I prefer live music to recordings, to the point that I actively avoid recordings. I do listen to the radio when I drive or do chores and I do own hundreds of cds, but I've only bought a couple which were immediately connected to compositional projects. The rest just accumulated, mostly as gifts or calling cards from musician friends. I don't encourage recordings of my own works, and I prefer getting to know the music of others, both new and old, through score reading, which means making sounds, however rough or approximate, with my own hands and mouth. I like to make music on my own or with friends, I like to listen to and watch others make music, and I prefer that recordings not be used as an economical substitute for these activities, that is to say, I think that, whenever possible, recordings should not be used to put musicians out of work.
While recordings are clearly valuable when music has been composed expressly for recorded media or as documentation of performances — historical or distant — which are otherwise inaccessible, I dislike the constraints to audition posed by mediated through loudspeakers, the lack of control over my physical position with regard to the sound sources, the tendency in sound design to flatten dynamic contrasts, and, to be perfectly honest, I have an uneasy relationship with the temptation presented by recorded media for the the user to skip through and mix up composed works.
Once a work has been packaged for a recording (and often even composed specifically for the constraints — in time or dynamics, for example — of a recording), it becomes an indefinitely divisible and recombinant commodity, over which the creator has virtually no more control.
Recent technological developments in the most widely used forms of recording have not been encouraging for other reasons: for the first time in the history of audio recording, the most prominent new format has been one without a significant increase in sound quality in any aspect or parameter. The sole virtue of an mp3 file is its portability (small digital files, perfectly reproducible and cheaply transferable), useful, in principal, in a commodity, but not one which has proven to be particularly or sustainably lucrative. It is especially disheartening, now, to read that:
In February, a music professor at Stanford, Jonathan Berger, revealed that he has found evidence that younger listeners have come to prefer lo-fi versions of rock songs to hi-fi ones. For six years, Berger played different versions of the same rock songs to his students and asked them to say which ones they liked best. Each year, more students said that they liked what they heard from MP3s better than what came from CDs. To a new generation of iPod listeners, rock music is supposed to sound lo-fi. (Read the whole thing here.)