So, as I mentioned recently, Jason and I signed up for a trial account with Tidal, the full-resolution music streaming service that offers millions of songs that can be heard at the click of a mouse. As we enter into the second week of the trial, I’m saddened to say that we haven’t used it all that much.
Now, before making any harsh judgments, my fair reader, I think it only reasonable that I take a moment to explain our reasons for not using Tidal over the past week. It all boils down to one simple factor: time.
Listening is a process. I’ve said this many times, but listening to music and hearing music are two very different activities. We did not want to abuse the enormous catalog that Tidal offers on music that would only be heard. We want to listen. And listening takes time, effort, concentration, and focus.
This week has seen a major holiday, complete with a visit from my parents; the last week of classes at the university where I teach, and the accompanying avalanche of grading, meetings, and special projects; the approach of a major deadline for a course Jason is taking for work; and the approach of Christmas and all that entails.
We were pretty excited to show Tidal off to my parents during their visit. It was kind of fun to say, “Name a band you haven’t heard in forever,” and to be able to pull up their complete discography with a few clicks. I wasn’t even manning the controls, and I felt a little like a musical magician, pulling musical memories out of thin air. Plus, we got to hear Spooky Tooth, so win-win!
After the folks left, Jason and I settled in for a sigh and some cocktails. That’s when we did our only listening of the week (in between catching up on TV shows and Youtube subscriptions). We listened to something Jason had heard about from a friend (at least I think that’s where it came from – I could ask, but he’s studying, and I don’t want to interrupt). A songwriter, guitarist, and DJ from England who calls himself Fink performed a concert in Amsterdam with the Royal Concertgebouw. He had heard one song from the album on Youtube, a stunning fusion of a folk-rock like song with a swelling orchestral accompaniment. We wanted to hear the rest. So we did.
The concert, and as such, the album, contains several orchestral arrangements of Fink’s songs, which the artist describes as being in a style of “indie folk,” “pounding blues,” and “atmospheric trippery.” Now add to that one of the most well-respected orchestras in Europe, and the result is quite stunning! In addition to Fink originals, the album also contains his performance of Henry Purcell’s “What Power Art Thou” (from the 1691 semi-opera King Arthur) and moderns instrumental compositions by Christopher Rouse (The Infernal Machine) and Charles Ives (The Unanswered Question). All in all, it’s very modernistic (yes, even with music that is over 300 years old) and powerful.
So, here’s the thing. I think I’m getting over my apprehension about letting go of the physical artifacts that I have always associated with listening. As it turns out, I haven’t really used them for their intended purpose in a long time. And even though we haven’t had a chance to use it as much as we’d hoped, I have a feeling we will be making the transition from trial users to Tidal subscribers once our 30 days is up.
Why? Practicality more than anything. As much as I love the hunting and gathering nature if our exploration in used CD shops, the fact of the matter is that there just aren’t that many of them any more. As far as we can tell, the nearest one to us is in Atlanta – a forty-five minute drive away. I’ll probably still want to take a peek whenever I’m in the neighborhood, but the practice we had of buying a few CDs a month has simply become unsustainable from where we’re living.
Also, from a purely financial standpoint, Tidal is a really good deal. Sure, Spotify is cheaper (truthfully, I’ve used Spotify for years, and I’ve never paid for it), but the sound quality is lacking. If I want background music while I clean the house, cook, or drive, Spotify is fine. It’s particularly good for pulling up listening examples in the classroom, where sound quality is not an issue. But for intensive, critical listening, full resolution sound is totally worth $20 a month. We’d spend that much on our used CD excursions, and this way, we don’t have to worry about whether or not we can find most things (there are a few things I’ve noticed aren’t available, but that is for another day, after I’ve had more time to play “Stump Tidal”), and we get a lot more for our money.
Now, all we need is the ever elusive time to listen…
Seriously, check out this live recording. Fink Meets the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (2012). It’s really diverse in terms as styles and moods, but it’s cool. I’ve heard it two or three times now, and I find myself wondering about the audience for such a performance.
Just what kind of person is a fan of “indie folk,” “pounding blues,” “atmospheric trippery,” Henry Purcell, Christopher Rouse, AND Charles Ives???? I guess I am…
Molly M. Breckling holds a Ph.D. in Historical Musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her areas of research interest are the songs of Gustav Mahler, popular music, and music history pedagogy. Her goal is to help others listen to music more actively and to develop a greater appreciation for the music that surrounds us every day.