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Sites for the ear

Web provides sound foundation in music history

September 19, 1996
Web posted at: 1:15 a.m. EDT

From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman

(CNN) -- You may say you like music. You may even be able to name bands that you like, sing the lyrics to your favorite songs. But if you don't understand where the music started, you may be missing its point. Fortunately, there are web sites just waiting to inform you and expand your appreciation of a whole range of tunes.



Classical Music: The ClassicalNet home page

Classicalnet

The ClassicalNet home page was created by a self-professed classical music fanatic who broke down the entire body of classic compositions into seven main time periods, running from about 1000 A.D. to the present.

Over time, he has built up his site to include several layers of music arcania. Under each time period, you can learn which artists were the most prominent, what made them significant to the period, their works, and which ones are currently available on CD. He also notes which works in each period are most likely to give you an appreciation for the period's overall style.

ClassicalNet also includes a buying guide for classical CDs -- i.e., what the difference is between digitally remastered and analog-to-digital recordings, where to get specific recordings if you live in the boondocks -- and reviews of specific recordings. Just to give each recording a fair shake, reviews by other people are also included.

Fortunately for those of us with limited budgets, ClassicalNet is not snobbish, and is perfectly willing to admit that you can buy outstanding performances off the bargain rack at Best Buy. This site just tells you which are worth your hard-earned cash.



Classical MIDI Archive

I also liked the Classical MIDI Archive, which hosts more than 3,000 MIDI-format bits of classical music. It isn't as comprehensive or as deep as ClassicalNet, but if you want to hear before you buy, this is a good place to check.



Jazz Central Station

Jazz Central station

Jazz is another musical genre that influenced much of what you hear on the radio today. Of the major jazz web sites, Jazz Central Station, is the best designed and has more detailed information about more jazz musicians than any other single site on the Web today.

It also boasts a History of Jazz section, which starts with the roots of jazz and goes all the way through to today's fusion and straight jazz revival musicians. If you know nothing about jazz, this is a good place to start.

The site takes more advantage of current technology than most sites, with a "shocked" version available (do check it out if you're using a 28.8 modem or faster, because it's pretty cool). It has a good search engine, pull-down menus for easy navigation, and a bulletin board for jazz enthusiasts to talk about mutual interests. And, of course, you can listen to sound clips, both of music and of the musicians.



The Blue Highway

The Blue Highway

In language and attitude, this site strikes a somewhat unconventional pose, but for the blues, it works. Like the Jazz Central Station web site, the Blues Highway has its own history of the most prominent blues musicians -- and if you were paying attention when you went through the JCS history pages, you'll find that blues and jazz overlap in several places. Sound files are available for a sampling of each artist's work.

Also available here: Essays on the genre by blues fans, news on new recordings and tours, a listing of the radio stations in your area that play blues music and when, and information on the Delta Blues Museum.



Roughstock

Roughstock

A lot of people consider today's country music to be the child of 1950s rock 'n' roll, and vice versa -- 1950s country music also influenced much of today's rock.

Roughstock makes a solid contribution to spreading understanding of country music on the World Wide Web. Like the other sites reviewed here, it boasts a musical history. What's more, if you'd like to play country music on your guitar, you can find the chords for a number of popular songs on this site under COWPIE, Roughstock's newsletter.

The site has also compiled a list of upcoming CD releases, reviews for some of them, and news of the artists. And, Roughstock has a link to a concert calendar site, searchable by city and artist (not all the performances listed by city will be country artists).



In sum, you should enjoy your tunes -- but understand them, too, and you will get even more out of them. Hope these sites give you a good start towards that end.

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