Sunday, July 17, 2016

Going through my CD collection

I have hundreds of CDs of "classical" music, arranged alphabetically by composer on shelves in the bedroom of the Chicago apartment. My wife suggests every now and then that we move the shelves somewhere else, so I occasionally come up with schemes to justify keeping them there. My latest one is playing every CD over the course of this year, all of them in the car, because:

a) I drive every day, and that's the best chance to listen to music;

b) The sound system in the car is amazingly good. (In fact, I think back to the first stereo that I bought from my pocket money, in the 1970s, and the better ones that I got in my twenties, and marvel at the fact that the sound in the Toyota Corolla is better than they ever were).

Note that I put the word "classical" between inverted commas. It's not a term that I particularly like, as it comes with so many assumptions, particularly from people who say they don't like that kind of music. But whatever we call it (I prefer a term used by a musician friend of mine, "written-down music"), that's almost the only thing I listen to.

First observation: going through the collection alphabetically only lasted through the B's. After listening to Bach for several weeks, jumping straight to Beethoven was a profound shock to the ears. I love both composers about equally, and it was certainly interesting to realise once again just how different Beethoven's music is to the Baroque forms of Bach's music. But I decided to switch tack, and listen to the music in historical sequence.


It's good to hear music that I am familiar with, and it's better to listen to music that I haven't heard in a long while. One such is Bach's Musical Offering, which if memory serves me right can be played and recorded in varied ensembles, because Bach didn't specify the instruments in the score. The recording I have is scored for a wide ensemble of orchestral instruments, definitely not the stripped down version of the Original Instruments movement. It's similar in sound to the extract posted above. The chromatic tone row of the ricercar is endlessly absorbing, don't you think?

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