29 August 02004

An embarrassment of riches

I am listening to Track 8 on a D.O.R. sampler CD that came free with The Wire magazine. The packaging gives no track information, so the piece is anonymous to me. If, 15 or even 5 years ago, I had heard it on an a radio programme adventurous enough to play this ambient mix that starts off evoking Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis with noodling bass and Indian hand drums, and accelerates towards a more qawaali feel, I would have pricked up my ears and been excited by it. I might have followed up by trying to find out more about the artist. Now I'm not sure if I'll even bother to put the CD in my Mac to see if there's a tracklisting on its data partition.

This stuff used to be rare. Now you can't move without tripping over free samples of it.

It used to be hard and expensive to make and put out something like this. It could be hard and expensive to find it and buy it too. I was one one of the arcana enthusiasts keen enough to do just that from time to time. (People often don't understand when I explain the irk I feel when I see that an album I ordered through a specialist at premium price is now stacked in Fopp, remastered and with extra tracks of course, for £5). Now the overheads of production and distribution — if not composition — have been cut and anyone can do it. Many wonderful people are doing it.

The point of this story is: we already have an embarrassment of riches. And with these riches come the diseases of affluence: careless listening, gorging ourselves on so much music that senses are dulled and we no longer taste what we consume, devaluinq music and wasting it. Citizens of 02004 throw away more music than citizens of 01984 needed to live.

Often I leave free sampler CDs unopened. I didn't ask to be given this beautiful music. We already have an embarrassment of riches. Prepare for more.

(In the course of writing this posting, I found the CD tracklisting on the web. Track 8 is from Koan's Prana and Drum album. Ironically perhaps it was in fact recorded without any of the latest hi-tech low-cost methods.)

Posted by David Jennings in section(s) Cultural Calendar, Future of Music on 29 August 02004 | TrackBack

This story wasn't supposed to be about 'cover mount' CDs per se (the CD with The Wire is only available to subscribers), but there's a related article on this topic in The Guardian today. Uncannily it also uses the term "an embarrassment of riches" in the first paragraph.

Thanks again to Five Eight for this link.

Posted by: David Jennings on 1 September 02004 at 12:00 PM

And now, possibly for a limited period only, you can get Five Eight's report on covermount CDs free of charge from their shop.

Posted by: David Jennings on 11 September 02004 at 3:09 PM
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