Streaming: The Lost Art of Musical Presentation


07 July 2017 | | New Music Box


“In 1996 I sequenced an album of Nina Simone’s recordings for Verve Records. I proposed two options to Verve: one a set of “eminently sample-able” tracks by Simone, the other a collection of Simone performing her own compositions.

The assigning producer at Verve opted for the latter, which became the album Nina Sings Nina, number 58 in the Jazz Masters series. I selected the tracks and sequenced them, making cassette tape after cassette tape of different options as a means to create a prototype of what the finished album might eventually sound like.

And I wrote an essay, included in the CD packaging, that extolled Simone’s virtues, not just as a performer of other people’s songs, but as a composer of her own.

The album appears and disappears from online services, due to the whims of Verve’s catalog management, but when it’s available, whether for sale or to stream, the liner notes are absent—gone as if they had never been there.

There’s no context for the provenance of the tracks, or the logic that informed their selection and sequencing.

The Simone experience has provided me with a small personal-professional window on what goes missing when we mistakenly think that music functions in isolation.

Much as I disagreed strongly with Stanley Crouch’s liner notes for Wynton Marsalis’ albums, I can’t imagine those albums without them, though that is how they exist today. Much as I loved the gatefold cover of the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, it’s the tiny-type track credits that hipped me to who pitched in on the record.

Much as I love numerous individual albums released on the ECM label, it was the personnel listings that helped me figure out who and what to listen to next.

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