Breathtaking CD covers

Very interesting story linked in ArtsJournal about John Eliot Gardiner, and how he’s making his own CDs. That’s a growing trend, of course, and I should have mentioned it in my “dimensions of the crisis” point about classical recording. Musicians can make CDs on their own, and get their music out no matter what happens to classical record companies. The London Symphony does it, the San Francisco Symphony does it, composer Michael Torke has done it, and of course lots of people do it in pop. Why not? Take control of your own destiny!

But one especially wonderful thing about the Gardner story is the cover art for the CDs he’s either released, or is about to release. The core of his CD self-production is a series of Bach cantata discs, eventually to include all of Bach’s sacred cantatas, linked on CD by where they fit in the liturgical year, and recorded at historic sites. And just look at the covers! (Forgive me — you’ll have to click the link, and go to Gardiner’s website to see them.) They might be the most heartstopping classical CD covers I’ve ever seen, illustrating (among other things, I’m sure) the universal message Gardiner feels is in Bach’s music. Go on…click the link. You won’t regret it.

I guess it’s odd, at least from a conventional point of view, that the covers don’t seem to say which cantatas are on each disc. But then if you’re lucky enough to be browsing these releases in a record store, you can just look at the back, and find out what you want to know. (I’m assuming the back of the CD has all the usual information.) And if you’re browsing them online, then the website will tell you.

Besides, one problem with classical CDs is all the verbiage everybody thinks has to be on the covers, which can make it hard to have striking art. I’m glad to see Gardiner going in the opposite direction, no matter how odd it might seem (at least to some people). One problem with classical music, as I’ve said over and over again, is that we don’t seem to know how to tell people why they should listen to it. Gardiner’s CD covers make quite an eloquent case.

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