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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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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