Apple Music follow up – iPhone tips

Following last week’s post about plunging into Apple Music, I have to temper my initial mild exuberance with some reality checks about things that didn’t work so well, and how I got past them. The issues are almost all related to my iPhone, but there was also some playlist weirdness that I had to work through.

Learning number 1: You can’t copy music to your iPhone via sync when you choose to sync your whole library via iCloud. This seems kind of obvious when you write it out that way, but this was a major problem because lots of playlists were just not showing up for me when I flipped my phone to do a library sync with iCloud. These included my smart playlists that I listen to almost all the time (and which I’ll have to write up sometime soon).

Learning number 2: The new Finder-based iPhone sync doesn’t pick up newly created playlists until the Mac Music app is quit. I thought I was losing my mind, because in an effort to fix the missing playlists problem, I created new copies of the playlists with the same rules but different names. And none of them were showing up in the Finder iPhone Sync window. After I quit Music, the new playlists appeared, as did other changes that I made.

This reminds me of something I remembered about third party apps that read the iTunes library file a long time ago — certain changes had to wait for the app to quit because it would keep the file locked until then. Or maybe it was that there was an XML shadow copy of the library that was only updated on Quit? Anyway, I now could at least see the playlist.

Learning number 3: Sometimes you just have to burn it to the ground and start over. Even after I saw the playlist in the Finder, clicked the checkbox, and synced my iPhone, I still didn’t see the playlist when I opened the Music app in the iPhone. This morning I just decided to hell with it, turned off all music syncing, then turned it back on and copied the playlist over. Which worked.

I’m kind of glad I did this, because it gave me some evidence for some benefits in syncing in Catalina. I copied over about half my playlists — tens of GB of data — in less than 30 minutes. This gives me confidence that the underlying synchronization should be at least as fast, if not faster, than the iTunes based sync in Mojave and before.

Other observations:

Syncing your library sometimes duplicates playlists. I’m not sure where the issue was here, but I had something like two or three copies of some of my common playlists after turning on library syncing on my iPhone, iPad and work computer. I deleted the extras, crossing my fingers that I wasn’t causing any problems, but am not sure that this didn’t contribute to the issues I saw on my iPhone.

The way playlists show up in the Finder is a mess. The list of playlists is a garbage fire. Possibly related to the observation above, I saw not only playlists but folders duplicated in the Finder list—and the duplicate folders sometimes had different contents. Not only that, but the playlists in a folder weren’t in alphabetical order. This means that finding a playlist to include in a sync is a total mess.

Now that I’ve gotten through all the above, I am starting to wonder if all my initial problems were caused by a goofed-up iPhone Music library, and if turning on library syncing again might result in a fully working setup. I’m inclined to try the experiment, since syncing did solve one persistent problem for me by making regular-resolution copies of songs that were too high-resolution for the iPhone to handle available for mobile play. But I think I’ll wait until after the weekend.

Deeper into Apple Music

If you’ve read this blog for a while, learning that I’m sometimes a late adopter might come as a surprise. (Or not, given that the blog, and I, am now more than nineteen years older than when we started.) But I’ve held off on joining Apple’s various music-in-the-cloud offerings for a long time. Like almost ten years.

In June 2011, Apple introduced iTunes Match, a feature that would match tracks with your library to tracks already in its cloud based services and upload the tracks that had no match, allowing you to take your music library anywhere. Theoretically. In practice, the rumors abounded of mismatched songs, and even accidental data deletion. And then there was the pesky 25,000 song limit. So I basically forgot about it.

For about nine years.

Somewhere along the way, they raised the limit to 100,000 songs. But I had figured out how to live without the feature. Somewhere along the way, we also became Apple Music subscribers, but I really only used it to look up the occasional release and listen to radio stations.

Then The Girl started asking me questions about different kinds of music, and I really wanted to be able to share some South African music from the days of the battle against Apartheid. And I couldn’t. Home sharing no longer works on iPads, and there was no way to get her music on the Chromebook.

So finally, I took a deep breath and turned on iCloud Music Library. And you know, it actually worked. Want proof? Here’s a playlist I made in 1994, which just shows up in the browser when you check a box:

So once that was turned on, I took the other plunge and upgraded to Catalina, and said farewell to iTunes, in favor of the new Music app. It was surprisingly painless, once I realized that the app was very slow in copying album art. I also had to fix the AppleScripts that I use with iTunes, by copying them from ~/Library/iTunes/Scripts to ~/Library/Music/Scripts. And for some reason, though it found all my music on my external drive, it still wanted my library (“media files”) location to be on my hard drive. That was an easy fix (though it’ll probably take all day to update the library with the new relative file locations).

And now I wonder why I took so long! Having access to all the music, being able to share playlists easily… all good things.

Exfiltration Radio: Off Kilter Christmas

It’s still Christmas, technically, until the Feast of Epiphany on January 6. That’s what I keep telling Lisa when she asks when I’m taking down the Christmas tree, and that’s what I’m telling you when I post this new Exfiltration Radio playlist of slightly askew Christmas (and Hanukkah) tunes and a few spoken word bits. Hope you find something in it to help ease back into the daily routine.

  1. Did You Spend Christmas Day In Jail? (excerpt)Rev. J.M. Gates (Lit Up Like A Christmas Tree – A Vintage Holiday Mixtape)
  2. The Toy Trumpet – Arthur Fiedler;Al HirtBoston Pops/Arthur Fiedler (Pops Christmas Party)
  3. Ring Those Christmas BellsFred Waring & The Pennsylvanians (The Sounds of Christmas)
  4. Good Morning Blues (feat. Cécile Mclorin Salvant)Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (Big Band Holidays)
  5. Please Come Home For ChristmasLittle Johnny Taylor (It’s Christmas Time Again)
  6. I’m Your Christmas Friend, Don’t Be HungryJames Brown (Hey America)
  7. Who Took The Merry Out Of ChristmasThe Staple Singers (It’s Christmas Time Again)
  8. Deck the HallsR.E.M. (Gift Wrapped – 20 Songs That Keep On Giving!)
  9. I Hate ChristmasOscar (Sesame Street: Merry Christmas from Sesame Street)
  10. The Little Drum Machine BoyBeck (Just Say Noel)
  11. Come on! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!Sufjan Stevens (Songs For Christmas)
  12. Do You Hear What I Hear?Chaka Khan (Do You Hear What I Hear? – Single)
  13. NutmegStephen Colbert & John Legend (A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!)
  14. Sleigh RideDread Zeppelin (Presents)
  15. Big BulbsSharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (It’s a Holiday Soul Party)
  16. Silent NightBootsy Collins (Christmas Is 4 Ever)
  17. Don’t Shoot Me SantaThe Killers (Don’t Shoot Me Santa – Single)
  18. Christmas IslandBob Dylan (Christmas In the Heart)
  19. Fan Club Christmas Record – 1964 (excerpt)The Beatles (Fan Club Christmas Records)
  20. Christmas GreetingOrson Welles (Vintage Christmas)

Obsolete Media pt. 3, in which Christmas comes early

Yes indeed! The mystery DATs were the master recordings from the 7pm and 9:30pm performances of the Virginia Glee Club 57th Annual Christmas Concert! Notable as the Glee Club’s first Christmas performances with conductor Bruce Tammen, the unedited tapes include the full range of a Glee Club Christmas, including audience carols, the eternal struggle between the Four Calling Birds and Three French Hens during the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” solo performances by Jayson Throckmorton, Craig Fennell, Eric Buechner and Bill Bennett, and some seriously moving renditions of favorites like the Gretchaninoff “Nunc Dimittis” and the Biebl Ave Maria. To say nothing of riveting announcements by Glee Club president Drew Cogswell.

I’m going to try to make the whole concert available somehow, but for now here’s a teaser: Club’s performance of the Marvin V. Curtis arrangement of “Go Tell It On the Mountain” from the 7pm show. Enjoy!

Adventures in obsolete audio, pt. 2: not there yet

I had hoped to do a “big reveal” post on the contents of the DAT tapes I wrote about a few days ago. Instead, I have a few learnings about DAT players.

First, DAT players are more like VCRs than cassette tape players. Instead of moving the tape past a playback head, DATs (and VCRs) wind the tape around the playback head. This happens even when you are rewinding the tape.

Second, rewind is a little more complicated on a DAT and sometimes the player can stop the rewind. If you just press rewind again, sometimes the player gets confused. Then if you go to eject the tape, you’ll end up with the tape partly pulled out of its case.

Third, you can re-spool DAT tape with a pencil, but it’s slightly more complicated. You first have to push the tabs down on the bottom of the tape and slide the bottom back so that you can get to the sprockets, then use the tip of a pencil to do the rewinding. (You can’t push the pencil all the way through thanks to the clear plastic on the other side of the tape, meaning it’s a slower process.)

All of this is to say I’ll be able to hear everything on these DATs, once I figure out how to safely rewind them.

UPDATE: It turns out to be a pretty simple proposition. The player was stopping the rewind because the spools weren’t operating smoothly after more than 20 years of inactivity. The fix, as suggested by this paper on DAT preservation by an intern at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, is simply to fast-forward the tape to the end, and then to rewind it to the beginning. We’ll have audio soon!

Adventures in Obsolete Audio, part 1

Sometimes life moves faster than even the makers of cutting edge technology can predict. This is certainly true for computer technology. It can be hard to realize, but the same is true for audio technology —the vinyl revival notwithstanding.

Case in point: Digital Audio Tape.

Remember DAT? If you were a consumer of music in the 1990s, probably not. But if you were a performer, especially in a small ensemble, you probably remember that one guy who had the DAT recorder. They seemed, for that small market, ubiquitous. All the small form factor of a cassette—but digital! Boy, you can almost smell the early ’90s, can’t you?

So what happened? In retrospect, the window between the advent of digital recording technology and convenient, low cost, high-capacity hard disk and solid state storage was pretty short. And DAT disappeared. As far as I can tell, no one is manufacturing the player/recorders any more. You can still find them on eBay, commanding a small premium.

Which is why I was grateful that my friend in the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Lauren, had saved one in her attic. And it works! Now I can listen to what’s on those four mysterious DAT tapes that I’ve had for six years.

What tapes? Well, that’s a story for another day.

New mix: The Low End Theory

(No, it’s not a Tribe Called Quest mix.)

Last Hackathon I made an hour long mix of Hammond organ centered jazz. In retrospect, while the listening was great, it felt like it didn’t go far enough into the different types of performance techniques on the organ, or different styles. So this time, I decided to do something a little more subtle, and focus on the bass.

It can be hard to appreciate what a bass player brings to your typical small group performance. But you can start to dig in just by considering the different choices available to the bassist: acoustic or electric? Pizzicato (plucked) or arco (bowed)? Holding down the root of the chord, or playing a counter-melody? There are a bunch of different bass players on this mix, and each of them approaches their role very differently. Enjoy!

  1. Re: Person I KnewBill Evans Trio (Chuck Israels, bass) (Moon Beams [Original Jazz Classics Remasters])
  2. Tale of the FingersPaul Chambers (Whims Of Chambers)
  3. CaravanDuke Ellington With Charles Mingus (bass) & Max Roach (Money Jungle)
  4. Moment’s NoticeJohn Coltrane (Paul Chambers, bass) (Blue Train)
  5. EurydiceWeather Report (Miroslav Vitouš, bass) (Weather Report)
  6. Jimmy´s ModeJohn Coltrane (Jimmy Garrison, bass) (Stellar Regions)
  7. Red ClayFreddie Hubbard (Ron Carter, bass) (Red Clay)
  8. EpilogueMiroslav Vitouš (Infinite Search)
  9. Little SunflowerChristian McBride (Number Two Express)

New Mix: How I feel on the inside

It’s that time again… time for a new Hackathon radio mix. The latest entry in the Exfiltration Radio series deals in spookiness and mystery, and lots and lots of black. It’s a gothic and goth-adjacent postpunk sort of set, and it’s a lot of fun even if you don’t wear black on the outside. Another one is coming soon, so stay tuned!

  1. 10:15 Saturday NightThe Cure (Three Imaginary Boys)
  2. Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Official Version)Bauhaus (The Bela Session)
  3. Pink Flag (2006 Digital Remaster)Wire (Pink Flag)
  4. Not Great MenGang Of Four (Entertainment!)
  5. ShadowplayJoy Division (Unknown Pleasures)
  6. Gathering DustModern English (Mesh & Lace)
  7. In the Flat FieldBauhaus (Swing the Heartache: The BBC Sessions)
  8. HalloweenSiouxsie & The Banshees (Ju Ju (Remastered))
  9. SomewhereThe Danse Society (The Indie Years : 1983)
  10. Love Like BloodKilling Joke (Night Time)
  11. Lucretia My ReflectionThe Sisters of Mercy (Floodland (Deluxe Version))
  12. A Short Term EffectThe Cure (Pornography)
  13. Song to the SirenThis Mortal Coil (It’ll End in Tears)

New Coltrane

VinylFactory.com: Previously unheard 1964 John Coltrane album released for the first time.

This is an even bigger deal, arguably, than last year’s Both Directions at Once, which I liked but which was ultimately a little … unmemorable? The title track of Blue World is a burner that reminds me of “Equinox” and other great John Coltrane Quartet classics. Listen now:

Unmentioned in the coverage I’ve seen is that you can pre-order the vinyl version of the album in the uDiscover Music store, ahead of its September 27th release.

New mix: Exfiltration Radio: The Mighty Hammond

It’s another Hackathon at Veracode, and time for another playlist. This time around we get an hour of jazz and jazz-adjacent Hammond organ, for your ass. This is not your ballpark organ music, he said, glaring sternly at the interrogator; it’s something that should be deep in your soul.

There’s lots of Jimmy Smith on this, as God intended, but there’s also Groove Holmes and Ronnie Foster and Jimmy McGriff and Dr. Lonnie Smith and James Brown and the latter-day Delvon Lamarr and… just listen already!

  1. Iron LegMickey & The Soul Generation (Iron Leg)
  2. The CatJimmy Smith (Talkin’ Verve)
  3. Finger Lickin’ GoodJimmy McGriff & Groove Holmes (Dueling Organs)
  4. I Want To Hold Your HandGrant Green (I Want To Hold Your Hand)
  5. Top Going Down, Bottom Going Up (Live)Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (Live at KEXP!)
  6. Mystic BrewRonnie Foster (Two Headed Freap)
  7. The BirdJimmy McGriff (Groove Grease)
  8. Sagg Shootin’ His ArrowJimmy Smith (Root Down)
  9. Devil’s HaircutDr. Lonnie Smith (Boogaloo To Beck)
  10. Grits (Extended Version)James Brown (Grits & Soul (Instrumentals) [Expanded Edition])

Estévez, Cantata Criolla

Rehearsal of the Cantata Criolla, April 8, 2019, James Burton conducting

It seems like only a year or two ago that John Oliver was tapped on short notice to conduct the Beethoven Missa Solemnis, taking over for an ailing Kurt Masur (it was seven years ago last month). This week history (sort of) repeated itself.

We were due to sing with the great Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel in a concert of music by Venezuelan composers. Our piece was to be the Cantata Criolla of Antonio Estévez, a fantastical piece that combines Venezuelan folk music and stories, a singing duel with the Devil, high modernism and Gregorian chant into one spectacular cazuela gaucho.

And then, after a weekend in Boston conducting Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, among other works, Dudamel aggravated a wrist injury and was unable to conduct. Two of the works, never performed in Boston and little known, had to be removed from the program as there was no way to adequately prepare them in time. But James Burton, the TFC’s current conductor, had been working closely with us on Cantata Criolla for about six weeks, and was tapped to conduct the piece so that we would preserve at least some of the original plan for the concert run.

The first concert was last night and was incredible. James got incredible colors out of the orchestra and chorus. The attack of the cicadas was actually frightening. And I’ve never heard an orchestra produce a sound like steel drums before, but Estévez’s orchestration and the precision of James’s conducting brought out a distinctly festive flavor to parts of the singing duel between our complero protagonist Florentíno and El Diablo. It’s a fun work and I’m looking forward to a few more performances.

Music roundup

It’s a measure of how busy I’ve been over the past few months with work that I didn’t post at all in December. So much for New Years resolutions!

Here’s a few things that came across my radar while I wasn’t posting, starting with music:

Funky16Corners: The Return of the Mothership. Looks like I’ve been sitting on this one for a long time, almost a year! Great hour long mix of afrofuturistic funk, rock and related grooves (listen directly).

Stereogum: Ugly Beauty: The Month in Jazz – September 2018. Always a good read, I’m pointing back to this column from a few months ago thanks to its review of Randy Weston’s life and career. I got to see Weston play over 25 years ago at UVa and the fierceness of his playing stuck in my memory, along with pointers to the Alice Coltrane Warner Brothers recordings and Temporary Kings, both of which I need to actually go back and listen to…

Aquarium Drunkard: Spiritual Jazz Sunday. This came out as I was working on my “Holy Ghost” mix. It was worth looking over to see what I should include and where I should diversify (for instance, avoiding leaning too heavily on the John Coltrane/Alice Coltrane/Pharoah Sanders axis).

Doom and Gloom from the Tomb: Duke Ellington and His Original Cotton Club Orchestra – Publix Allyn Theatre, Hartford, Connecticut, April 11, 1932. Eight minutes of history from the earliest known existing Duke Ellington radio broadcast.

Stereogum: Watch Paul Simon’s Record-Breaking 9th SNL Performance. Because “Can’t Run But” is one of my favorite of Simon’s songs and I love that he decided it needed more attention.

Mark Guiliana: Thank You (featuring Brad Mehldau). A really lovely Thanksgiving present from Guiliana-as-songwriter, featuring Mehldau’s poignant performance of his tribute to his mother before she passed away.

Bach Collegium Japan Chorus: Verbum Caro Factum Est – a Christmas Greeting. I had the great pleasure to sing with Masaaki Suzuki a few years ago (Bach’s St. John Passion), and am looking forward to hearing this Christmas recording even after the holiday has been put away for another year.

Spain: Blue Moods of Spain: a History, Vol. 1. Archival recordings from before the band’s official birth.

Exfiltration radio: Thirty years ago today

This is the second of two recent Hackathon playlists, and where The Holy Ghost was all about the Spirit, this one’s all about the body.

I have trouble believing that 1988 was thirty years ago, but then I also have trouble believing that my being old enough to drink happened before some of my youngest coworkers were born.

Lots of material that I omitted that might have made a volume II, in favor of more recognizable (though still oblique) corners of 1988. But it’s worth recognizing that the iconic rubbery shredding guitar on that iconic early Morrissey solo number is by none other than Durutti Column frontman Vini Reilly. And that Janet Jackson wouldn’t do anything as innovative as Rhythm Nation for basically the rest of her career (though she’d have bigger hits). And that Madonna would ultimately prove more transgressive than what Thurston did to “Into the Groove,” but that the combination of the two would be as dark and unsettling as Leonard Cohen. And… Well, you get the picture. There was a lot of darkness around the corner everywhere in the late 1980s.

  1. Eye of Fatima, Pt. 1Camper Van Beethoven (Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart)
  2. Birth, School, Work, DeathThe Godfathers (Big Hits, Skinny Ties:New Wave)
  3. In Your RoomThe Bangles (Everything)
  4. I Don’t Mind If You Forget MeMorrissey (Viva Hate)
  5. Peek-A-Boo (Single)Siouxsie and The Banshees (Peep Show)
  6. Cupid ComeMy Bloody Valentine (Isn’t Anything)
  7. Everybody KnowsLeonard Cohen (I’m Your Man)
  8. Into The GrooveyCiccone Youth (The Whitey Album)
  9. Miss You MuchJanet Jackson (Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814)
  10. Silver RocketSonic Youth (Daydream Nation)
  11. ColdsweatThe Sugarcubes (Life’s Too Good)
  12. Dad I’m in JailWas (Not Was) (What Up, Dog?)
  13. Don’t Believe the HypePublic Enemy (It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back)
  14. ChristineThe House of Love (The House of Love)
  15. Carolyn’s FingersCocteau Twins (Blue Bell Knoll (Remastered) [Remastered])
  16. Under the Milky WayThe Church (Starfish)

Exfiltration Radio: the Holy Ghost

It’s been a hard day for many folks, after a hard year and 259 days. But in these days you have to do what you can, and not worry about what you can’t.

For me that translates to seeking out what’s important in music. Which is why the fifth volume in my series of one-hour Exfiltration Radio shows is about spiritual jazz. 

(Why that name? The music takes some of the techniques of free jazz and infuses it with the searching, looking beyond that Coltrane brought to the table with A Love Supreme. It’s a broad banner, as the multiple volumes of the Spiritual Jazz compilation series show.)

This one mixes up a track from one of my favorite McCoy Tyner albums, his Extensions, with other tracks from Alice Coltrane, Donald Byrd, Wayne Shorter, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the redoubtable Pharoah Sanders, and a few other goodies that I’ve found over the years on Bandcamp or other spots. It’s a good one-hour introduction if you’re feeling sinister—and it’s a good reminder that not everything that is in the world is of the world.

Enjoy…

  1. Rainbow WarriorsAlan Braufman (Valley of Search (Reissue))
  2. Journey In SatchidanandaAlice Coltrane (The Impulse Story: Alice Coltrane)
  3. Message From The NileMcCoy Tyner (Extensions)
  4. Dance! Dance, Eternal SpiritsJoe Bonner with David Friesen, Billy Harper, Virgil Jones, M (Black Saint)
  5. ElijahDonald Byrd (A New Perspective)
  6. Ja MilHastings Street Jazz Experience (Spiritual Jazz)
  7. JuJuWayne Shorter (JuJu (Rudy Van Gelder Edition))
  8. Spirits Up AboveRahsaan Roland Kirk (Volunteered Slavery)
  9. ColorsPharoah Sanders (Karma)