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An idea for an online database of sleeve notes


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Initial post: 10 Jun 2012 13:03:00 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 Jun 2012 13:19:31 BDT
Yi-Peng says:
I've wanted to post something about sleeve notes for a time but have hardly ever gathered up my thoughts to post here.

I wish there was a website for classical sleeve notes from the past and the sleeve notes from deleted LP and CD recordings. As 78-era and LP-era recordings start coming out of copyright, can there be a chance for us netizen classical music lovers to read them? These seem to be a neglected aspect of classical recording production. Well-written sleeve notes, even in the LP era, contain exabytes - even terrabytes - of information on pieces, and it would be a shame if they were to get lost in this Internet age.

I'm not suggesting any imperial-scale copyright violations. Whenever a classical release is deleted the sleeve notes tend to lie down doing nothing. In this day and age it should be OK to make them available again as JPEGs or PDFs. The original writers of the HMV LP sleeve notes would have long since been dead, and they would be so much better than the notes available today. These sleeve notes are interchangeable so that they can be applied to any recording of a given piece. Also, if such a site existed we can refer to the sleeve notes in an original full-price release when we only own a mid- or budget-price reissue of that recording where the sleeve notes may have been shortened. Then we don't need to worry about wasting money on new releases.

Personally I would really like to see this project come to fruition. I've been typing sleeve notes into Word or scanning them into Dropbox from CD booklets or photocopies. I started doing so after feeling so disappointed with the sleeve notes being issued with CDs today. I've troubled myself by scavenging the Net for pictures of LP rear sleeves with sleeve notes to transcribe, especially on eBay. It has been hard for me because the print is small. I don't want to trouble myself by spending money on LPs and 78s for their sleeve notes. After all I'm not asking for the bad old days of snap crackle and pop. I think this project will be a life saver if I'm keen to read about music and I don't need to worry about troubling myself so badly.

I know these things may not be possible because of copyrights. Even so, Chandos, Hyperion, Naxos and other labels have published their sleeve notes online, and it's a good start.

We could mention these thoughts on the Gramophone website. We should do it in the style of the IMSLP.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jun 2012 18:37:07 BDT
Mondoro says:
This sounds very worthwhile. I particularly valued the sort of sleeve notes that Decca etc provided in the fifties, aimed at people who had miniature scores and could follow a detailed musical analysis of the recorded work. This type of information just isn't available any more, although Naxos sleeve notes at least try to say soemthing about the progress of the music. For the most part, we just get notes about the performers, or general essays of a philosophical nature that say little about the actual music.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jun 2012 22:30:50 BDT
D. M. Ohara says:
Yes, Decca did produce some fine sleeve-notes [I even wrote a few for them in the early 70s].
So did Vox. There were always well-written and informative notes in those wonderful VoxBoxes.

Posted on 11 Jun 2012 23:53:33 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Jun 2012 23:54:11 BDT
Paul B says:
Those were the days, when LPs came in a sleeve large enough to contain legible and extensive sleeve notes, and LP boxed sets had large and comprehensive booklets, and even complete opera libretti in several languages. Thank goodness the minidisc never caught on.

The Brilliant classics 20 CD Piano Concerto box, which comprises almost exclusively old Vox LP material has a cd ROM containing what presumably are the original sleeve notes from the 30 odd original LPs. Its almost like getting a short and very informative book for free, and it really adds to the enjoyment of a lot of unfamiliar music. I wish some other labels would take note.

Posted on 12 Jun 2012 09:27:29 BDT
An excellent idea, although the problems of copyright will be seriously difficult to overcome, unfortunately.

Another company which publishes its sleevenotes online is BIS, a worthy thing to do, but I think just about everything BIS as ever done has been worthy....

Posted on 16 Jun 2012 16:18:15 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Jun 2012 16:21:26 BDT
JayJayDee says:
C'n CB, I agree, we really do have to be grateful for BIS!
Chandos does the same. Something I was grateful for when buying the Chandos Thirty Edition. I also have a folder of the sleeve notes in .pdf , which I downloaded from their site one by one. This remains a great resource for researching recording dates and engineering/production details for any of their past issues.
As for online 'sleeve' material, I think that the mental switch to reading liner notes online instead of reading this information off the 'hard copy' LP sleeve/CD insert has been the catalyst for our collective acceptance that we also don't need the artifact anymore. Only it's electronic digital incarnation!

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Jun 2012 19:50:26 BDT
MacDoom says:
JJD,

I wonder if your 'we' constitues a majority, though. I, for one, still love my liner notes, and never bother to go on-line for them.

Posted on 20 Jun 2012 22:00:23 BDT
JayJayDee says:
Good on yer! MacDoom,
Maybe by next year, or the year after.....

I was of the same view until I had to transport my (then) 1000 strong collection across the world five years ago. Then I dumped all of the jewel cases and most of the boxes - unless outlandishly lavish!
The liners have since been stored with the CDs in vast wallet sleeves. But I rarely access them since transferring my collection to .wav files on a hard drive.
I admit that, when sitting at the PC, I often research online the details of some recording or other, even though I know it is in my collection somewhere.
Now, I also admit, that IS lazy!

But usually there's something else online that justifies it. And often the multi-disc re-issues are bereft of proper notes, and are leading us in the general direction of supporting our information sources from beyond the artifact itself.

I don't think there will be a market at all for our second hand collections after our generation's demise. The wonderful shiny CD that I used to marvel at 30 years ago is now viewed as a second rate coaster by my kids' generation! And there is so much information available on the internet, that liner notes are probably destined to be a luxury item in future for 'special editions'.

Also I hear that the 'blackboard and chalk' is about to be replaced.

Posted on 20 Jun 2012 22:15:35 BDT
Malx says:
'Blackboard and chalk' about to be replaced... I was just about to upgrade my slate, oh well too late again!

Posted on 20 Jun 2012 22:29:38 BDT
JayJayDee says:
No chalk to throw at errant students any more, I fear, Malx.
Oh well, the SmartBoard remote'll do just as well!
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Total posts:  10
Initial post:  10 Jun 2012
Latest post:  20 Jun 2012

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