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Columns > Patrick Buzby

Published: 2010/02/26
by Pat Buzby

Variables

A few months ago, Amazon sent me a $1 coupon for a purchase from their MP3 store. No doubt this was a crafty ploy on their part, since, although I have an I-Pod now, I still haven’t warmed up to the idea of buying MP3s. Low quality, attachment to the tangible and all that.

It was a back-burner project for a while figuring out which purchase to make, and whether to bother. Eventually, I settled on Cecil Taylor’s Indent. Even though this music is over 30 years old, it remains subversive enough that it seems like some sort of mistake that it’s available at all. And for whatever reason, it (along with some other Taylor sessions of the same era) is available at Amazon at a price low enough that any corresponding LP would have to be pretty scratchy.

This brought to mind the variables that come into consideration whenever I get music these days: price, quality, packaging. It was like this before Tower closed, but it’s become more like this. (To give full disclosure, due to this and a few other writing gigs, another factor with new music is whether I can get it for free. I got stung by this a short time ago. So it goes.)

The morality variables can also be important. Borrow or buy? New or used? Here again, it’s not a new issue. Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew was a desert island record for me for over ten years before I actually bought it, in 1998. I saw him live in 1988 and bought a lot of his other records, though.

A few weeks ago, an artist I like released a new CD and started a tour to support it around the same time. This artist, like many, has given out mixed signals about how he feels about people making recordings of his shows. When the first torrents appeared of this tour, there was a debate on one of his internet discussion groups about the morality of sharing it.

My music morality rating isn’t perfect, although I suspect it’s above average. My biggest lapse was probably the time a couple years ago that I burned a CD of a band’s archival album and kept it, one of the few times I’ve done that. Well, it is a band that is probably doing quite well, and who have had some morality lapses of their own.

In the case of the artist with the new CD, I downloaded one of those torrents out of force of habit. Now, with this artist and many others, I have a collection of his live recordings. They have enhanced my understanding of his music and provided good experiences. And they have made me more, not less, inclined to spend money on his concerts and official CDs. I won’t be apologizing for this.

However, in this case I decided that a soupy audience recording wasn’t the place to get a first exposure to his new music. So, after hearing a couple minutes, I deleted the files and put in an order for his new CD. It felt good.

Meanwhile, I gave those MP3s of Cecil Taylor another listen today. The music is great. The quality is serviceable. And I hope Amazon sent him a cut of the $1.99 or whatever it was that I paid.

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