16 January, 2009


GRAMOPHONE: Now FREE on line almost in its ENTIRETY

The UK classical music magazine GRAMOPHONE, certainly by far the longest-living magazine of its class (continuously published since 1923), and an industry benchmark, has in recent years made much of its content available online, but not to the extent now.

Gramophone has recently revamped its interface, and now, after a short registration, you can read almost the ENTIRE magazine archive/back issues, except for the most recent 2 issues!

Click here for the site.

"...The Gramophone Archive has been created using a process called Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Optical Character Recognition allows a computer to 'read' scanned versions of original magazine pages...". This means (by using Acrobat) you can read the magazine page by page. For those of you with fast computers this is a breeze, but for me it's a little cumbersome. However, isn't it "great" we live in this world of free newspapers and magazines?

The text will not always be read completely accurately, but most of it is. Of course, you can still search the vast archive for whatever you like, and it's a great source of information.

Sometimes we (including me) criticize these magazines (like we do hifi magazines) for praising too much and criticizing too little, particularly regarding all things English. However, careful perusal shows they criticize as many recordings, and damn even more with faint praise. Read it for a while, compare it with your own experience and you shall find critics that you share similar taste with, and know who not to rely on. For myself, I particularly enjoy Rob Cowan's brief surveys of historical re-issues.

What is undeniable is that the magazine is a great source of information and full of talented writers who have spent their entire lives listening to music. Yes, for a salary, but also for the love of it. Use it wisely and you shall learn a lot from it.

There are a lot of young firebrands now who claim the magazines are good for nothing, and "objective" stuff is ONLY available on the internet. There is a kernel of truth in that, but the proposition is unfortunately one flawed in logic and even perilous. Writers and Editors are not paid for nothing. If someone cannot even write decent English, or Chinese or whatever language for that matter, would you like to read their stuff in the first place? Come on, just because it's free? Read some of the writing, and you shall realize the mediocrity of most of what passes for music reviews in our Chinese hifi magazines and internet.

And how does the uninitiated sift out the bad from the good, in the vast sea that is the internet? One cannot achieve that without considerable experience. There's no short-cut, no substitute for experience. In hifi, I have seen by far too many young people researching on the net what's the "best" in this and that. But how do they choose who to trust and who not to? And just what do they end up with? I can tell you, usually nothing good. Same with classical music. You have to pay your dues. How much is up to your hearing abilities, but pay you must. The collective experience is not a personal experience.

There are good internet magazines and even more bad ones, but it'd be hard to get up to the level of the Gramophone, not to mention the American Record Guide for that matter. Maybe a survey is due in the future.

Meanwhile, happy browsing.

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