Sunday, October 29, 2006

Everything Must Go

Tower Records has been sold off for liquidation, meaning all of its stores are about to be closed for good, and there's been a bit of commentary about how this hits particularly hard in the classical area. See: Anthony Tommasini, Mark Swed, Greg Sandow.

Tower kept by far the best classical department in New York, and in other places. It is a shame to see it go.

But as much as it sucks to have the top end lopped off of classical CD retail, I don't think it's extraordinarily dire. Most people aren't going to be any worse served by the kind of department you can find at a decent Borders or Barnes & Noble. There's the loss-of-knowledgeable-clerks thing too, of course, which maybe I underrate since I never asked a clerk for a recommendation, and I got by just fine. Outside of the major cities where Tower had its flagship classical departments, this has already been the state of affairs for a while anyway.

If we're losing anything, I think it's that people will stop seeing off-the-beaten-path classical composers' names presented alongside Beethoven, Mozart, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and get a limited sense of what's worth listening to. But then again, having all these different names arranged alphabetically without further description doesn't get you very far.

Not to go whistling past the graveyard, given all of classical music's problems, especially in the recording area. Yeah, it's a bit ominous.

In Philadelphia, Tower used to have an entire "Classical Annex" across the street from their South Street store. During my freshman year I went down to South Street with some friends and just fell into a daze when I saw this building for the first time: someone said "Uh, I think you need some time alone," and they met me back there 20 minutes later, after I'd had some time to pick up some Martinu and Hindemith I couldn't find at the college music libary. And then I borrowed some cash from someone since my debit card turned out to be empty, all of six weeks into the semester. Ah, freshman year.


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