There was a time when I pooh-poohed the idea of Internet radio, any idea for that matter which involved listening to computer-generated sounds. Why cheapen the listening experience, I reasoned, by resorting to inferior reproduction systems (such as one accorded you by two measly speakers) when you could gorge yourself instead on glorious melodies and sounds emanating from the finest in hi-fi? But that was a long time ago when I was a novice and web radio was still at its infancy. No longer! The iTunes ® – a free software from Apple – has become the standard in digital media-player applications from movies and TV-shows to podcasts and radio. In the radio category alone, it carries upwards of 2500 radio stations of every conceivable genre, all free and streaming, and their number keeps growing exponentially. And considering the length of time I spend in front of the computer these days either writing or browsing, Internet radio has become a friend. Unlike my early impressions, however, of being engaged by it only peripherally, I've found the listening experience to be of the most direct and immediate kind. But it's like anything else, I suppose, which comes with computer technology to make it appear as though the world was your oyster. Everything is at your fingertips nowadays – music included.
So what can you do besides listen? By golly, you can record! And thanks to Applian Technologies, Inc., a little software company from San Anselmo, CA, at long last I'll be able to indulge my secret fancy and record live-performances from the Met come this season. In case you didn't know, the Opening Night Gala is September 22, only three days away, and what a show it promises to be: Renée Fleming in fully staged excerpts from La Traviata, Manon, and Strauss's Capriccio, maestro James Levine, along with Marco Armiliato and Patrick Summers, conducting. It's a perfect kickoff of the Met's 125th anniversary season, and it will be broadcast live in HD via multiple giant screens in Times Square and movie theatres across North and South America. If I were in New York, I wouldn't miss it for all the whiskey in Ireland. Since I'm in H-town, I'll settle for the sound.
To whet your appetite, the good folks from California present you with a freebie – a Freecorder, version 2.0. It's a fully-functional demo, yours forever and no strings attached. There are some limitations, of course, but they're minimal. One is that the length of the recording can't exceed thirty minutes; there is no limit, though, to the number of recordings you can make. The second has to do with the sound quality: the demo won't capture streams beyond 64kbps – which is somewhat below the CD standard, we're told – but I dare you to tell a difference. And lastly, you won't be capturing the stream directly but via a mike or a sound card, so there's bound to be some interference. Given the ease of use, however, these drawbacks are negligible.
Consider the schemata: there are only four buttons of note. Once you've configured your settings, there's only the "Pause" and the "Record" button. You press Record to start your recording, at which time the bar below the "Status: Ready" message starts undulating: it tells you the recording is in progress. Once you're done or reach the allotted thirty-minute time limit, you press the top button again – this time showing as the "Stop" button – or the recording will terminate on its own. The "View Files" command gives you access to the files you've already saved so you can play them time and again to your heart's content. "Feedback" does just what it says: they are interested in your comments. The software comes, besides, with a full User Guide – the "Question Mark" button. And that's it in a nutshell. It's child's play.
So where is the catch? Unless music is part of your life, the Freecorder 2.0 – the stand-alone, demo model – is all you'll ever need. But what of longer musical pieces, symphonic or operatic, which, more often than not, exceed the thirty-minute limit? Well, for $19.95 you can upgrade your Freecorder to a fully-functional version, and that means no limitation whatever on either the recording time or the quality of the stream. So far so good!
I'm a purist, of course, so I'd gone the full mile. The idea of recording the finest in music through such imperfect media as computer mikes and whatnot was only second-best. I wanted "the stream," and that meant being able to talk through the recording in progress, walk away from it if need be, even scheduling shows and broadcasts in advance – no differently than setting an alarm clock, I suppose. I could be elsewhere, for Christ's sake! Besides, I liked what I saw. I was really impressed with Applian products and prompt and helpful responses from their staff; they were professional to the core. And so I've splurged and purchased their top of the line "Replay Capture Suite" – the ultimate recording suite – and no, I don't regret it one bit!
You have no idea the goodies that come with it: Replay A/V, Replay Music, Replay Media Catcher, Replay Screencast, Replay Converter, Replay Player, Replay Media Splitter, and the upgraded Freecorder of course. It's worth every penny of the $99.00 asking price. It'll make you a recording engineer in no time. (By the way, the 19.95 I had paid for an upgraded Freecorder was promptly refunded.)
I'll be ready for Monday Night Gala, come what may!
Recording videos or music over the Internet is a touchy matter whose very legality remains a question mark. If done indiscriminately, it borders on piracy, to say nothing of infringing on the artist's rights. But so is burning CDs, or any practice for that matter which bypasses the distributor in the interest of convenience or saving the buck. As much as we all abhor it, we all do it from time to time. The key is to do it judiciously. Don't be a hog!
There are other things you can do! Support the streaming stations with your hard-earned dollar so when you cut a record now and then, you won't feel guilty because, indirectly at least, you'll be paying your dues. In fact, they all expect you to do it since they readily publicize their URL. The Internet radio is here to stay – it's already up to 13 percent of the market share – so there is a tacit understanding, I'd say, that recording the streams is on its way to becoming a well-established practice. The availability of recording software from companies like Applian is just a nail in the coffin: it makes the legal point a moot one.
So how do I alleviate my own guilt concerning my intentions? Well, I had made it a point to subscribe to Sirius Internet Radio. Channel 78 will carry the opening night gala and all Met performances during the 2008-2009 season. The $12.50 a month is small price to pay for the privilege of cutting a record now and then and easing my conscience. But I can't tell you what to do.
We should all be grateful to companies like Applian for bringing technology and culture to our doorsteps. These are truly creative and innovative people who still produce a real product, the kind of people who had made this country great. Compared to the parasites on Wall Street, whose only motivation seems to be greed and who are quickly bringing us to our destruction, they're like a beacon of light. We're powerless, I'm afraid, when it comes to repairing our economic foundations. Thanks to Applian Technologies, however – and all such – there is a means of escape.
May they all survive!
PS: This is not a paid advertisement, but I'm their privileged customer. So if you'll email me expressing your interest, I'll send you a coupon entitling you to a 25 percent discount on all their products.
http://www.apple.com/itunes/download (free download from Apple)