favorite music. It can be of a particular piece, as I gave an example of, or a particular genre, composer, conductor, virtuoso, etc. You even have a precedent here at WQXR. At one of the prior fund raisers an mp3 player with selected music was "given" away with a particular level of donation. How the rights were worked out, I don't know, but then that's the nature of the WQXR business.

Besides, I won't tell.

In a movie I saw on Glenn Gould he looked forward to a time when listeners could select their own favorite versions of his playing - be the sound editor, in a sense, using supplied "master tapes." Gould played a piece in differing "styles" (differing Gould reveries) and sometimes couldn't decide on which he liked best. Of course what he didn't like was cut and redone. The tech to do that was available just a few years after his death (multi-media CDs, variable film endings, etc.) but didn't catch on.

The Woolsey-Gould-Bach-Goldberg Variations.

Oct. 19 2010 04:14 PM
Michael Meltzer

Winston Churchill said that a fanatic was someone who can't change their mind and won't change the subject!
Handbell people are just like that, too.

Oct. 19 2010 02:54 PM
Chris from Olympia, Wash.

Bells of the Sound, a professional handbell group based in Seattle, has a great holiday CD called Ring We Now Noel. It features Christmas music played in a way you probably haven't heard before; on seven octaves of handbells. Listen to some of their samples on their website: You can also purchase the CD there. The arrangements of these familiar melodies are full musical pleasures, full of the unique sounds of the bells, using a variety of techniques.

Oct. 19 2010 02:24 PM
Dave from New York City

For sure. Years ago, we had 33's, Cassett Tapes, DVD, and now Downloads. There are problems. There are expensive charges from the WEB and escallating Telephone Co. fees. Will new and improved products replace Downloads? U-Bet! I already know what the next impactive product replacement will BE as global markets prepares for it.

Oct. 18 2010 02:39 PM
EllenLouise from York, PA

Ripping/downloading music is a last option for me. I like having the liner notes and artwork/photos. Besides, having just (barely) survived a hard drive total crash I would never want to rely on that as my primary source of music.

Since Joan Sutherland's passing I have been listening to The Art of the Prima Donna - unsurpassable.

Oct. 18 2010 01:56 PM

Well Midge, my most wonderful cd gift has to be '' FIEDLER'S FAVORITE MARCHES''/ Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops. Giving to me by a dear friend who's also a march lover, its got them all....classical marches....symphonic marches.....and of course .....a few SOUSA classics! Its all American as only the Boston pops can deliver too with many fourth of July favorites. ( And this version of 'Stars & Stripes Forever'' may be my favorite of all time...punchy...joyful patriotic bliss!) A must have for any March music champ....

Oct. 14 2010 02:21 PM
Brian K from Cranford NJ

Hi Midge,
If I didn’t congratulate you before, let me extend my sincerest wish for your happiness as well as that of your lucky man. My wife and I met, ironically, through music. I say that because after we meet at traditional Celtic music we veer off in two opposite directions. She goes for the popular; I get more traditional and classical. Therefore, our CD buying for each other has always been hit or miss, unfortunately. You mention downloading…I never thought I’d be a lowdown downloader but they gave me an Ipod for Dad’s day and I have been going crazy since! I “ripped” through all my CDs and then started crawling through the net for stuff I could capture. Here’s where it got interesting: since it is one account, all the new stuff I downloaded was appearing on my wife’s Ipod too before I discovered the means of creating separate libraries. She furiously deleted all the Bach cantatas and early music etc. (She said, “I keep seeing that praying woman…” the album cover of a Binchois/Dufay recording!) but some selections she kept. I had bought some of my favorite Classic movie film scores and she likes a lot of that genre, if she knows the film. Who knew? I am going to covertly use this window to try and introduce her to the world of orchestral music. Next I’ll get her to a concert, after all, I have good-naturedly attended U2, Sting and Maroon 5 shows; and, even politely applauded! Are CDs compact dinosaurs? Hopefully not, but there is significant competition when it's cheaper to download an album than to buy the physical CD. One thing I worry about is the isolation factor. I blogged about this here b4 I think. In this age of MPG players people, especially kids, are sharing musical listening less and less. You once spoke of the family singing during long car trips. I related to that greatly and am sad to relate that our boys are hooked up to their individual devices on long trips in the ardent belief that everyones else's music is totally lame.

Oct. 14 2010 02:21 PM
Jim McCormack

Ever so briefly!

You can autograph a CD but not a download!

Oct. 14 2010 02:13 PM
Grady from Chicago

YES!!! YES!!!! YES!!!!

The problem today with downloaded music, via all vehicles, is that the BITRATE aka QUALITY is not as good as the full amplitude or WAV file. In fact, I have done a full reversal in digital music. I am now on the hunt for CD's again, and then ripping them to iTunes via APPLE LOSSLESS (as close to WAV as possible with NO amplitude loss), then I am listening to them digitally on my iPod, etc. 128/192/356/320 kbps are still too low. You CAN hear the difference, and with classical it is even more prevalent! I AM READY TO PAY FOR CD's AGAIN!! I hope that answers your question, maybe in a different light. BTW, I am listening to you via iTunes Radio, Thank you!

Oct. 14 2010 02:08 PM
Robert Elden from New York City

My fervent wish is that CDs will remain an option for collectors everywhere and more personally, for myself. For me the tangible feeling of holding a jewel case in my hands with all of its pertinent information about the performing artists and perhaps the history of the work(s) contained therein, is a very satisfying and exciting anticipatory experience - unlike anything you can experience with a computer download.
My two most favorite gift-giving recordings are: (1) the Victoria de los Angeles/Dietrich Fischer Dieskau version of Faure's Requiem - the purity and sublimity of hearing Ms. de los Angeles' voice has for me never quite been equaled, and, (2) the Michel Beroff and Jean-Philippe Collard recording of the Brahms Hungarian Dances & Waltzes version for two pianos. I defy anyone to sit still while listening to this recording - it exudes joy, excitement, unbridaled youth and happiness.
These are two of my most favored and cherished recordings among many. I sincerely hope that you have the opportunity to share all and/or parts of them with your listeners.

Oct. 14 2010 02:02 PM
George Jochnowitz from New York, NY

The best CD gift I ever received was the complete piano music of Claude Debussy recorded by Bennett Lerner. The simultaneously clear and emotional performances taught me to appreciate and understand Debussy's music.

Oct. 14 2010 01:59 PM

Predrag Vasic -

You can burn your own CD's, you can still get the album art and print CD covers. You can get infinitely more information on composers and recordings now than you could ever get in the LP and CD eras. There is nothing lost here.

Oct. 14 2010 01:50 PM
Emily Mikulewicz from Weehawken, N.J.

I am happy for any music given to me on CD. Since I usually buy for myself CDs I can't risk not owning, I find I learn to know music I would not have bought through gifts.

Oct. 14 2010 01:49 PM

Charles Connell from New Vernon, NJ -

Don't worry, there are still plenty of CD's around, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc.

The music from the hard drive might be ripped CD's, after all, WNYC and WQXR both had huge libraries. But it is a huge amount of work to do the ripping. Almost everything you could want, from Patch, Nancarrow, Varese, up to Adams (both), Golijov, Nico Muhly and Ethel - it's all available for purchase in .mp3, high quality, at least from Amazon.

Mp3's are generrally way cheaper than CD's. So, better maybe to sell the CD's and use the money to buy .mp3's.

This biggest .mp3 project I every bought was Henry Brant's 9 CD set, produced by my firends at (American Composers Forum, St. Paul, MN ). I did not even know it existed until my friend Marvin Rosen at WPRB, Princeton, did a whole prrgam devoted to Brant's work.

A couple of years ago, I went all digital. So, I ripped all of my CD's, and now I buy everything in .mp3, mostly from Amazon; but also, Bang on a Can from their label, Canteloupe; and work by Nico Muhly I just bought at Bedroom Community's site.

I have 194 gigs of music in .mp3.

I gave away all of my CD's, most of my analogue sound equipment. So, now everything is totally portable. My music is on 1 terabyte external hard drives, two at home (one is for redundancy) and one at work. Everything is also on my four 120 gig Zune mp3 players.

I just did all of this, and I am nearly seventy. So, there is hope for everyone.

Oct. 14 2010 01:46 PM
Mike Keenan

I will purchase CDs as long as they are available. Computers crash, iPods crash. If you do not have a hard copy you have the ability to lose some or all of your music at any time.

Once I have the CD I upload it to iTunes and then put it on my iPod. The iPod or equivalent MP3 players are great for having music with you at all times. But you will cry when someday they all crash and burn and your backup is gone as well

Oct. 14 2010 01:31 PM
Alan Polinsky from Brooklyn

Compact discs are a wonderful medium. They can be much more abused than records, yet retain their original fidelity for many years. It is possible to obtain music from the Internet. I subscribe to a service called Magnatune, that allows you to download compact disc quality recordings. There are others. I find it much more convenient to put a disc in a player as opposed to playing it on a computer. If you like a disc can always be transferred to a computer, but too often music sent on the Internet has been stored in an MP3 format which loses fidelity in the compression. The liner notes are an added bonus, though I do prefer the size of an LP record for reading those notes.

Oct. 14 2010 01:29 PM
Predrag Vasic

Just to chime in on the fat of CDs, as they face the onslaught of iTunes.

LPs (vinyl) have been reasonably resilient, in that you may still find a store that will sell you a turntable, as well as a store that sells (used) LPs.

Most likely, CDs will follow the same path. Ever since iTunes launched their successful online store, the trend has been consistent. Liner notes haven't gone away, though; they just became 'virtual'. So, the primary disadvantage of the new world of downloads is the lack of physical element; the ability to touch, leaf through, lend or borrow, put under a tree, hide under a pillow... We'll just have to think of some other way to make up for that.

Oct. 14 2010 01:28 PM
Charles Connell from New Vernon, NJ

CD's must be going the way of 8-track tapes. The wonderful Clayelle Dalferes told me recently that WQXR doesn't use CD's any more - that the music is delivered from a hard drive. Maybe the music got to the hard drive from CD's but this must be the wave of the future.

Oct. 14 2010 01:16 PM
concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

You are not behind the times. I have a wonderful collection of cds that will last many years because they do not degrade like my lps have done. I started collecting 33 lps in the 50s and most of them have degraded in sound quality. As for gift giving, I gifted a dear friend of the family with a 2 disc set of Fritz Wunderlich. She is from Austria and really was so happy to get this set. As for downloading, not all of us are geeks. Since I am in my 70s, some of this new stuff is confusing. Hope you are well. Best wishes

Oct. 14 2010 01:12 PM
roger from sao paulo

when i was in ny and driving a taxi, my taxi was a van with a cd player, on which i played all sorts of music, derived from my own copies of cd's i owned. anytime anyone expressed an interest in a piece or a performer, i would give them a cd. i made many nice friends that way. since they almost all were hearing the music for the first time (that's why they noticed it), i got to act as a sort of johnny appleseed of notes and tones, and turned many people on to music and musicians they might not have heard otherwise.

the audio advertising loop from the bloomberg people got in the way of this noble endeavor, and around that time i changed jobs and locations -- none too soon, perhaps.

i think you have a blog on a similar subject!

Oct. 14 2010 01:03 PM
Matthew Beland from Madison NJ

A beloved college professor of my gave me "Der Ring ohne Worte" (The Ring without Words), Lorin Maazel's orchestral highlights of Wagner's Ring Cycle. It was my introduction to Wagner, and I have always been grateful for it.

Re: CDs versus downloading, I really appreciate the liner notes and contextual information that come with the CDs I have. I don't get the same feel with my downloads. I hope CDs don't die anytime soon.

Oct. 14 2010 12:41 PM
Michael Meltzer

Over the years, from time to time I would have the opportunity to do some work that was of help to some concert artist, and afterward I would sometimes receive a "thank you" CD. That little collection is very special to me, and listening to those CD's is a warmer and more personal experience than to the ones I've purchased.
On the other hand, although I've given some CD's as gifts, I never feel quite right giving a gift made of plastic, as beautiful as the music may be. It's just a personal quirk, but to me, plastic is a symbol of everything that's wrong with the modern world, and handing someone a plastic box feels cheap.
I know that LP's were vinyl, but still, the packaging at least had an artistic look and an organic feel. As I say, a quirk.

Oct. 14 2010 04:16 AM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

I very long time ago, sometime before the age of Napster, I happened on a version of "Am I Blue" by a singer that I thought at the time was Billie Holiday. I tried to buy a Billie Holiday CD with "Am I Blue" but even though there were many Holiday CDs available, none had "Am I Blue."

Somehow, I don't remember how, I determined that the singer was named Lillian Boutté. Not being a major recording star, there weren't any CDs of her music for sale. There were some from Europe available over the Internet but they didn't have track listings. I didn't see any point in buying CDs on the off chance I might actually get the song I wanted. Such was and is the nature of the recording industry.

With the meteoric rise of Napster I was able to get multiple versions of "Am I Blue." After telling this story to a friend I made a CD with the many versions I'd found and gave it away.

I'm listening to it right now and it really is interesting, though not party material or I guess even background music for a gathering. At least not the usual sort of listening material. Unfortunately since the CD I happened to find is an audio version (for a CD player rather than computer - cda, not mp3 or wave) I'm not sure of all the singers any more. No text clues. Just voices of varying fame, at least to me.

This list is a bit more than what's on the CD, but gives some idea of the range I'd found.

Annette Hanshaw
Barbra Streisand
Bette Midler
Billie Holiday
Brenda Lee
Connie Francis
Dinah Washington
Eddie Cochran
Elena Suchankova
Ethel Waters
George Strait
Hoagy Carmichael and Lauren Bacall
Judy Garland (unreleased 1969 with Johnny Ray)
Lillian Boutté
Linda Ronstadt
Milton Brown
Ray Charles
Rita Coolidge
Ruth Brown
Willie Nelson

Jonathon Schwartz often plays multiple versions of the same tune. This is along those lines. One time, when Schwartz played the Diane Keaton rendition from Annie Hall, I thought of this CD that I'd made.

Of course all this is highly criminal activity and I've, in Mission Impossible style, just vaporized the CD.

P.S. I see Amazon now has a Boutté CD with the song. An import. :P

Oct. 13 2010 11:11 PM

Two stories I remember.

When we were dumped out of daytime music by WNYC, I found my way to WCNY, Syracuse ( along with KUSC, Los Angeles and WCPE, Winston Salem). Syracuse had lots of snow days for school kids. I found out from the Program Manager that they had no copies of "Peter and the Wolf", wonderful for young kids at home. I liked the Basil Rathbone, he liked the Boris Karloff. So, I sent both.

When wnyc2 was being born, I was so enamored that I sent in my three "desert island discs: "Herbie Mann at the Village Gate", Keith Jarrett's "Koln Concert", and the original great Arvo Part CD, "Tabula Rasa". I did hear on wnyc2 and now sometimes on Q@ parts of the "Koln Concert". Whenever Q2 streams something from the "Tabula Rasa" CD, I wonder if it was my CD they ripped.

Oct. 13 2010 08:28 PM

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