Musical Traditions of the 20thCentury

CD-ROM of the entire output of the magazine, 1983-1999

MT CD 2000

Unsurprisingly, this is not the sort of product which gets reviewed in other magazines, and nor did we feel that it was appropriate to ask one of our own reviewers do attempt the job - for reasons of impartiality.  Moreover, of course, most regular readers will obviously be familiar with much of the content, anyway.

But a few purchasers have taken the trouble to send us their opinions of the CD-ROM, and these will be published here, as they come in.  But one review (for the US magazine Dirty Linen) has been done, so let's have a look at that first.

This CD-ROM is an example of how the web browser - a computer 'user interface' - can change the way we process information.  Want a magazine that integrates text, image and musical clips in an intuitive, easy-to-access way?  You can't find a better example than this.  cdromcov.jpg - 9.2 KAnd while this is pretty low-tech in its overall feel, with far more text than graphics, no video or other bells-and-whistles, and only short sound clips in RealAudio format, the tradeoff is the astonishing amount of information they're able to pack onto one simple CD.  In the 'Articles' section alone, there's a load: two whole books (Dr Mike Brocken's provocative analysis of The British Folk Revival, which is actually his PhD thesis; and Rod Stradling's Traditional Music Discography, a noble effort which covers a wide field and is therefore still far from complete); several very long articles (Keith Summers's Sing, Say or Pay, a survey of traditional music in East Suffolk, was 50 pages when it was available in print,.  and Brocken's Topic Records Discography would be about 75, if the size of the file is any guide); and many articles that, while not so long as those above, are still far longer than anything we could print in Dirty Linen (8,661 words on French Sailor Songs, for example, and 14,197 about English singer Cyril Poacher!).  This tendency toward in-depth analysis is partly because, without the necessity of printing physical magazines and mailing them all over the world, they're able to make articles and reviews much longer than those of us constrained by budgets.  It's also partly because, without the necessity of selling magazines to thousands of people, they can afford to go into far greater detail, and deal with subjects far more arcane, than a relatively mainstream magazine like Dirty Linen can.

Musical Traditions is divided into 'Articles,' 'Reviews,' 'Editorials,' 'News,' 'Letters,' and other typical magazine departments.  A diverting category is 'Enthusiasms,' a series of short articles (only 1,800 words?) on a variety of subjects like Portuguese Fado, American Bluegrass, and the meaning of 'Tradition'.  You won't agree with all the views expressed (well, I certainly don't!) but they will make you think if you let them.  How does it work?  Pretty straightforward, really.  You hit a link from the table of contents to get an article, review or letter - say, Ponte Caffaro Carnevale by Rod and Danny Stradling.  As you read, you get to a spot that says '(Sound Clip)', and you click the nearby RealAudio icon.  Your RealAudio player pops up, you hear the clip, and you keep reading.  Oh, and don't forget to look at the awesome and colorful pictures of this carnival that are sprinkled throughout the text!

So, is it interesting?.  It depends.  If you're a Dirty Linen reader who's primarily interested in more 'popular' and less 'traditional' forms, eg. Mary-Chapin Carpenter, or King Sunny Ade, or even Fairport Convention, you might not be interested in reading a 6,887-word review article on Rounder's Hammons Family CD, or a 6,282-word profile of Australian Bush band the Wedderburn Old-Timers, or a 4,259-word examination of Christmas Plays on the West Indian Islands of St Kitts and Nevis, or even a 3,367-word interview with English Concertina player Scan Tester.  But if you are committed to the small-scale traditional rather than the mass-market popular, and if your commitment is deep indeed, you will find literally hours and hours of enjoyable reading on this CD.  In fact, I feel a bit guilty reviewing it because I haven't read nearly all of it yet; but I seriously doubt if I'll do so before about 2005.  In other words, it's more bang for your buck than any folk music book you can imagine.

Why should you buy it if it's on the web?  Three reasons, really.  For one, there are thirty articles on the CD that are NOT on the website, as they've filled it out with material from the paper issues of Musical Traditions going back to 1983.  Second, with the CD you don't have to deal with slow downloads of pictures and music from a website in England.  And.  finally, think of all the time you'd be spending online, reading this stuff until 2005.  It'd be cheaper to just buy the disc!

Steve Winick - Dirty Linen #89 - Aug/Sept 2000

I've just taken delivery of the Musical Traditions CD-ROM.  The only word for it is magnificent - please accept my sincere congratulations for the way in which you have made everything so accessible.  It has to be the deal of the new millennium - so much information and pleasure for a tenner.

Thanks again and best regards

John Woodman

Well done with issuing Musical Traditions on CD-ROM - I hope that you get a lot of orders.  God knows, most people have absolutely no idea of the time and mental energy expounded in such projects.  The website still works a treat and is justly winning awards.  Keep up the good work.

Paul Marsh - Forest Tracks Records

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