Musical rumination, mid-July

Time for some musical catchup, as the certainties of the past seem to be shakier and shakier. I want to weave together a recent acquisition set, some thoughts on the prospects of Spotify as a game-changer, and a clutch of partly-formed thoughts on my own archives and prospects.

Yesterday I was in New Haven to visit Cliff Furnald of, one of my longtime suppliers of obscure CDs. He’s downsizing his personal collection of CDs and vinyl with a sale, and who could resist, since I was in Connecticut for the weekend. I spent more than an hour flipping through stuff and staggered out the door with 16 CDs and 11 LPs, worth listing here:

Trio Mio: Pigeon Folk Pieces (Denmark)
Ida Bittova-Kelarova: My Home Is Where I Am (Czech)
Polyphonica Tragoudia: Live in Pallas (Greece)
Mode Plagal (Greece)
Okay Temiz: Karnataka (Turkish-South Indian)
YoungHo Shu: Ajaeng Sanzo (Korea –bowed kyaegum [amazed to find THIS on Spotify!])
Erkan Ogur: Gülün Kokusu Vardi (Turkey [amazed to find THIS on Spotify!])
Grece En Chordais: Musique d’Asie Mineure et de Constantinople (Ottoman Diaspora)
Les Doigts de l’Homme: 1910 (Gypsy Jazz)
Möller, Källman, Ringdal: Vind (Sweden)
Ethiopiques: Ethio jazz & musique instrumentale 1969-1974 (Ethiopia)
Lakis & Achwach: Pandora’s Box (Neorembetiko und levantische musik)
Adrian Legg: Guitars and Other Cathedrals (British guitar)
Frankie Armstrong: Ways of Seeing (British folk)
Timo Alakotila: Konsertto (Finland)
Dick Gaughan: Call It Freedom (Scottish folk)

and a couple of other very recent acquisions on CD:
Turkish Freakout 2: Psych-Folk 1970-1978 (Turkey)
To What Strange Place: the muisc of the Ottoman-American Diaspora, 1916-1929 (Ottoman Diaspora)

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic: Faultline
The Incredible String Band: The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter
Robin Williamson and his Merry Band: A Glint at the Kindling
Martin Simpson: Sad or High-Kicking!
Martin Simpson: Grinning in Your Face
Richard Thompson: Starring as Henry the Human Fly
Richard Thompson: Live (more or less)
Richard Thompson: Hand of Kindness
The Bestiary of Flanders and Swann
Mákvirág: Bekesseg
Ioanna Georgakipoulou: I Rembetissa

In short, a familiar eclectic grab-bag, with a few baby hippopotamuses and some unexpected gems. It’s ever-clearer that the CD is almost done as a format –Cliff Furnald says he’s having more and more difficulty getting stuff as labels and distributors disappear and as more and more stuff is distributed in MP3 form in various channels.

Which brings me to Spotify, which I jumped upon when it opened its American service at the end of last week. I’ve opted for the Super service, primarily to explore the integration with the iPhone as a transport medium and play utility. For the trip to Connecticut I created a bunch of local playlists as I explored what Spotify offers, and I was amazed at its depth in some areas that I care about (but are anything but popular), like Ockeghem and Buxtehude. The quality seems excellent to my ears, but I guess I’m really not very choosy when it comes to the compression that goes with MP3 format. Anyway, it seems that I now have vastly more access to music I choose than I did before. What I don’t know yet is how Spotify will broaden my outreach to possible audiences, or (an even bigger question) how I might think differently about Audience given the possibilities now on the horizon. Clearly I can share playlists with other Spotify users, but I realize that what I want to be able to do is provide context for whatever I rediffuse: explanations, background, links to other stuff that might be of interest to putative listeners. But in fact it’s doubtful that there are listeners out there, given that everybody can do what I’m doing: construct the musical background to their own lives according to their interests and comfort levels. Of course media like radio programs are a theoretical possibility, and I just discovered that Cliff Furnald has a weekly program on WPKN, with a couple of years of archives at the site. I also greatly admire what Ian Nagoski is doing with Fonotopia, Dust to Digital, and To What Strange Place:

(Nagoski has 3 cuts on the third CD, narrating his take on “The early record business”, “America’s absorption of Ottoman minorities”, and “Here, I was born…” …and the 3 are absolutely worth the price of the 3-CD set all by themselves).

Anyway, I’m thinking about all of this, its implications and possibilities, as I listen to the new trove of sonic material. The iPhone’s capabilities have tremendously enlarged what I can have plugged into my ears, or into the several amplifiers scattered around the house and barn. I feel even more deeply enmeshed than I already was, and that doesn’t even touch the prospect of building new instruments which is occupying a lot of mental cycles these days. I’m within hours or days of starting on a very long-necked 3-course 6-string creation…

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