What is an album to you? That’s the question I posed at Gramophone earlier in the spring, just before I had heard about the BPI/ERA’s sparked initiative, National Album matrimonio Day.
It was a coincidence that I was considering the same thing when I was thinking about the UK’s record business body as a reflection of, I believe, a significant shift that’s taking place regarding the manner we experience music in the present. We are living in a time of streaming where a record is broken down or expanded, re-packaged tracks re-arranged or even woven into a playlist for the day, and music cut diced, spliced and cut in numerous ways – each of which requires us to answer the first question: What, exactly, does an album means? What is the significance of it?
The album is dated by archive experts to 1948, when the release of Columbia’s very first 12-inch vinyl, Nathan Milstein’s Mendelssohn Violin Concerto; the album was, with a lot of joy, was born as a recording of classical music.
However, we can trace the term’s origins back to the days when a collection of 78s was enclosed in a fold-out protective book that resembled the photo album but with sleeves for records instead of pictures. (And those who are music lovers know that a sound-based snapshot of a moment is far more effective than a photo as a picture can communicate the power of a thousand words, then music can convey a thousand images).
However, in later decades, the word “album” was never employed as a word for classical music. In rock and pop, however, it was a reference to a recording that contained several songs in a theme-based, unifying concept. However, as classical releases began to be overshadowed by single symphonies, a combination of two concertos, or even an entire opera, the word album was less frequently used, and the format became the primary descriptor: CD, LP, and other structures.
This is something I’ve begun to address on Gramophone‘s pages. First, and most notably, as you’re likely to stream through an iPhone as putting the CD in the player, it’s logical to choose a format-neutral term. However, more importantly, I feel that some information was lost in ignoring the concept of ‘album’. You Know what dinosaur has 500 teeth.
The word “album” evokes more than just music recorded on the record. It also creates a thought-through, planned trip, a narrative and a possible experience of connecting an artist and the person listening.
Sometimes, the power of an album lies in the imagination of a musician who puts songs or other pieces of music compellingly in search of connections and communicating them and creating something far more than the components. Sometimes it’s planned. Surprising, music albums are usually the most compelling examples, with the winners of the vocal and recital categories at the upcoming Gramophone Awards featuring emotional developments through meticulously programmed programs.
However, for an excellent performance – and also to bring the music up-to-date, consider the latest album by the exceptional musician Igor Levit: a deeply personal album that celebrates the life that was forged after a devastating loss, navigating through the music of Bach and Schumann Liszt, Wagner, Busoni and Bill Evans. Perhaps only the structure of an album can provide the program with a sense of coherence and make it something you’ll want to revisit and enjoy. For more information, click to trino marin that would be the right place for you.
Sometimes, a link is revealed after a while. For instance, Barbirolli’s pairing of the Elgar Cello Concerto and his Sea Pictures– the first featuring Jacqueline du Pre, the latter with Janet Baker. Two powerful performances from two musicians whose lives took various twists joined on a remarkable (and still the best-selling) album. Sometimes, the composer has already completed this curatorial work through the broad sweep of a single piece.
Glenn Gould’s debut stunningly young set from Bach’s Goldberg Variations embodied the spirit of both a rebellious musician and the popular trends of the day. The later version, which was recorded at the close of his life, soaked in reflection and wisdom, is a moving piece. However, it is even more poignant when you listen to it within the context of the original recording. Both were, indeed, excellent examples of the power of an album.