Satellite Radio Surround Sound - The Sirius Satellite Radio service has announced they have adopted Dolby Pro Logic II as their standard for encoding surround sound programming on one of their over 100 channels. The matrix surround system is compatible not only with stereo but also with all matrix surround systems for both car and home currently on the market - including Circle Surround, Pro Logic I & II, Logic 7 and others. The first multichannel broadcasts will be of Sirius Sessions, the service's daily live concert series. Sirius has also begun updating its library to include multichannel SACD and DVD-A discs for broadcast. 60 of the Sirius channels are music streams without commercials, whereas competitor satellite service XM Radio has some commercials on most channels and charges a few dollars less monthly - $10 vs. $13.
Universal Classics Now on Apple iTunes - Universal Classics - the world's largest classical company - has announced that they will make available at Apple's iTunes Music Store over a thousand titles from the catalogs of Decca, Philips and Deutsche Grammophon. They will also add new releases on a regular basis. To celebrate the collaboration Universal Classics is offered a paid digital download of the Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Concert two weeks before it will be released on a CD in the U.S., plus an advance selection from a new CD by pianist Helene Grimaud. A Uni official said "This is the first step in an evolutionary process that makes more quality classical music accessible to the expanding online audience."
Corporations Hopping Aboard iPod Popularity - Several big corporations want to woo the new iPod generation users and have thus struck branding deals with Apple Computer to tie in with the popular portable digital music gadget. Pepsi, Volkswagen, America Online and Burton Snowboards have all signed up, and the biggest coup may be a deal with Hewlett Packard, who were developing their own portable music player and online music store but decided in favor of iPod and iTunes instead. This gives Apple a major leg up onto Windows-based computers.
Shushing the Symphony - A story this week in The New York Times discusses the new European Union regulation which reduces the allowable sound level in the European orchestral workplace from the present 90 decibels limit to only 85 dB. The directive specifies a "daily upper exposure action value" of 85 dB and many other provisions, including a transition period for implementation. Orchestras are trying to understand what effect the new limit might have. It's understood that many of the big climaxes in symphonies are going to reach more than 85 dB in a full symphony orchestra in an average hall. Many instruments have been modernized to carry their sound further in larger modern halls, so a triple forte of, say, Beethoven could be much louder than it was in the composer's day. Classical music has been moving in the same direction as rock music - toward louder. Earplugs are being used, but many players feel that gives the audience the idea that players are avoiding the very sounds they are creating. The transparent plexiglass screens often seen haven't been such an effective solution either. One option that has been tried is roomier seating - placing the players further apart for louder works, even placing them at different stage levels.
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