These days I only ever listen to
music on my PC. Which
probably explains why I was so delighted when Sony’s
virus-friendly ‘anti-piracy’ measures were
much to Sony’s ongoing
It all started with the discovery of some nasty little
programs hidden away on Sony audio CDs. When you play one
of the CDs on your PC the program (known as a ‘rootkit’)
secretly installs itself onto your hard drive, in theory
aiming to prevent users copying the CD but in practice
providing an easy way for other malicious programs to infect
Now, on the one hand, I can understand the problem which
the music companies face. They pay a ton of money to record,
advertise and distribute CDs and they expect to get a few
tons of money back from sales. But now that anyone can
make high quality copies and distribute them as MP3s, the
record companies can see their potential profits evaporating
before their very eyes.
On the other hand, I don’t really have too much
sympathy. The plain fact of the matter is that too many
record companies have been too greedy for far too long.
Over the years, CD manufacturing costs have dropped greatly.
But CD prices haven’t. Moreover, if people want cheap,
instantly available MP3s, then that’s what the record
companies should provide rather than artificially maintaining
the market in expensive CDs.
We’ve seen the move toward online sales of MP3s
in recent years with the rise and rise of services such
as Napster and
think the record companies would be pleased. But nope,
already they are moaning that they
want even more money from these sales. It’s no wonder that so many normally
law-abiding people just go ahead and just share their music
anyway. Since the record companies seem determined to play
the part of The Enemy, perhaps they shouldn’t be
surprised if people treat them as such.
The Best Things In Life…?
There are, of course, winners and losers in any technical
revolution. On the whole, the winners of the rise and rise
of online music sharing will be the people who embrace
and exploit the technology; the losers will be those who
fight it. The established record companies have a business
which is based on sales of physical discs in physical shops
- they would like to keep it that way but, frankly, they
won’t be able to. Sony’s investment in rootkit
software is one example of the desperation of a vast company
trying to prevent the future from happening.
If those are the losers, then who are the winners? The
listeners, obviously. Readily available MP3 recordings
give to anyone with a fast internet connection access to
a large range of music which they would otherwise never
have had the opportunity to hear. Then there are new bands
and young performers. If you have the talent you don’t
need to hawk yourself around agents, managers and record
companies any longer. Just record some MP3s and put them
online at a musical showcase site such as iuma.com or
(if you have already recorded a CD) even on Amazon.
And while you are visiting Amazon, you might as well download
a few free MP3s too. These include substantial excerpts
from commercial recordings. There are downloads in all
genres - rock, pop, country, jazz, classical and so on.
I spent some time browsing and downloading from Amazon’s
classical lists recently. What treasures are here!
Maria Callas, Carlo Bergonzi, Franco Corelli - some of
the finest singers of the last century performing arias
by Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti and more. It’s
all legal, it’s all free and
it’s all wonderful…
I have wide-ranging musical tastes. My own CD collection
includes works by artists as diverse as Kraftwerk and Dolly
Parton, Queen and Glenn Miller. When I lived in London,
I regularly went to the opera and was privileged to attend
performances by some of the very finest singers - Pavarotti,
Domingo, Carreras, Alfredo Kraus, Nicolai Gedda, Carlo
Bergonzi, Montserrat Caballé and
For the past decade or so I have been living in the remote
wilds of North Devon and, consequently, my ready access
to live opera has somewhat diminished. Which makes the
availability of great recordings on the Internet even more
valuable to me. Recent discoveries include a site containing
recordings of the American soprano, Beverly
and two massive downloads of the recordings of the great
tenor, Caruso: http://www.archive.org/details/Caruso_part1 and http://www.archive.org/details/Caruso_part2.
Now, I have to say that I was already familiar with all
the singers mentioned above. I cannot claim that Caruso,
Callas or Beverly Sills were previously unknown to me.
I have made one tremendous discovery on the Internet, however.
I don’t know how I managed to miss out on her up
to now. All I can say is that it was my loss.
Sadly, I never had the chance
to hear her sing in live performance. But thanks to
her web site, I can now listen to the exquisite voice
of Elizabeth Parcells any time I like as I sit here
at my PC.
What can I say? Thank you, Elizabeth!
a wonderful ‘coloratura’ soprano - the kind
of singer for whom complicated songs made up of dazzling
staccatos of notes, often from the higher reaches of the
humanly possible, hold no terrors. There are lots of sopranos
- even some quite well known ones - who try to sing this
stuff. There are rather few who truly succeed. Elizabeth
Parcells is one of those few.
Sadly, Elizabeth no longer performs. She was forced to
retire due to a serious
She decided to make recordings of her work available on
her web site “to keep her music available to a listening
audience and to raise awareness about the health threat
posed by colorectal cancer today.”
If you have any love of fine singing, I urge you to visit
her site. The downloads there are numerous, of high quality
and varied in style. If you want to know what a good coloratura
soprano sounds like, go right to the Opera
page and listen to the virtuoso
performance of the ‘Chanson
d’Olympia’ from Tales of Hoffman and Gilda’s
aria, ‘Caro nome’ from Rigoletto. If you prefer
your singing with a touch of drama, go straight Act III,
scene 1 of Donizetti’s opera, Lucia
I was lucky enough, some years ago, to hear the great Australian
soprano, Joan Sutherland, singing this role at Covent
Garden. There aren’t many other singers capable of
doing it justice; Elizabeth Parcells does. On other pages
you will find vocal recitals, a performance from the repertoire
of the celebrated 19th century soprano, Jenny Lind (‘the
Swedish nightingale’) and a large number of recordings
for voice and guitar.
All in all, this is a wonderful site. While the record
companies may fight their battles to squeeze the maximum
profit from their back catalogues, it is heartening to
find a site like this whose generosity of spirit is matched
by the quality of its music.
|Footnote: It is with great sadness
that I pass on the news of Elizabeth Parcells' death,
shortly after the above column was published online.
Her brother informs me that she died on the 29th of
December 2005 after two and a half years of battling
against cancer. My deepest sympathy goes out to her
family and friends.