To the Editor:
Philip Kennicott made some insightful observations about how the music business is undergoing drastic changes ("Mapping Recorded Music's Next Moves," Aug. 29). However, I wonder how quickly the audio CD will really be replaced by downloadable music. More important, I think it is wise to keep in mind that right now the technologies, such as MP3, that allow practical transfer of finished audio over the Internet are based on "lossy" compression algorithms--those that throw away some of the original data to save space.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the use of compression schemes based on "perceptual coding" (those that throw away parts of the audio that, theoretically, cannot be heard due to the nature of our own hearing), there is the potential to lose perceivable quality in the final product. Many music industry people feel that the original audio CD specification (16 bits at 44.1-kilohertz sampling rate) is already inadequate to faithfully capture the nuances of real music, and are working with higher-resolution systems. The acceptance of lower-resolution systems, such as MP3 or AC-3 (also known as Dolby Digital) brings with it the potential for a general lowering of standards and expectations about what "good" audio should sound like. Let us not allow the rush toward faster, more profitable (or even more flexible) delivery systems to create a market for poor-quality sound!
To the Editor:
In his article "Mapping Recorded Music's Next Move", Philip Kennicott misses an important point in responding to his question: Will there be any hope of an authentic musical experience if a performance is "preserved perpetually in a simulated world that is indistinguishable from the real?" Music is produced by human beings, not machines. I cannot believe that any technology could replace the emotional experience of being in the presence of, and witnessing, the enthusiasm of aspiring young musicians at the Aspen Music Festival or the intensity of feeling shown by members of the Emerson String Quartet or other equally accomplished performers. Technology cannot substitute for being part of a live audience.
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