In a turn of events that’s as bizarre as it is disturbing, a major music label’s overzealous attempt to protect its content has widened the great divide that increasingly separates the music industry from consumers. Sony BMG’s boneheaded misuse of hacker technology has potentially compromised the security of millions of PCs, inspired a bunch of computer viruses, provoked class-action lawsuits, caused a firestorm of protest in online forums, and even attracted veiled criticism from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
One of the most mortifying moments of my life came when I realized I’d lost my Sony MDR-NC10 noise-canceling earbuds. Well, I didn’t exactly lose them—what I lost was one of the rubber earpieces. I was ransacking the front pockets of my Levis in the men’s room of the Dallas airport and the friction of dragging out the earbuds must have dislodged the precious morsel of rubber. That effectively exiled the MDR-NC10 to my useless-gear drawer. Living without them was so impossible that I broke down and bought the successor model, the MDR-NC11.
MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding (AVC) is a next-generation video codec (coder/decoder) that's about to change the face of digital television—slimming it down, enabling it to move into narrower channels, and probably changing how it looks. I can almost see your eyes glazing over: Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do.
Sergei Rachmaninov's second piano concerto demands both a virtuoso pianist and a huge, supple orchestral sound. It gets both in this multichannel recording from Deutsche Grammophon, which pairs Lang Lang with a venerable Russian orchestra.
Isn't it a little odd to squeeze a whole symphony orchestra into a living room? The great thing about chamber music is that it's designed to be played in the home, correctly scaled to your personal space. It's best heard live, of course-but, if you can't invite musicians over for tea, the next best thing might be to feed your universal disc player this well-recorded pair of Beethoven chamber works.
Imagine the score for a 33-minute film noir with nonstop action. That's Béla Bartók's The Miraculous Mandarin in a nutshell, although it's actually a one-act dance suite. The story concerns three thugs who use a young woman as bait to rob a series of victims, culminating in the Mandarin. They murder him—but not before he consummates his passion for the girl. The plot had enough sex and violence to get it banned immediately upon its 1926 debut in Köln, Germany.
Even people who know nothing about Brazilian music recognize the urbane Latin syncopation of the bossa nova beat. The language, of course, is Portuguese, not Spanish. The key names in Brazilian pop music are Jobim and Gilberto; in orchestral and chamber music, Villa-Lobos. Arguably, the most alluring voice in Brazilian music today belongs to Rosa Passos, who partners with jazz bassist Ron Carter on this audiophile release.