The times they are a'changin…

I went to my local Borders today to kill some time while a prescription was filled. It’s a bi-level store, but I hadn’t gone downstairs since last year this time, as it was mostly CDs and it’s been a long time since I could count on finding something I wanted to listen to on a store rack.

Apparently I wasn’t alone. When I went downstairs to see if, by some chance, the sailing books were there, I found that most of the CD racks were… gone. In their place were mostly… books.

Oddly enough, the section devoted to DVDs was pretty much the same size as it was the last time I looked. But the CD section was decimated. No more Naxos display cases either.

Maybe it’s good news that the classical selections took about around 10% of the total CD inventory, although it seemed like a lot of it was “cross-over,” which is not what we use to think of as belonging next to Bach and Verdi. But seeing all those racks of CDs gone was a real gut check for someone who vividly remembers when making a recording was the most prestigious activity a musician could do except for playing at Carnegie.

The CD really is dead. Even though I’ve been predicting it for years (my mantra has been “bits trump plastic”), it still rocked me back on my heels to see that the demise of the CD didn’t even leave a smoking hole in the bookstore. It was as if the whole era of recording and making permanent artifacts of our performances had never been.

And in their place were books. I wonder how long they’ve got left.

About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

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