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I Share a Cool New App (and a Shameful Video)
I also recommend music Substacks and pass on a comment from the co-inventor of DVD-Audio
Let me share a few odds and ends.
A NEW SUBSTACK APP
First, Substack launched a cool app today. It allows you to view all your newsletters in one place. If you choose wisely among Substack writers, you can customize your own deluxe music newsfeed.
You can learn more about the app here. It’s free, with no ads, and easy to use.
What music writers should you follow on Substack? I’m still learning what’s available, but here’s a recent shoutout thread, with more than a hundred people recommending their favorite music writers on the platform.
The Honest Broker is a reader-supported guide to music, books, and culture. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. If you want to support my work, the best way is by taking out a paid subscription.
Let me tell you about some of the music Substacks I’m reading:
The Nelson George Mixtape: I’ve been a fan of Nelson George’s music writing for years—going back to his seminal books Where Did Our Love Go? and The Death of Rhythm & Blues. His Substack is a mix of new writing and classic pieces from the past.
Jeffrey Sultanof’s The Eclectic’s Corner: When I need to consult an expert on big band music and arrangers, who do I call? Jeff is one of my most trusted sources. He not only knows the music at a deep level, but he knew the arrangers personally, from Nelson Riddle to Gil Evans (and dozens of other innovators in the field). His book Experience Big Band Jazz is a great resource, and his occasional Substack columns are filled with anecdotes and information you simply won’t find elsewhere.
Trouble Man: Musings of David Yaffe: David is one of the newest additions to my Substack subscription roster. His recent book on Joni Mitchell, Reckless Daughter, is one of my favorite music bios of recent years. He just launched his Substack three weeks ago.
Critical Conditions by Wayne Robins: The focus here is on pop music and popular culture. I enjoy Robins’s mix of straight music writing and personal memoir.
I’ll share more recommendations in the future. And if you have Substack writers you like, feel free to mention them in the comments.
THE SECRET SHAME OF MUSIC:
I have a new video to share on “The Secret Shame of Music.” It’s not as tawdry as the title might suggest.
I often tell people that they should trust their emotional reactions to music. That doesn’t mean they can’t refine and deepen their appreciation of songs—that’s where music critics and historians play a role—but their initial visceral reaction is always the starting point, and you pay a heavy price for ignoring or belittling it.
Yet experts have frowned on this for thousands of years, always coming up with sophisticated reasons why people ought to feel ashamed about the music they like. The reasons have changed over the centuries, but the shame remains. I look into the history of this in my video.
FROM THE COMMENTS
In the future, I will occasionally call attention to some of the more interesting comments to my articles. From the start, I’ve envisioned The Honest Broker as a community where the comments are smart and engaging. That’s not always a given on the web—in fact, it’s not even very common. But I’m blessed with readers who have important things to say. They don’t always agree with me, but that’s all the better.
In this instance, the comment comes from Robert Schaffer, who writes in response to my article on returning to vinyl:
“As the co-inventor of the DVD-Audio format (along with John Trickett of Silverline Studios) our goal was to go way beyond the sound quality limits of the CD format. My experience during the introduction of the format leads me to believe that as wonderful as a ‘Super Vinyl’ format would be for us music lovers, the record companies would have no interest whatsoever in it. Although they sanctioned the DVD-Audio format and allowed discs to be distributed to stores, they never promoted it in any meaningful way.”
This is revealing—because it captures the mindset of the recording industry at the very moment when it lost interest in audio innovation. I will discuss this in more detail in a few days, when I share an article on the possibility for a breakthrough new ‘super vinyl’ audio platform in the current day.
“Back in those days they used to still run numerous TV commercials for new albums, but when they announced, ‘New on CD’ they wouldn't even add the line, ‘..and DVD-Audio’ to the copy being read. The commercials were already produced and paid for and it would have cost them nothing to add the extra three words of copy, but they simply wouldn't. They allowed the discs to appear on shelves but refused to tell anybody about them. No meaningful promotion whatsoever—the only talk about the format came from music lovers, article writers and musicians, not from the record companies.”
He sums up:
“I agree with your opinion that they [the major music businesses] are incredibly cheap and lazy (and would add utterly devoid of imagination and the slightest interest in change). So, in my humble opinion, as sad as it makes me to say so, vinyl as it is known today will probably remain the pinnacle of audiophile listening formats. And, by the way, the true story of how DVD-Audio came about has never been recorded on paper and should be. SACD was created by Sony to combat it (not the reverse as so many people writing articles seem to wrongly believe) and the story is an unusual one t say the least (nobody would ever believe that the format was actually born in a tiny single location family owned electronics store in southern California). But, back to the main subject: I think the current form of vinyl (with all of the terrible compromises inherent in it) is the best we will ever get in the way of analog music playback--even though we could, technically, have so incredibly much more. Sad but true.”