Sunday, March 15, 2009

Box bucks

In a world where downloading is king, enormous CD boxed sets of classical composers are still being released and doing (relatively) well. I'd point out that classical music may not translate as easily to iPod listening as 4-minute songs, and I also think fans of Philip Glass, etc. are more likely to be concerned about the delivery system for their music. Don't forget, there's just something human about the desire for a complete collection of something. (NY Times)

A typically baffling set, released last year by Nonesuch, is the “Glass Box.” This 10-CD retrospective of Philip Glass’s works is a six-inch-square box, an oversize thing adorned with glossy photos and too bulky for a standard CD shelf. All Mr. Glass’s important operas, symphonic works and chamber pieces are represented, though sometimes only in extended excerpts, a curious decision on Nonesuch’s part. You would think that someone interested in “Satyagraha” would want the complete opera. The “Glass Box” sells for about $100, still a reasonable $10 per disc, though hardly the bargain of the Karajan set. Again the question arises: Who is the target consumer?

Asked about the “Glass Box,” Robert Hurwitz, the president of Nonesuch, one of the most adventurous classical music companies of the last 50 years, said, “I could take either the blame or the credit for that one.” He wanted to keep the set within the 10-CD format that had worked well for Steve Reich and John Adams boxes, which also included excerpts of certain works and sold strongly. Mr. Hurwitz compared the “Glass Box” to a museum exhibition. “The philosophy is to look at a body of musical works in the same way,” he said.

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