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By Dr. Philip Baczewski, Associate Director of Academic Computing
In case you missed it, Apple Computer has started an online music store to work with it's iTunes music program. Of course, if you are a Windows user, you probably missed it, because iTunes, while free to Mac OS users, is not available for Windows, a bit of a marketing mistake on the part of Apple I think (they promise Windows version by the "end of the year"). However, for those of us sufficiently blessed to have access to OS X and iTunes, the iTunes Music Store is pretty slick technology.
To Serve Music
Apple has done a logical thing that the RIAA can't seem to get its
members to do (they're too busy
poor college students). They saw that people wanted the convenience
of downloading music from the Internet and made it available with
immediacy and at a somewhat reasonable price. Unlike other online
music services, there is no monthly fee associated with access to the
Apple Music Store. Instead, you pay as you go for whatever you
download and then have the right to that music for your personal use.
An Instant Hit
Apple announced the iTunes Music Store (that's its official name) on Monday, April 28 via one of those Steve Jobs shows held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. In the week that followed, Apple sold over a million tracks, including a large portion which was album sales . I doubt that they can sustain that sales pace, but there's no doubt it indicates that the iTunes Music Store is a hit with a large group of Mac users. They had about 200,000 tracks at the store's inception and over 100,000 were purchased in the first week. Apple states that this demonstrates that the store serves a "breadth of musical tastes" -- well, not that broad.
When I saw the announcement about iTunes and the music store, I
decided to give it a try, or at least try to see if it would be
useful. As a sometimes composer of art music (when I'm not busy
wrestling with computers), my musical tastes range from Andy Narell to
Zemlinsky. I decided to see if some of my recent purchases were
available from the iTunes store.
Taking the "Class" out of Classical
In poking around the iTunes store, I found numerous omissions
within the Classical music selections. Plenty of Tchaikovsky, but no
Gliere. One track of Glinka. One track of Borodin. Plenty of Ravel
and Debussy, but no MacDowell or Griffis, their American impressionist
counterparts. No Boulez (well, nobody actually listens to Boulez).
One track of Berio. No Varese. One track of Penderecki. No
Lutoslawski. No Stockhausen. One album of John Cage's piano music
(that one was a surprise). Only one title by Janacek (anybody see
"The Unbearable Lightness of Being"?). Only two works by Bruckner.
Plenty of Vivaldi, but no Corelli. A couple of tracks by John Adams,
but nothing by Philip Glass or Steve Reich (the latter two having had
quite a bit of crossover success in the non-virtual world). OK, I
could go on all day. Time to stop.
Perhaps you've never heard of some of the composers who I mention above. They would be discussed in any comprehensive music literature class (or at least, should be). I guess that's part of my problem. This store is intended for the U.S. market and Americans are rather illiterate when it comes to art music, or as we relegate the entire category: "Classical" music. I can't blame the American public, but I find Apple's online store akin to an online art store which offers works of Andy Warhol and Leroy Nieman but nothing of Jackson Pollock or Alexander Calder. On the other hand, perhaps I should congratulate Steve Jobs for being so in tune with American culture.