Apple Music + iCloud Music Library is a brilliant pairing, and finally lets us access our personal music collections from anywhere. But it’s not without its warts – duplicated tracks and bad/missing cover art has been a sore spot for iCloud Music Library users since the service launched. In my first piece for Medium.com, I walk readers through the reasons – and the fixes – for those two problems.
Trix.py – Metadata/Converter for Hunter’s Trix
Hunter’s Trix is an incredible (and very large) collection of “matrix” recordings of some of the best Grateful Dead shows. The series is produced and mixed by Jubal Hunter Seamons and includes CD cover artwork for each volume/show.
A “matrix” involves taking a high-quality soundboard recording and merging (matrixing) it with one or more audience recordings (Auds) of the same show. The resulting matrix brings you the maximum fidelity of the soundboard source and the ambience/electricity of being in the audience at the same time.
There are more than 100 Hunter matrixes being traded as legal torrents on etree.org.
Unfortunately, there are two problems: 1) They’re all in FLAC format, instead of Apple Lossleess (ALAC). Since most people use iTunes, this means most people must go through a manual transcoding process; 2) The first 94 shows are missing embedded metadata and cover art (the cover art is beautiful). I’m obsessive about having perfect metadata and cover art in every single track in my collection, which meant manually copying and pasting metadata (including track and disc numbers, show dates and venues, track and album titles, etc.) from text files in the download directory into individual track files. It was taking 20+ minutes to process each album. So I decided to automate the process with this python script.
I had originally planned to share the completed ALAC versions of the collection back to the community, but Hunter talked me out of it. So I’m doing the next best thing here and sharing the conversion script. With everything installed and working, I was able to cut the processing time down from ~20 minutes per recording to 1 minute. The final results are added to your iTunes collection automagically.
Git it here: https://github.com/shacker/trix
CD and LP Cover Scans
I once spent several years digitizing my LP and CD collections, along with those of many friends. For every album for which cover art was not retrieved automatically by iTunes, or that couldn’t be found at a decent quality/resolution on Google Images, I photographed or scanned the covers myself.
Taming a Mammoth Music Collection
Whether you’re talking about LPs or MP3s, people have really different ideas about what constitutes “the ultimate music collection.” For some, it means a process of endless refinement, boiling down a set of music to the purest essentials: All signal, no noise. For others, it’s an archival process (“Why have one Bix Biederbeck CD when you could have 23?”)
It’s possible to have the best of both worlds: MaintainÂ a large collection so you have access to everything, but create a playback system so you only end up hearing what you truly love.
I’ve been an eMusic subscriber for nearly a decade. I’ve spent a good deal of my spare time over the past four years digitizing my entire record collection, followed by my entire CD collection, followed by the large CD collectionsÂ of six record-collecting friends (one of which alone was basically theÂ Musical Library of Alexandria). All told, I’ve managed to amass a collection of ~120,000 tracks spanning ~9,100 albums, mostly in lossless format, and all with high-quality album art.
TheÂ accreted set now weighs around Â 2.25 terabytes Â – large enough to have “special needs.” Over the past four years of building the collection, I’veÂ Â picked up a few tips. Thought I’d share some of the most useful bits here, Â in case anyone findsÂ them helpful.
Love it or hate it, iTunes has enough traction to be considered the “default” music player for almost everyone, so I’m going on the assumption that it’s your player too. If you use something else, power to you!Â Everything below assumes you use iTunes 11 or 12.
This guide is split up into fourÂ major sections:
- Remote Control (Playback techniques)
- Miscellaneous iTunes Tips (Rare B-sides)
- DigitizationÂ Notes
- Building a Server
This version of tUnE-yArDs “Hatari” doesn’t get nearly enough love. Better than the version recorded on BiRd-BraInS, IMO. Just the right mix of low-tech avante and sophisticated. Merril Garbus, as always, a force of nature.
Ping Pong Zither
My son and I playing ping-pong against the woefully out-of-tune strings of my grandmother’s 1920s zither.
Record Collector’s Dilemma
The record collector’s eternal dilemma: Is the goal of collecting to capture every memorable moment in music, to become a librarian of excellent sessions, to sweep through the entire span of recording history leaving nothing worthwhile behind, even if it means an immense collection one can never possibly hear, given the realities of allotted listening time?
Or is the goal to relentlessly cull and distill and hand-pick the very best of the best, so that the collection represents your absolute true favorites, with no fat, no waste, no extra trimmings. Just pure “I love this the most” music and nothing else? The result there is that you are forced to leave so much great much great music on the cutting room floor, but end up with a collection you can realistically wade through given a few hours of listening per day?
I have swung both ways on this one.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot â€“ Numbers Stations / The Conet Project
“Itâ€™s like the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music for Get Smart fans”.
New at Stuck Between Stations: The eerie phenomenon of spy radio transmissions on “number stations,” using one-time pad crypto.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot â€“ Numbers Stations / The Conet Project
Kind of connects in a neat way to the whole “stuck between stations” theme.
Also: New Audio Playlist feature built into WordPress 3.9 – it’s now effortless to embed MP3 audio, either as single tracks or playlists. Worked great.
WTB: Muzak Control Knob
Remember these? If you ever worked in a restaurant or hotel in the 70s or 80s you probably had one on the wall in a closet or back room somewhere. Now I’m on the lookout to find one I can wire up to the living room dimmer switch. If you know where to find one, let me know! (eBay is turning up squat).ï»¿
Kraftwerk 3D Live
New at Stuck Between Stations, my review of recent amazing experience watching Kraftwerk on their Live 3D tour:
Soon after their very early Can-like Krautrock years, Kraftwerk began to develop and refine a hardcore man-machine aesthetic, imagining themselves as cyborg musicians, as much enslaved by technology as liberated by it. The amazing thing is that the band-machine has been able to sustain itself on that track. Almost any other group would have gone on to other things after the vein ran cold, but Kraftwerk continue to tap the mineshaft of digitalized culture as deep as it wants to go.