I don't want to listen to Dvorak's String Quartet No. 13 on "shuffle."
Yet that was my Spotify experience. Spotify is the way my teenage children listen to all their music, a streaming program with access to quite a lot of music. I thought I'd try it.
So while on my morning walk, I searched Spotify for Dvorak Quartet No. 13 - my quartet had read the piece and I wanted to listen to it. Happily, they had a recording, apparently paired on an album with Quartet No. 10, with the Bennewitz Quartet. I have not paid for "Premium" Spotify, so I needed to listen to several commercials (for a sandwich chain) before I could "enjoy the next 30 minutes for free." The only option, at that point, was to hit "Shuffle Play" -- listening to selections in album order is another "Premium" feature.
I hit "Shuffle Play," figuring it would shuffle the tracks on the album I chose. Wait, why am I hearing Dvorak: "The Water Goblin, Op. 107"? I hit the forward button to skip to the next selection, and I did get my Quartet No. 13 -- the third movement. Well okay, I need to listen to them all, so fine, I'll start with the third movement instead of the first. I listened. Some seven minutes later it moved to the next track: wow, lucky me, I got the fourth movement! After the fourth movement -- wait, this is a quartet, but not the quartet I wanted -- oh, it's No. 10. Hit the forward button: Dvorak Cello Concerto, first movement? What? Hit forward: String Quartet No. 10, the second movement. No. Hit forward: No. 10, fourth movement. In the vernacular of my kids, WTF. Hit the forward -- I've hit "forward" too many times and it won't do it again unless I get "Spotify Premium" for $10 a month.
Well, I guess I got to hear two random movements, but it was a constant bother. It felt very much like an Internet-age experience: will I actually listen to this quartet or can I be distracted into changing track every few minutes? Why does it even want me to do that? Life was simpler with a cassette tape and a Walkman.
I realize that I could clear up much of this up by shelling out $10 a month for those "Spotify Premium" features. And honestly, I've always paid for my music, and I'm happy to do that. The problem is that my initial experience has not convinced me that Spotify (or Apple, or pretty much any other similar service) is a good platform for classical music, nor that it aims to be. And I'm reluctant to send a monthly sum to a company that seems to fundamentally misunderstand the music I wish to hear, a service which makes it a chore to stay on track. "Premium" implies some kind of enhanced experience; for classical music it's just minimally being able to hear it the way it's supposed to be heard.
One big problem is that quartets and symphonies and violin concertos are written in movements, designed to go in a certain order. Dicing up the symphony and randomizing the order wrecks that experience. (I'd argue this can be a problem when listening to a carefully planned album of music by an artist of any genre --The Beatles? Prince? Kendrick Lamar?) Sure, sometimes I want to hear just one particular movement, but I don't want it decided for me. I also don't want to finished some long, beautiful movement, only to be hurled into the middle of an entirely different piece.
What would be the ideal service for a classical music fan? What would feel truly "Premium" to me, that might I pay $10 a month for, or even more? Here are a few items on my fantasy wish list:
What would a "Premium" music streaming service look like to you? And feel free to rant, or recommend!Tweet
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