Neil Young’s ‘Archives’ Shows the potential of new formats. New formats have driven the music industry forever. That and new music.

While Blu-ray may not be the “next big thing”, it shows what can be done with more storage and bandwidth. The evolution of music formats will determine the path for the future. MP3 was the last major music format and the industry missed monetizing it entirely.

“Anything is possible in the Blu-ray disc edition of “Neil Young: Archives, Vol. 1 (1963-1972),” the most technologically advanced mega-boxed set in rock ‘n’ roll history, arriving with a hefty thump on store shelves Tuesday.

Young, a militant guardian of the analog waveform (notably, the vinyl LP) who dismissed the CD era as sonic sludge, has found purist’s heaven in a new digital format, Blu-ray, that’s still trying to push the consumer acceptance needle past indifference.

Neil Young’s “Archives” is the latest thing to debut in the Blu-ray format. This first volume, at $299, chronicles Young’s early music career from his school-days band, the Squires. Young waited 15 years for the appropriate format to showcase his life’s work in a multimedia package that combines high-resolution audio, high-resolution graphics and archival video.

The set includes 128 tracks (12 hidden), 20 feature videos, film clips, trailers, interviews, radio spots, photo galleries, biographies, even newspaper clips. Young also promises free updates with music, vintage recording sessions or film using BD-Live, which needs a compatible Blu-ray player and a broadband Internet connection.

The set will be available in CD and DVD, too, but Blu-ray is the marquee package: It could foretell the future of music as multimedia and prolong, even save, the new format’s life.

“I went through hell in the ’80s,” Young told bloggers a year ago at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco, where he announced this project that uses Sun Microsystem’s Java-powered graphics. “Now we’re coming close, climbing the quality wall.” How cool is that – Neil Young at a Java conference?

How big is the climb? Young has used “ice picks” to describe the sound of early CD. Where a vinyl LP is a continuous analog waveform, a CD is a digital approximation. The CD takes 44,100 numerical samples each second, each sample in 16-bit chunks. At 22 kilohertz, the theoretical high-frequency limit of human hearing, that 44.1-kilohertz sampling rate produces as few as two samples. It’s what makes the higher frequencies fatiguing, even grating, to some ears.

In recent years, DVD-Audio pushed recorded digital music to 24 bits and 96,000 samples per second. Now, Blu-ray goes even further with music, like “Archives,” at 24/192,000 or, as it’s more widely known, 24/192. With more digital information comes a more lifelike representation of the original source. An elaborate timeline, a horizontal scroll, lays out Young’s career amid world events and includes access to supplemental music, vintage concert video and future BD-Live downloads.

The music is also cataloged in a virtual file cabinet that stores each song in a folder with album art, recording date, credits and handwritten lyrics. As the music plays, a vintage Dual cassette deck, Ampex reel-to-reel player or KLH turntable might be the video backdrop, a lit cigarette in an ashtray next to a coffee cup the ambience.”

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2 replies
  1. John A Mac Lachlan says:

    Am positive Elton John talked about the quality of analog sounds about 10 years ago and how much better it was on the ear ?

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  1. […] The Potential of New Music Formats | Future Of Music Think Blu-ray is just a fancier DVD? See how Neil Young is exploding that myth with is $299 Archives, Vol. 1 (1963-1972). WOW! (tags: music_business technology musician) […]

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