2003 March 16

(entry last updated: 2003-03-16 19:44:35)

  • The CEO of StreamCast Networks, Morpheus’ parent, resigns. Why? We’ll see, but no one’s saying right now.

  • Another demonstration of the schizophrenia within Sony is this article from New Scientist describing new CD recording/storage techniques/devices that vastly increase capacity, to the dismay of record companies. The Slashdot discussion includes some entertaining comments on the ability to perceive the sonic defects in lossy compression formats.

  • I can see that, as the clock winds down, it’s going to be difficult to eschew including at least one war posting, my desires to avoid warblogging to the contrary – today, it’s Jack Balkin’s post from Saturday

    Although the analogy is not quite accurate, the discussion of CleanFlicks yesterday makes this Times article on the disputes surrounding the merits of music arrangements worth a read. A look at one of the cultural drifts that supports some of these narrowly-constructed concepts of copyright.

    Today all of that has changed. The arrangement is widely regarded as second-class music. At best it is tolerated, at worst disdained. What brought about the change? For the last 80 years, musicology has been increasingly successful in pressing the case for the urtext: an authentic performing edition in which, purportedly, the composer’s original thought is perfectly preserved, every note is sacrosanct and the “sonic surface” of the music is reproduced exactly as the composer envisaged it. A musical performance, by this view, should amount to the re-creation of a bit of history.

    The arrangement fails on all counts. By definition it is not interested in the composer’s “original thought”; it treats the text with impunity; it does not revere the sonic surface. And because it plays fast and loose with history, the arrangement has been punished by savants, those self-appointed guardians of the past. So successful has musicology been in this regard that it has created a world of musical apartheid. It still takes an act of courage to play a concert of arrangements — let alone two concerts, as the Eos Orchestra is doing this week. A vast treasury of music is being hushed up and forgotten.

  • A look at the economics of telecom by considering the magnitude of the recent asset writedown at Worldcom. Maybe the comparisons are appropriate, but that’s a lot of lost assets for any industry.

    Of course, companies that are not operating in bankruptcy do not need to reduce the value of their assets by the same amount as WorldCom has done. But one can make a case that a writedown half the size of WorldCom’s — say 40 percent — is realistic.

    Another former telecommunications analyst said: “It clearly shows that the remaining companies’ true economic value is well, well below where their book values are, even for hard assets and forgetting the good will. And if true economic value is far below that, then stock prices will likely come down.”

    Thanks to WorldCom, we are closer to knowing how much demonstrably dumb money went into the telecom industry at the century’s end. Although this particular bubble burst years ago, WorldCom’s news from last week reveals just how long it will take to come back into balance.