Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Love. What does it have to do with a van?

I did want to talk about it; I did want you to know. I'm telling you now: the van is coming to Rome (more precisely, to the musical festival of Capannelle). But wait; let's take it step by step, otherwise you won't understand a thing. 
Well, it all began - more or less - at the end of last year. The story I want to tell you started at that time. I used to drive my car listening to the three CDs of Mark Knopfler's last album, Privateering, which I had the luck to buy on Amazon, Deluxe edition. I don’t want to bore you with a review, though, for you can find one everywhere just by surfing on the Internet.
Instead, I'm going to explain to you what I did (make yourself at home, get yourself a drink maybe). After having listened to the first CD for a long time, I decided to skip the second one, for I was too curious about the third one, which is the one containing the bonus tracks. At first I wasn't so sure that buying it was worth it. I mean, you know, nowadays they're always giving you these bonus CDs and when you listen to those extra tracks you only think "well, they really made a good choice by leaving them out from the standard edition"
I feared such a thing. As I said, I'd already got a precise idea of what to expect. Until the day when I finally listened to it. Good heavens, after the first song, really good but not that transcendental (even if I appreciated some drum bridges very much), here comes a version of Cleaning My Gun that is more than amazing. I mean, can you believe that? I mean… if Mark (with or without van, it's not so important) is going to perform that song on stage at Capannelle (and you can bet I'll be there – I've got the ticket already), I don't know… I just can't ask for more.  Also the version of Sailing to Philadelphia is really good: calm and pleasant, as it should be. "Hill Farmer's Blues" came as a surprise to me, too, with its particular and penetrating guitar riff which seems to show you that things always happen for a reason; a good one. At least, that's what it says to me. And on this basis you can build strong structures. Sure you can, 'cause you've already affirmed the positive side of everything!
Now I can almost see you, telling me I've already deduced my moral from the situation. I could end like this, then. Yet it's not so and please don't go: wait (as you've not finished your drink yet, have you?). Actually, what I intended to say was a bit more elusive, decisive, and light, in a sense. It's the act of falling in love: yes sir. What always gets you. It screws all your plans, projects and strategies, your adaptation techniques, your surviving techniques. That comes always unexpected, like a sort of mystery. You can never tell. I'm not just talking about the love for a man, or for a woman. Not only. It's also about falling in love for a music, for a song, for a book, for a movie. Once it gets through your brain, new aspects, new points of view, new thoughts are free to run. You can feel energy running powerful through your veins. You feel alive.
I recollect some memorable artistic infatuations. For example, Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells 3. I've been listened to it for such a long time. It's got a particular, limpid energy… almost spiritual. The CD opens with the sound of the wind, that softly modulates a six notes structure, then reprised all through the album.  Well, guess what? Still now – more than a decade after its making – when I hear the wind noise I often link it to the notes of that disc. If I don't hear them with my own ears, then I add them by myself: I add them mentally, for I consider them as an indispensable complement. 
Another example is Kate Bush's Aerial. Now, as you probably know, actually it's a box set consisting of two CDs. Let me say, very chic. Maybe the most beautiful CD cover among her last works. The light shade of brown, the girl at the table. Her expression. The inkpot, the pen. The window, the tree outside. The joy of the small things, redeemed by a feast of smooth colors. Look at the girl's eyes. It seems it's not you regarding at her, but vice versa: she's probing your soul. She's the one stepping forward, in spite of her apparent stillness… Don't you agree? But ok, let's talk about music. The opening of the second disk is simply amazing. You can hear the delicate notes of the piano, the voice of a child talking expressing his touching childly wonder – The sky is full of bird! – and immediately the natural call of a turtledove which will play along with yo,u all through the CD. The piano gently beats on the rhythmic structure of the call; the music is built around it, little by little. And for me there's no other way to listen to it. Now when I hear the turtledove I imagine being inside the disk. If I hear its call, I imagine immediately the repeated notes of the piano. More than a fantasy. I hear them. Tu-tu--tuu. Tu-tu--tuu.
The Kate Bush album features this wonderful painting
By now, something similar happens to me towards the van (well, perhaps you'll understand better now). Yes, I'm talking about the van at the center of Mark Knopfler's CD cover. When I happen to see a van even remotely similar to that one, wandering the streets,  I look at it with a new affection, with a new quality of attention that I would never have granted it before.
The "famous" van of Mark, now it's also mine :)
Love, affection… they have something unique. It's something owning mysterious roots, something you organize and recreate your own perception of the world around.  This is true for the love of a life, for a passion, for something that arouses the sense of beauty – a work of art. There's no way. 
When it comes to love, everything has to be remodeled.
Romano Guardini used to say: "Within the framework of a great love, everything happens soon becomes an event." And as I understand it, the same dynamic applies to all kinds of love. Every thing through which, or person through whom, the sense of a universal beauty and harmony touches us.
Also through a simple van, so to speak.

From a post in Italian. The Author want to express its gratitude to Claudia Castellani for the  translation.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Rdio and Spotify, an endless river of music

And suddenly it happens. All your huge music collection, all the disks you patiently bought in years, one by one... Well from now on, in a certain sense, it is as if you could better not to buy them. As a matter of fact, if you subscribe to a service like Spotify or Rdio (that have just become available in Italy), you find yourself in front of a huge sea, a wonderful ocean of music - all open for you to explore.

Now you can listen not just to your collection, but to an extremely large archive. That probably already include all items of your collection, and much more. I know, I know. Technically speaking, there is an important difference. Your albums are... yours, you can listen to them whenever you want, while the access to this mare magnum typically cost you something. That is, around five Euro for month, or twice if you want to access it also from smartphone or tablet. Spotify actually allow you also to use the service for free, but then the streaming is annoyingly interrupted by commercials, and there are other restrictions, so that usually you get tired soon. At least, I'm already tired now.

Music can flows and never ends...
(Image by Brandon Giesbrecht licensed CC)

After a bit of testing and some oscillations between Spotify and Rdio, I chose - as someone else - to give my money to Rdio. My main reasons are listed in the following points 
  • Interface. The one of Rdio is clearer and cleaner in respect of the one of Spotify. Briefly, I found it more simple and enjoyable. Of course, it's a matter of taste.
  • The web. Rdio works nicely from your browser. Spotify cannot play a single note if you does not load its client.
  • Albums. OK, here I have to explain. I grew up collecting albums. Vinyl records, cassettes, in a first time. Then CD and after that, mp3 collections. Anyway, I was used to think and respect the fact that the music that I love (pop/rock, jazz, classical) is logically encapsulated in albums. I understand a thing if I can examine its boundaries, the interfaces between the object and the rest of the universe. To me, boundaries of musics are defined by albums. An album is a complete work, organic, indicative of a certain age and a certain path of artistic maturation of the people involved in it (that's also the reason I am not excited by anthologies, in passing). Now, let's say I want to add an album in my collection, on Spotify. What can I do? I can add the songs of the album to a playlist. But it's exactly what I do not want to do!  I want to get the album itself preserving its peculiar identity! On Rdio I can add the album to my collection. The album. Without having to grow a generic playlist. This is really important, for people like me.
  • Rdio does have Pink Floyd. Spotify does not have Pink Floyd. Things are, I do like much Pink Floyd.
  • There are other minutiae as well... with Rdio you can use a device as a remote controller to play music in another device. You can use iPad or iPhone to remotely control the musical flow you're playing on your desktop, for instance. Cute!
  • Quality (?). Take this with a grain of salt, but it seems to me that streaming on Rdio sounds a bit  more clear in respect to the one from Spotify. But it's a subjective impression obtained after just a few tests. Maybe I'm wrong.

On the minus side: I'm aware of one thing. One important thing. There is the empirical fact that almost everyone is on Spotify, now.  The social aspect is much more important, there. So, I'm sorry for my friend on Facebook, I will not be able to see what they are listening. But I feel better on Rdio.

At any rate, independently of your choice, it's evident that we are on the threshold of an entirely new way to listen to music. It will certainly change your paradigms. When it comes to decide what to listen to, well, you can now listen to... everything. I've seen messages on Facebook about people wanting to hear  (more or less) all the good music they have lost. This is a difficult task, since it may actually takes much time...

For me? Now, instead of listening to the Piano Sonatas by Mozart (an icon of classicity at its absolute best, trust me) as performed by one interpreter, I can choose each time a different pianist. I can appreciate the differences, I can even study them, if I want.

Quite inconceivable, few years ago.