Why Did You Not Include XYZ in Your Comparison?

Personal Reflection


2020-02-29 — Original posting



Outline


Introduction

I don’t receive many comments on my blog posts. This is OK, as the vast majority of my blog posts is essentially (and explicitly, see the by-line “All just my personal opinion” to my blog title) just stating my own thoughts. They are not primarily meant to open a debate. But of course, a blog can’t just be a monologue. After all, it lives from its readers. And it always helps the author to feel the readership (rather than just to “shout into a void”). In that sense, any feedback (on whatever channel, i.e., through personal contact, social media, e-mail, comments, or using the contact form) is always motivating the author, and it enriches the blog. The latter can happen in the form of a debate / discussion, or it can simply complement the content of the blog post.

In virtually all cases, feedback that I receive is made with the best intent, i.e., with the idea to offer further advice, to point me to artists / recordings that I may not be aware of, or which appear to be missing from a comparison (ill-willed comments are extremely rare and will be suppressed, along with spam comments). With this posting, I just want to clarify what commenters can and should expect as a reaction on my side. Mainly, I want to avoid possible disappointment about a possible “lack of appropriate response”. So, let me explain:

Comment / Feedback is Welcome!

First and foremost, let me just re-state that I always welcome comments & feedback! Past experience shows that such feedback falls into two main categories:

  • my favorite: discussion, critical and supportive comments, questions
  • the most frequent type: “Why did you not include XYZ in your Comparison?”, or also “I strongly suggest adding XYZ to the comparison”

Discussion, Critical and Supportive Comments

I do not claim to be the holder of any absolute truth. As stated, my comments are my personal opinion, i.e., my statements are unavoidably subjective. Not only that, but in music, there is very little one can objectively measure (the tempo, maybe, or whether an artist follows specific details in the score, etc.). Still, I do try my best to consider those “objective” aspects when talking about music, but the main focus is to be truthful about expressing my personal opinion. And I have spent considerable effort in bio posts etc. to explain where I’m coming from, to give an idea who the person behind the texts is.

Also, I try being absolutely open about my personal preferences. With this, it should be obvious that my blog posts can’t be comprehensive, not can they ever represent any “absolute truth” (other than my true personal views). In that sense, comments, a visitor’s opinion, etc. can only enrich and complement a blog post. So, again: comments are welcome!

Once a comment has been accepted and appears below a blog post, I typically respond (time permitting), and occasionally, this ends up as a discussion between me (the author) and the reader(s).

Suggestions on Posts Comparing Recordings / Media

As mentioned above, comments comparing media may

  1. express the reader’s personal opinion—agreement or disagreement;
  2. point to recordings that were not included in the comparison, ideally with the reader’s personal opinion / comparative remarks;
  3. finally / stronger, suggest the addition of additional recordings to a comparison.

The first category falls into what was discussed above—and is of course highly welcome. The same holds true for the second category. Especially if the comment includes the reader’s comparative remarks. Even if that opinion comes from a third party and therefore may not directly relate to my comparison and its ratings, it widens the perspective, broadens the scope. Note that if I accept a comment, that does not imply endorsement on my part.

Suggestions for the Inclusion of Extra Recordings

Suggesting additional recordings to be included / amended into a comparison is fine as a pure comment / third party opinion. Unfortunately, the chances of me indeed adding extra recordings to an existing blog post are very slim. I have occasionally, in very rare cases, done that upon my own initiative, a few years back. Meanwhile, however, my blogging time is almost entirely “eaten up” by concert reviews. I would need a second life to accommodate such additions. Note that the effort of adding a recording to a comparison is substantial, not far from the time needed to write a new blog post. And I need to economize on my blogging. My life span is finite, after all.

In essence, my comparisons “are what they are”. As much as occasionally I would like to add new recordings to a post, it simply isn’t feasible. My blog is a “one man show”, after all. So far, there is one exception of a blog post in which I’m willing to make such additions. Howevere, that case is a) specific, and b) merely means adding a recording to a list / database, i.e., not doing a full comparison. Finally, let me refer to the title of this post, by giving a few explanations on why you may not find a specific—even highly significant / important—recording in a given comparison:

What Drives the Repertoire / Recording Selection?

By and large, my music collection “is what it is”. I’m only discussing recordings that I have as “hard copy” (or occasionally “made” a hard copy from a download), and I have explained my repertoire philosophy in an earlier post. In brief terms:

  • historic and traditional recordings are typically those which I had in my LP collection, dating back 30 – 50 years, and hence reflecting my preferences in those early days;
  • for new recordings, I’m primarily looking for historically informed recordings, or for recordings by specific artists that I know and like (e.g., from concerts, from earlier recordings, or from YouTube, etc., occasionally / rarely from personal encounters)
  • for comparisons, I may occasionally add extra recordings to my collection—prior to starting a comparison post. Adding recordings later is virtually impossible, due to time constraints—see above.

With this, my comparisons—even the biggest ones—are inevitably fragmentary, incomplete, their coverage spotty at best. And the inclusion of a specific recording often may seem a matter of sheer luck / coincidence:

Why is XYZ Not Included?

One typical request (or suggestion) of this kind involves a prominent conductor of the past century, Herbert von Karajan (1908 – 1989). In the post which I already referred to, I have my full response to such an inquiry. I won’t repeat that here, but let me re-iterate on that topic, quoting from another response:

  • it would be fabulous if this was the only significant omission (in which case I probably would have added it). However, there are literally dozens of significant recordings out there that didn’t make it into my review (I don’t even want to start naming examples!!!).
  • At the time (the time when I was collecting LPs), Karajan’s recordings sure were significant. What may have stopped me from purchasing almost certainly was a certain aversion against that conductor, which I won’t discuss here in detail. “Too successful & omnipresent” may have been one part of it, the other one being his aiming for perfect sound, at the expense of (in my opinion) expression.
  • Meanwhile, performances from that period have shifted out of my focus. Not infrequently I actually have trouble listening to performances of that generation.
  • For example, I can’t stand the amount of vibrato that violinists applied at that time. If I were to add more recordings now, it would rather be historically informed (HIP) recordings.

Why Aren’t There More Media Comparisons?

Apart from personal preferences, my time is now being eaten up by concert reviews, for which I keep getting requests & offers by artists, agencies and organizers. So, concert reviews and media comparisons & discussions are competing against each other. Media comparisons have an additional handicap here: they are typically not bound to a timeline or deadline, whereas concert reviews make most sense if they are posted within days (ideally 2 – 3, realistically rather less than 1 week) of the event. This gives concert reviews a “natural precedence” over media reviews.

Keeping blog topics in balance is a constant struggle, compounded by the need to keep the blog up-to-date as a whole. Right now, I’m afraid my CD reviewing activities have almost come to a grinding halt. Time is limited, and not only do concert reviews eat my time, but on top of that, artists and PR agencies keep sending me CDs, even though I tell them I see very little chance for reviewing such media (even simple ones, not comparisons, typically).

Priorities

With all this, I need to try being efficient in the use of my time & efforts. So, if ever I resume (major) CD comparisons, rather than amending old ones, I will focus on new ones. I do have a number of popular projects in the pipeline, such as the Beethoven piano concertos, symphonies, piano sonatas, or the Bach partitas & sonatas. However, for the past 2 – 3 years didn’t seem to make any progress. Still, I do indeed intend to resume CD reviews. However,

  • for the time being, concert reviews retain the highest priority.
  • Next, I should try reducing the pile of CDs (submitted for review) waiting on my desk, and
  • in the next lower priority, I would love to tackle some of the pending comparisons in the queue. Finally,
  • amending / expanding existing comparison posts definitely has the lowest priority.

The situation for CD reviews is not quite as hopeless as it may seem. A major share of the past year went into an in-depth rework of the blog, which is now essentially complete (just the front pages requiring some more work). Also, I’m trying my best to limit the number of concert reviews, and to make them more efficient … 

Corrections

Pointers to simple, factual errors, even to trivial language errors and typos are of course always welcome. This is not a printed medium, and I’m always willing to make corrections to existing blog posts. As long as an amendment does not require extra, extended research, it takes no time to incorporate minor changes.

Conclusions

To summarize: it would be nice for such reviews to be really comprehensive. However, it was clear at the onset that they are necessarily incomplete, can’t even remotely include the totality of the recordings out there. And the market is exploding.

So, I have one recommendation to visitors: look around on the Web, and combine my comparison posts with complementary ones that one should be able to find elsewhere on the Internet. With this, you get a kind of puzzle that should permit getting a more complete picture. More important than that: try building your own opinion, explore what suits your taste and needs. This way, you should be able to judge what my judgements and ratings mean to you.

Most importantly: please, keep commenting my blog posts. Ideally, formulate them as a complement to the posted article, i.e., add your personal judgement & opinion. This way, readers of the blog get yet another piece of information in their quest for recordings that they (might) like.


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