RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images
It's very tempting ... CDs (albeit pirated ones) being crushed by a steamroller in Colombia.
It's very tempting ... CDs (albeit pirated ones) being crushed by a steamroller in Colombia. RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images
Should classical music lovers take their prized recording collections into the cloud? That's the conundrum I'm facing, and I suspect that I'm not the only one. So I thought that today I'd tap into the collective wisdom of our readership to share best practices and ideas for dealing with all the accumulated stuff — the stuff that's both the prize and the bane of the serious music fan.
The "cloud" is one enticing solution. Store all of your music online, and just access it through the Internet. A few taps at the keyboard and — presto — instantaneous access to more music than anyone could possible hear or digest in a single lifetime. The allure is real. Just picture all that suddenly found space in one's house, all the new hours of leisure not dedicated to endless filing and organizing.
I find myself in a similar position to Jon Pareles, who recently wrote about this issue from a pop critic's perspective for the New York Times. As a frenzied devotee of not just classical music but of artists and styles from literally the world over, I already am all too aware that services like Rdio and MOG, let alone what I can imagine will be available through the yet-to-be-launched iTunes Match, can't possibly offer enough to satisfy a fussy super-specialist like me.
Meanwhile, the ever-present issues about metadata as they relate to classical music are nowhere near solved. (No, Bach isn't an "artist," and how do you search for recordings? By conductor? Operatic soloist? Orchestra?)
Moreover, there's the ever-present and very real issue of sound quality. A lossy download is never going to sound like a CD, let alone an LP, and FLACs take up a lot of space. (Lossy? FLAC? Check out this quick primer to audio file format names and meanings.) And much of classical music sounds downright terrible — if you can hear it at all — on an iProduct with standard-issue earbuds.
And there's the tactile thrill of holding a recording in your hands as a solid, weighty and valuable thing, one that hopefully includes illuminating and entertaining liner notes, full libretti as applicable and fabulous album art. So maybe it's just easier walk across a room and pull a CD off a shelf than to fire up the Internet and go hunting for the music we crave.
These issues plague me as a dedicated music fiend. At home, we have about 9,000 to 12,000 albums scattered across CDs, hard drives, laptops, boxed sets, portable music players and smart devices of various stripes, not to mention the 78s, reels and cassettes that are consigned to dusty corners. Honestly, I have no idea how much we have anymore — there's no master catalog, except what my husband and I carry around in our heads. (And that's not that much.)
For the titles that we still want to keep in CD hard copy, plastic sleeves have been absolutely fabulous; we have a couple of floor-to-ceiling cabinets filled with sleeves inside of little more-or-less labeled boxes, labeled by genre and then within that, by alphabetical order, and within that, by album or work title. And we've managed to winnow our LPs down to a manageable amount.
But all that organizing and alphabetizing is hugely time-consuming, and now there are albums which I'd really like to have in my pocket but which are still imprisoned in plastic-sleeve jail at home. We've done high-quality transfers onto hard drives here and there, but now I'm getting worried about having no clue what music is on which drive at any given moment.
I asked my Deceptive Cadence blogmate Tom Huizenga how he's coping with a similarly skewed music-to-storage-space ratio. The sheer volume is a big hurdle for him, he says: "It would be an immense job converting my 7,000 CDs into audio files. I always say, we'll have plenty of space once we move into a bigger home. Still we're out of room now, and I've taken to storing discs at the office — on shelves, on my desk and underneath it in crates." Hmm. That doesn't sound exactly perfect, as solutions go.
So I'm starting to wonder if our household wouldn't be wise to make another jump more fully into the cloud — though of course there's always going to be recordings that I just have to have right in front of me, in all of their full, physically present glory. And so I'm turning to the Deceptive Cadence readership in all of your wisdom and experience. Where are you getting — and keeping — your music these days? Are any of you migrating your collections into the cloud? What's your dream scenario? And how do you possibly keep track of it all?