In the August 10 issue of The New Yorker , Alex Ross writes, “with a few clicks on my computer keyboard, I travelled in time to 1943. On November 28th of that year, Arturo Toscanini led the NBC Symphony in orchestral excerpts from the Wagner operas. A remastering of the performance is available from the Web site Pristine Classical, which offers historic recordings in various downloadable formats. I selected a CD-quality version, paid with a credit card, and within minutes had gone into the golden age of radio. … By now everyone is accustomed to extracting music from the Internet, but until recently the only practicable online format was the MP3, which compresses the original in the interest of saving space. … The latest hard drives can accommodate hundreds of gigabytes of information … classical listeners can finally shop online without fear of having their Mahler emasculated. Internet-based labels like Pristine let you choose among higher-quality MP3s, ‘lossless’ files (nothing is lost from the CD), and versions that exceed the CD standard. … But these meandering journeys across the Internet soundscape can be taxing. The medium too easily generates anxiety in place of fulfillment, an addictive cycle of craving and malaise. … This may explain why the archaic LP is enjoying an odd surge of popularity among younger listeners: it’s a modest rebellion against the tyranny of instant access.”

Posted August 5, 2009