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Technology is a Verb

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     If you have a computer and you think of it in terms of megabytes and megahertz, you are thinking of the computer as a noun. But computer, or sound system, or TV specifications are only meaningful as a reflection of how well these devices perform. In the privacy of my own mind, I refer to a fixation on what a techno tool is instead of what it does as “sleeping with your chain saw.”

     Technology is a verb, Art is a noun. And when it comes to art, we Americans have a big appetite for music. What makes music so enchanting? Maybe because it conveys so much information. Music comes to our ears as a sonic wave. The complexity of that waveform implies a lot of information. Think about this: you can fit the entire text of the full Britannica encyclopedia on one CD, but that same CD can only hold about an hour’s worth of music Music is information densely packed.

     Information can be defined as a degree of organization; highly organized sound is music, and most of us love it. The opposite of information is chaos. Sound without information is noise, and most of us hate it.

    With Napster out of the music swapping (stealing?) business, where can a music lover find an alternative source other than the overpriced music CD? Well, maybe its time to go load up on videotape.

     If you get cable or satellite TV, the Trio channel is a wonderful source of music. Last weekend, for instance, they broadcast 10 hours of the New Orleans Heritage Music Festival, repeating each five hour segment three times on Saturday and Sunday. Every weekday they broadcast Sessions at West 54th St. This eclectic show offers one hour live performances by artists in just about every popular music category you could name.

      PBS frequently offers live concert performances. Austin City Limits has had some fabulous shows, with excellent sound quality. Unless its pledge season, PBS offerings are commercial free.

   The DSS satellite system, in a addition to offering pay per view performances, frequently offers free showings. There have been free live concerts by such lumanaries as Shania Twain and the Rolling Stones.

     If you have a personal TV recorder, such as TiVo or Ultimate TV, you can watch a show then tape it later. If not, most musical performace shows are repeated, so if you catch an early showing you can figure out in advance which parts you want to record when it plays again.

    There are some great music DVDs. The copy protection scheme makes the video fade in and out when you send a DVD signal to a VCR, but you can still record the sound.

     Be careful when buying music DVDs, there are quite a few of them that appear, from the packaging, to be all music but are in fact documentaries with only fragments of musical numbers. Others have poor sound quality. Even if you don’t have a multichannel music system, look for disks that advertise 5.1 sound. Its a fair bet that even in stereo, these will sound good because they have been digitally remastered. If you are blessed with surround sound, DVDs are currently the only way to get your music in Dolby Digital.

     To me, it doesn’t make much sense to buy movies on DVD. No matter how good a movie is, you’re unlikely to watch it enough times to make ownership worthwhile. DVD rentals are quickly taking over from videotape. Blockbuster just announced that they are selling most of their rental tapes to clear the shelves for DVD. So before plunking down for a music DVD, rent it first.

     The Roy Orbison Black & White Concert, with a band featuring Bruce Springsteen, KD Lang, Bonnie Raitt, James Burton, etc. is highly recommended. All performers were clearly delighted to be working with the legendary master, laying down their best chops in his honor. Fleetwood Mac’s reunion effort The Dance catches the band firing on all cylinders and is beautifully recorded. The classic Eric Clapton Unplugged session is another winner.

     If you have a CD burner in your computer, you may want to copy the soundtracks you’ve recorded on videotape to CD. You will need to get an adapter from an electronics store that will go from the two (left & right) sound channel audio jacks on your VCR to the pin plug connector for the “line in” jack on your sound card.

     Dennis Catey is the co-owner, and music maestro, of PCEZ, The Computer Store, on 2nd Avenue in downtown Sandpoint.

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