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8 thoughts on “Does Music Played in a Metadata Void Actually Make a Sound?

  1. John Diliberto

    Hey Marc-A good piece about an issue that’s been bugging me.
    BTW, I believe there are NO ECM titles on any streaming service. Manfred is too much of a sonic purist for his own good. Remember, all ECM CDs have 6 seconds of silence before the music starts because Stockhausen was upset that the music started before he settled in his chair to listen. Apparently, he couldn’t figure out a remote control.

  2. Seth

    This is exactly what the Producers and Engineering Wing at NARAS is doing. They are working with DDEX to create a standard called RIN (Recording Information Notification):

    This is an attempt to create a standard that will allow for those liner notes, and personnel listings. The other thing that would bind the audio file to the metadata is an audio watermark and that is something that Digimarc is working on:

    Sorry for all the links and tech talk, its something that is incredibly passionate to me as well!

  3. Wilson Biggs

    Much of what you mention in this article was actually intended to be solved in the specification for ID3v2 – the ‘TEXT’ frame is for songwriting credits, TMCL is for musician credits, TIPL is for other credits, TOPE is for original artists (for cover songs), TPUB is for the publisher / record label, etc. In addition, lots of info can be put in the COMM (Comments) field – including liner notes. However, a big issue is the lack of use / support of these fields by music distribution services and software – largely due to the amount of time and effort it takes to fill these out compared to how useful users find them. I feel that these should all be filled out on principle, but in reality, it just takes a really long time to do.

    One common solution to this is to distribute music with images of the front, back, and inserts of the CD. However, these are often ignored by listeners (as they’re not readily accessible from most music software, apart from the front cover), and take up a lot of space due to the fact that they’re images.

    Another solution is to use tools to scrape the information from online databases – Discogs and MusicBrainz are the most commonly used ones – and insert them in the metadata. However, this has its own issues – you have to go through your own music and run these tools on them yourself, and the information is usually incomplete. In addition, I haven’t found any tools that actually take the credit information, label, liner notes, etc. and insert them into the metadata (maybe that’s a project for me to work on, haha!).

    Hopefully this gets solved someday; the lack of support in music software & the difficulty of adding all this information to music is a real obstacle to overcome. Perhaps it’ll take a company like Apple to recognize this as a problem and implement solutions in iTunes and their music distribution for the rest of the industry to catch on. Who knows. But let’s hope.

  4. scott

    I wholeheartedly agree with the importance of linear notes. They provide the listener with signed to track down new artists and learner about the influences of one artist upon others, and vice versa.

  5. Paul Dicks

    I use Windows Media Player files for my cds, and I’ve noticed that the last 6 new cds I’ve bought haven’t had the information populated, although two old cds I’ve bought worked fine. As well, I’ve visited New Zealand a few times, and bought compilations of 80’s alt there – interestingly, the same groups are popular but different songs – and when I ripped them the wrong info comes up.

  6. Jon Corelis

    An extreme example of the importance of what are rather disparagingly called “liner notes” is the Anthology of American Folk Music, edited by Harry Smith. Originally issued with a whole booklet of notes on vinyl in 1952, the current, splendid Smithsonian CD reissue includes two booklets of supplementary material. The booklet put out for this reissue by the Smithsonian is virtually a short scholarly monograph, which goes a long way towards explaining why this set is arguably the most influential musical recording ever issued. The other booklet is an exact reproduction of Smith’s original “liner notes,” and they are a revelation: it’s clear to me, at least, that Smith’s notes are not merely “supplemental material” but are an integral part of the work he produced. If they are left out, you are not missing “liner notes,” you are missing an important part of what you need to understand the totality of what Smith achieved.

    Another example, which may be more relevant to readers of this site, are the substantial booklets included with each of the three 2-lp boxes of Pablo Casals’s Bach Cello Suites issued by Gramophone’s “Great Recordings of the Century” some time I think in the 1960s and, so far as I know, not included in any of the several subsequent LP, cassette, or CD issues of these performances. The booklets include a biography of Casals, original recording dates and details, and background essays on the work and movement by movement analyses of Casals’s performance by musicologists. (My favorite sentence is from Paul Tortelier’s commentary on Suite 6: “I have omitted the Sarabande of the 6th Suite deliberately; a miracle cannot be analysed,” – a sentence which alone makes the booklet worth seeking out.) These materials may be “notes,” but they turn the boxes they are included with into a virtual course of study of these fundamentally important recordings. That they are apparently no longer in circulation is a crime against culture.

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