My digital music collection: Popular music

July 24, 2008

About two years ago I bought one of those devices.  I was at first tentative about its use, and only transferred certain CDs onto the computer.  I soon found, though, that I enjoyed being able to search and sort the music with such ease, and I liked being able to pull up alternate versions of songs or pieces to easily compare them, and I even enjoyed listening to the thing.  Eventually I decided to bite the bullet, or kick the bucket, or take the leap, or whatever the appropriate metaphor is.  I decided to convert my entire music collection into digital format. For six or eight months prior to our wedding I worked slowly but surely on the effort.  I have a fairly large music collection, and its digital footprint has dwarfed the capacity of my device.  Nonetheless, I did manage to finish the job, and today I want to sit back and survey the results for a few moments.

Since there is a fairly natural division between popular and classical music, today I focus on the popular music, and will look at the classical subsequently. Here are a few interesting (to me) statistics and facts:

Total duration: 19.9 days

Total number of songs: 7259

Top 10 Artists, by duration

10. Richard Buckner (5.7 h; 105 songs; 8 albums).
9. King’s X (7 h; 86 songs; 6 albums)
8. Leonard Cohen (7.2 h; 93 songs; 8 albums)
7. Daniel Amos (7.3 h; 127 songs; 9 albums)
6. The 77s (7.8 h; 97 songs; 7 albums)
5. Johnny Cash (8.6 h; 162 songs; 7 albums)
4. The Louvin Brothers (10.4 h; 232 songs; 9 albums)
3. Tom Waits (28.8 h; 480 songs; 27 albums)
2. Van Morrison (40.8 h; 562 songs; 40 albums)
1. Bob Dylan (52.8 h; 746 songs; 49 albums)

Clearly, my collection is dominated by that last big three; they run far ahead of the pack, and so they should.

Top Five Most Played Songs

5. “Nothing Can Stop Me”, Buddy Miller (from Poison Love)
4. “Another’s Sorrow”, Greg Brown (from Songs of Innocence and Experience)
3. “Wilderness”, Peter Case (from Torn Again)
2. “I Wanna Be In the Cavalry”, Corb Lund (from Horse Soldier!)
1. “Avalon of the Heart”, Van Morrison (from Enlightenment)

Longest Album Name: Sinead O’Connor, She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide under the Shadow of the Almighty

Longest Song Name: P.D.Q. Bach, “The Short-Tempered Clavier – Preludes and Fugues in All the Major and Minor Keys Except for the Really Hard Ones”  [I suppose this could, and maybe should, be classified as classical music, but in my books it isn’t.]

Longest song: Richard Buckner, “The Hill” (34:03).  The whole album is one track; it’s a short album, but a long song.

This has been most enjoyable (for me).  In a day or two I’ll post something about my classical collection.

4 Responses to “My digital music collection: Popular music”

  1. Most interesting! Of course I could discuss this sort of thing for hours, but I’ll limit myself.

    I suppose this is all cds you’ve converted? I guess it was five, no maybe more like seven, years ago that I started digitizing my analog music, making audio cds and mp3s. I soon realized it would never happen, as I have hundreds of lps, and well over a hundred cassettes. I’ve found that it usually takes at least a couple of hours to do an lp or cassette–there’s always at least a little tweaking of the sound, removing noise, etc., sometimes a lot, then dividing the one big wav file into tracks, saving them separately, typing in the track info. At the rate of two a week it would take most of a decade. I just resigned myself to keeping a turntable (not sure about the cassettes).

    When my wife & children bought me an iPod several years ago, I quit burning the audio cds and saved the mp3s at the highest possible VBR setting, which produces quality plenty high enough for me, esp. considering the source in these cases is far from pristine, sometimes pretty bad.

    Interesting to see The 77s on your list. I have one of theirs…what’s it called?…All Fall Down. Also one by Daniel Amos…Doppelgänger. I’ve never listened to them all that much–they were sort of in the “not bad” category.

    Never even heard of Richard Buckner, but since eMusic charges per-track, my interest was piqued by the one-track album, so I went to see if it’s there. Yes, but it’s divided into a dozen or so tracks.

  2. cburrell Says:

    Yes, my collection is (almost) entirely from CDs (I have had an eMusic subscription for several years, so I have some music that didn’t need to be converted). I do have a box or two of old cassettes, some of which I would like to convert since to my knowledge the discs have not been re-released on CD, but I don’t know how to do it, and it has seemed more trouble than it would be worth. Your description of the process confirms that suspicion.

    I didn’t go to higher quality mp3s because of space concerns. It would not be so bad if I just needed local disc space, but I also back everything up to a remote server, and that bandwidth is expensive. My collection at present occupies somewhat over 200 GB.

    The 77s were (are? I’ve lost track in recent years) a great little rock band that never got heard by many people. I don’t particularly like their early material — which includes All Fall Down, finding it too polished and polite, but they really hit their stride in the late 80s and early 90s. Their live album, 88, might be my favourite live album, and it is definitely one of the best straight-up rock and roll records that I know.

    Daniel Amos has meandered all over the musical map over the years, from country to New Wave to art rock. Doppelgänger is not bad, but it was made before they really had a decent budget, and it sounds too thin and tinny for my tastes. Their best work, in my judgment, is on Kalhöun and Motorcycle, both of which are terrific.

    I first heard Richard Buckner at a folk festival in the mid-90s, and since then I’ve followed every album. I’ve also seen him live about six or seven times, which is a record for me. (Unfortunately, his live shows have become more bizarre as the years have passed, and the last few have been quite unpleasant affairs.) His best albums contain finely chiseled little songs, with no fat on them at all, and evocative but enigmatic lyrics. I recommend Bloomed, Devotion + Doubt, and especially Since. The Hill is anomalous in that he didn’t write any of the lyrics — they are all taken from Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. It’s an interesting record, but not his strongest.

  3. Quin Says:

    Mr. Burrell,

    That’s a fine collection you have there, both in the Classical and Pop departments. As you probably know, most of us at Korrektiv are big Dylan fans, but if I took the time to tally them up, I’d probably see that I have more Morrison than Dylan. “Avalon of the Heart” is a fine song, as is the rest of “Enlightenment”, including the weirdly wonderful “Days Before Rock and Roll”. And with that many hours, you must have “Veedon Fleece”, my favorite of all the many great albums he’s made.

    Regarding the Classical, are you familiar with Witold Lutosławski? I started listening to him in about 1995, shortly before he died, and he’s been one of my favorites ever since. I’ve posted a couple of pieces by him over at Korrektiv which might whet your appetite:

    I see that the Lutosławski Cello Concerto has been posted at YouTube since I last went trolling for music by this true titan of contemporary music. The Cello Concerto is one of his three best symphonic masterpieces, in my opinion – the others being the Concerto for Orchestra (1939, I think), and the Symphony #3 (early 1980s, I think). The Cello Concerto is from the late sixties or early seventies, and was written for Rostropovitch.

    Okay, I just tried out the version by Yo-yo Ma, and it’s only a partial excerpt. It’s a fine excerpt – the truly stunning conclusion – but I’d suggest waiting to hear the whole thing to experience the full dramatic effect.

    Here’s a short piece for violin and piano called “Subito”. Great, great, great.



  4. cburrell Says:

    Quin, I don’t know which Van Morrison album I would choose as my favourite. Sometimes it would be Astral Weeks, sometimes Hymns to the Silence, and, yes, sometimes Veedon Fleece. “Country Fair” is one of my favourite songs. I also really like Enlightenment, but that song “The Days before Rock and Roll” makes me feel physically ill. I can’t listen to it.

    I don’t have much music by Lutoslawski, just one disc of choral and vocal music. So thank you for the suggestions. I’ve listened to “Subito”, and I like what I hear, but I’ll need to give it another listen. I’ll also look at the posts you’ve written over at Korrektiv.

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