Tonight I took a large stack of CDs that were next to my computer, and I took them into an adjacent bedroom. These two upstairs rooms serve as "offices" in our home; the larger of the two is where I store all my recordings on CD. The only time I actually "use" the CDs, however, is in the car. Most all of my listening, then, is done digitally from a computer, an iPhone, without the employment of the circular disc. In fact, I've turned to buying music online with a physical carrier, although in recent months, I've gone back to purchasing CDs again for the higher-quality files. I'm waiting patiently for Apple to get on the hi-res bandwagon that otherwise is not nearly as convenient through other online vendors. And each time I visit the "collection," I enjoy it, for a number of reasons. Each album is a real, palpable thing you can admire beyond its track listing or it's squarish cover art. It has weight and depth. You can open it up. And inside is usually to be found an interesting booklet, that contains photos of the performers, details about the music's history, or better yet, thoughts about the actual music from the performer(s). In your hands, an album becomes something to hold and savor--if it's good. Of course, this holding, page turning, and reading is all pretty worthless unless you're spinning the disc, too (or else, playing a copy of the disc on your computer). Tonight I chose three discs that live in close proximity on my shelf: * Vivaldi op. 6 Concertos by Andrew Manze and the AAM; * Murry Perahia performing three of Bach's English Suites, and * Fretwork's recording of Bach's Die Kunst der Fuge. Perahia's recording is clean and well-recorded. He is not overly Romantic, yet he's not entirely "historical," either. His technique is good, and he especially shines in the faster movements. I take him for modern piano Bach, and what that is; if I were to suggest anything, it's that he'd almost exaggerate the nuances more, in other words, increase the emotional contrasts like we do light/dark in a digital image with Photoshop. The AAM's recording comes from 1996, but wasn't published until 4 years later in 2000. I bought it without question years ago, in wanting to own as many of Vivaldi's published opuses as possible. Manze would later take over the AAM for a short while before moving his directorate to the English Concert. But this recording is under the leadership of the Academy's founder, Christopher Hogwood. It's very solid playing, both from the orchestra, and from Manze. I know in today's hands with an Italian ensemble (say, an Il Giardino Armonico, or in the hands of someone like Riccardo Minasi), there is plenty more drama to be teased out of this set. The concertos will never be among Vivaldi's best, but they're a happy go-between the young opus 3 set and the mature, late concertos that typically show-off cantabile lines for the soloists in the slow movements. The last recording was made at Snape Maltings, of Bach's ultimate work. I own two versions recorded on viols, and I'd probably give this one the slight edge. Listening tonight in my downstairs room, with loudspeakers, I somehow came to tears. Perhaps it was the emotional impact of watching Les choristes, a 2004 French film about a musician who takes over a supervisory role at a school for wayward boys, and creates a "choir" among the students. It was a superb film, complete with an emotional undercurrent. But it was Bach's music, which for me, luckily, sounded like it was being performed nearly in my own room. The notes in this recording were an entertaining read, and set the stage for my own thinking of what I was hearing. The numerology and the use of the B-flat, A, C, B-natural (spells BACH) clearly points to this piece being, in music, a manifestation of the composer Johann Sebastian. It is often, in my head, the most profound thing he wrote, and him being my favorite composer, one of my ultimate pieces of music. Fretwork doesn't do all the things I'd like them to do as they saw through the piece, but I think viols make for a convincing solution on how to play this work. And that friction between what I hear and would want (as a conductor) and what gets brought out by the ensemble, doesn't mean I don't admire the recording. That friction is what makes my role in the playback of that recording all the more interesting. At times I may be moving my hands about, part time-keeping and part-kinesthetic interpretation. And that's from where the tears began to emerge. "Don't you hear it? Lean into it there, lean…. yes!" The music is powerful. It is for me, profound. No doubt as a music lover, you have a collection yourself. And it is likely not unlike my own, spread across different media. You listen in different places. And you sometimes may just emulate my environment, to be alone, in a closed room, with the lights out, in pitch black darkness. The only light I had was coming from a blue light that cannot be extinguished from my amplifier, and the occasional use of my iPhone to advance the tracks. No light and even closed eyes, makes for the most focused and intense listening experience. There's nothing there but you and the magic. In the end, my point in writing this, is to establish that your collection is likely a personal thing. Each album has personal meaning to you, and perhaps even a personal history. And if multiple people in you house each enjoy the recordings or the collection, each person has their own attachments and experiences with the albums. In a way, the recordings aren't unlike books. I find myself picking out favorites from time to time, to enjoy music in the car or even at the office. Even when I have 30 minutes at home, I put on the good favorites that I know sound good. But I thoroughly enjoyed the break, to grab a good old-fashioned jewel case (or three). I reminisced over pulling the booklets out. Re-discovering my experiences and personal stories with each recording was a little fun. If any of us, or our collections were to disappear tomorrow, the music might remain; the personal experiences, and the meaning each recording has for us, however, might be lost forever. That's why I think it was important, this early in the morning, to reflect upon the fact that these physical things that make up my music collection mean something to me. The music is valued in a way totally unique to me. And the reason I toil to write here about my music is to share with you, the reader, this totally unique experience. It is my hope that I meet more individuals (virtually or in face to face situations) that are as significantly moved by their collections as am I. That's why I write about my music collection, by reviewing recordings. The unique experience which we might say is a combination of my intellectual understanding of the actual music, the emotional reactions I get from listening, the sound quality, and the experience of interacting with the media of the music, is something separate from the recording, the score, or the composer's ideas. That experience is rich, and you know if you've ever had a detailed discussion with someone about a musical performance (live or recorded), it can be an intense interaction to compare "notes."