Monday, May 11, 2009

Wynton Marsalis CD and charm of CD sleeve notes.

Recently when I stepped into my favorite book store "Borders" I was apalled to find entire rows of CD/DVD's marked 50% discount. 'Borders' is in deep crisis and they had closed many underperforming stores so I stepped up to an empoyee and asked if they are closing too, the guy insolently answered,without even looking at me "look at the notices posted". The notices said that since buying CD's at stores has declined they are doing away with stocking lot of CD's, especially one that is not a hot album or a recently released label. The notice also complained against music companies that charge heavily for CD's, the competition from online downloading etc. Apple iTunes crossed 1 billion downloads a year ago. One can sample individual tracks and buy just tracks that we like not pay for an entire CD. The music industry is in a churn due to this. Also the recent development of dropping DRM (digital Rights management) has enabled Apple to sell DRM free better sounding music.

I normally pick a CD, listen to a few tracks in the store listening device (only Barnes and Noble provides this). I had earlier listened to Willie Nelson + Wynton Marsalis duo in a wonderful album. Marsalis is a trumpet player (sounds better than trumpeteer). Yesterday in the classics section I saw a CD titled "Classics by Wynton Marsalis" after sampling a few tracks I loved it and bought it.

The sleeve notes had interesting info on a composer little known to laymen like me. The notes said that Marsalis, like most trumpet players, practiced Joseph Jean Baptist Laurent Arban's "bible for trumpet players" and especially the difficult to play "the carnival of venice". That piece is sheer pyrotechnics. Check out

Intrigued by all this info I checked out wikipedia and found that Arban had written the carnival in the lines of what Paganini did for the violin in his "24 Caprices". He wrote that music to prove that the trumpet is a good solo instrument and he wrote it in such a way to bring out the best of the instrument while taxing the player at his/her best virtuosic talent. This also brings to mind Bach's Well Tempered Clavier for the keyboard. All these pieces are sheer joy because they scale the peaks of music by intricately bringing to the fore each instrument's peculiarities, something possible only when music is written FOR the instrument.

With the death of audio CD's and a nicely written sleeve note I doubt if I ever would have embarked on such fact finding. Of course in iTunes one can read up on reviews etc but its not structured and I may have missed this nugget.

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