Kirk McElhearn: ‘Apple Music Classical (Mostly) Plays the Right Chords’

Kirk McElhearn has a comprehensive review of the new Apple Music Classical app/catalog at TidBITS:

Due to the way classical works have been cataloged over time, many of their names are unique, at least for the most famous composers. Schubert’s compositions are cataloged according to the work of Otto Erich Deutsch, hence the D before work numbers. Bach’s works have BWV numbers, for Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, or Bach works catalog. For other composers, opus numbers are used, referring to a specific publication. So for Beethoven, we have Op. 26: Piano Sonata No. 12 in A♭ major, which is a single piano sonata, and Op. 27, which contains two piano sonatas, No. 1: Piano Sonata No. 13 in E♭ major, and No. 2: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor, also known as the Moonlight Sonata.

The point of this somewhat lengthy preamble is to explain why searching for classical music is so much more complicated than searching for popular music. You may want to listen to a specific work by a given composer, but also by one of your favorite performers. And, as you can see with the example of the Schubert sonata, work names are not always as simple as Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Metadata is the key to managing classical music.

I’ve seen some people wondering if Apple Music Classical is the first step toward per-genre apps: Apple Music Rock, Apple Music Rap, Apple Music Jazz, etc. That’s almost certainly not going to happen. Classical music is different, because it doesn’t fit in the simple categorization of artist → album → song. Classical music demands different and more metadata attached to the music, and a different interface for browsing, discovering, and managing that music.

One seemingly weird thing about Apple Music Classical: it’s iPhone-only for now. McElhearn writes:

It also seems like it should be trivial to add Apple Music Classical to the Music app on the desktop. Adding a sidebar entry would not change the interface much, and since all of the content in the Apple Music Classical app is HTML, the Music app would have no problem displaying it. It’s the exact same type of content that Apple Music uses.

All this makes the Apple Music Classical app seem like an experiment. It’s quite polished for a 1.0 release, and, despite the issues that I’ve mentioned above that will irritate classical music fans, it’s a generally successful attempt to provide a better way to access classical music. Apple should be praised for paying so much attention to a genre that represents only 2–3% of the overall music market.

Saturday, 8 April 2023