Monday, August 08, 2005

When the generals talk.

(click on image if you want to actually read it.)

So I made it through the main part of my collection. By "main part," I mean the non-classical recordings, excluding compilations with music by various artists. Those are filed separately. And I keep the classical separate, too, as much as that makes sense to do, because I listen to it differently, at different times.

But genre is no doubt a confusing thing, which is why the "main part" is all the non-classical (as much as possible). Is Matthew Herbert jazz or electronica? And where is the line between world and jazz? Or pop and world? Or O Forget it, let's just put it all together.

Which is where I am getting a little hung up in my digital collection of ripped songs, because I do not yet know how I want things classified. Would it make more sense to keep distinctions among different kinds of jazz, for instance, or just call it all jazz? Do I want to file my Hindi songs separate from "World," or just call everything non-American World? Do my gains from lumping Enzo Jannacci, Giorgio Gaber, and Tiromancino together as "Italian" outweigh the losses that come from not calling them "pop" or "traditional" or "folk"?

And while much of the information that I get from this Gracenote database is pretty good (apart from the occasional typo), the information about genre is spotty. For instance, someone came up with such categories as "General Alternative," and "General Country," and "General World." That means, of course, that when you sort by genre, all these "Generals" get alphabetized under G, instead of A, or C, or W.

Not to mention that there is "General Hip Hop," "Hip Hop," "Hip-Hop," "Rap/Hip Hop," "Old School Hip Hop" and on and on. And I, for one, am willing finally to admit that I still do not understand the difference between rap and hip hop, let alone between hip hop and hip-hop.

And it is not as though there are clear standards for the assigning of genres. I noticed as I was ripping the (FABULOUS!) 6-CD box set of Keith Jarrett at the Blue Note, that while the Gracenote information for, say, Disc 2 called the genre "Free/Avant Jazz," Disc 4 was just called "Jazz." Wow, Keith, you really dropped off on your freedom there on Disc 4.

And then there are the just plain dumb moments. For instance this morning I ripped one of my Various Artists CDs called This Is Soul, a compilation that I bought back in the pre-download days, just for the Eddie Floyd recording of "Knock on Wood," although the collection has also given me "Rainy Night in Georgia," "Patches," and "Rescue Me." So what genre does the database offer up? Classic Rock.

This Various Artists part of the ripping is taking much longer than the main part of the collection, because I am trying to keep "The" and "A" off the front of band names, and then in a feat of sheer analness I reordered everybody's name to Last Name, First Name. Before you get in my face about that choice, I will give you the justification. Back in my Ann Arbor days I bought several CDs at my favorite used CD store, and the clerk, upon looking at my selections, said, "Ahhhhh. The Pet Shop Boys and Pere Ubu--reunited at last." I have always loved it that nothing on my CD shelf gets between these long-lost friends, but there in my big digital collection, things would get all messed up.

So three of these Various Artists do-dads to go, and then it is on to the Classical--a prospect I do not relish, because the people labeling tracks do not seem to realize that it is nice to attach the name of the piece before you say what the tempo marking for the movement is.

No comments: