During the last decade, the music scene on the Internet has transformed. Now we can legally listen to just about anything we want to, whenever we want to, for a small fee, or we can choose the genre and stream our own personalized radio frequency (such as Pandora, in the States) for free.
Several years ago, when I moved to California, I began to subscribe to Rhapsody, which at the time cost around $15 a month. Previously I had been living in London, and a member of not just one, but three specialist music libraries with CDs available to borrow. Now this opportunity was not available to me, I was feeling deprived, not only personally but professionally, as I was not easily able to share the vast world of classical music with my students (apart from my own private collection). With Rhapsody, I was delighted to have the opportunity to listen to a wide variety of classical music again. It had some bugs, to be sure. Some days it would decide not to play, or not to sign me in, and it could be difficult to get online support. Then too, there was the problem of the catalog.
Firstly, most of the classical recordings available at that time were adequate, but not outstanding- mostly obscure Eastern European recordings. On top of this, it was not even possible to ascertain who was playing without the aid of a microscope, as the only information was on a thumbnail image of the cover.
Then one day I tried to find a piece of music by Bartók, only to discover that Bartók’s music was catalogued in four separate places on the system: Béla Bartók, Bela Bartok, Béla Bartok and Bartok. It was not possible to search using the name of the piece and the composer, so it could take twenty minutes or so just to find a piece. At this point, I decided to write to Rhapsody to express my feelings on the subject, and received a polite and prompt reply saying that the issue was caused by the way that information was collected and compiled from all over the world and there was nothing to be done. I threw up my hands at this point, but stayed with Rhapsody as I could find no better alternative.
Until now. Upon my recent return to London, I discovered spotify. It works beautifully. It is simple and intuitive to use. You can search by the name of the piece and composer as well as artist, for example, Mendelssohn Elijah Terfel, and it pops up in no time. There are thousands of outstanding recordings. I’m paying £9.99 a month, although there is a free service with ads available also. And apparently, spotify has just reached the States.
When researching this article, I also came across Naxos. Although it does not have the breadth of spotify, it is aimed more at the classical market. Naxos includes some great resources for teachers, including an attractive and beautifully compiled Junior Section where children can learn about the instruments of the orchestra, complete with wonderful and clear audio examples of repertoire.
This is a tremendous way to be able to share music with our students. I love being able to reach for my computer and play any of thousands of works to a student at the drop of a hat. And with the cost of the service dropping all the time, we can encourage students to subscribe themselves.
Update: Rhapsody have now improved their search function, so one can search by composer and piece, but several Bartoks still remain…
What other listening resources have you discovered on line? I’d love to hear about them.