...continued from page 2
Best of all, by actually listening to the songs, we get to experience what Tolkien intended – an ancient culture that loved music, but only had the music they performed for each other. In moments of grief and moments of pleasure, they channel their emotions into songs, and in this performance we realize just how good Tolkien's ballads, dirges and dances are.
The only weirdness is that there are sections that suffer from wow and flutter. Obviously, these are not from the digital transmission – I can't think how wow and flutter could possibly come from digital copying and playing.
Instead, I think they were working from very old masters. After all, Inglis' recording was first released in 1990. When they prepared to release it on downloadable digital audio, they may have gone back to old master tapes – and that's where wow and flutter can come from.
Fortunately, it's not completely destructive. I have a digital version recording of a John Rutter Christmas album that is so corrupted that it's unlistenable. In this version of LOTR, it's noticeable, but such moments quickly pass and there's never a time when you can't understand what's happening.
Lord of the Rings is the finest work of literature in English in the 20th century. It vies with King Lear, Pride and Prejudice and David Copperfield for the all-time English-language title. But, like all of the others, that doesn't mean it doesn't have its challenges and rough patches.
The Hobbit is definitely not the finest work of literature. No, it's not bad, but it's ultimately rather slight, and though it quickly abandons its coy talking-down stance in the opening, it is just one-darn-thing-after-another.
LOTR is infinitely more complex, working many layers deep all at once, though you can certainly read it on the surface (and, as Peter Jackson proved, you can completely misunderstand it while making a billion-dollar series of movies based on it).
But if you have long wanted to reread LOTR, or if you want to experience it in its entirety, as Tolkien intended, now's the time. The Audible.com download can be used on your MP3 player and you can hear the absolutely brilliant performance while you go through the ordinary activities of your life.
Of course, downloading from Audible meant that during the download, iTunes automatically loaded itself in order to make the books usable on the Nano that I use for listening. Naturally, that meant that my whole computer locked up and I could do nothing as iTunes seized all processing time for itself.
This is incredibly selfish and arrogant of the programmers at Apple. Almost all the other programs I own load nicely and politely within their own region of memory, allowing me to continue with my work. That's what multiprocessing is all about.
But no. iTunes doesn't care that I might be writing a column, or even playing a game. Like a big bully, it not only shuts everything else down, it insists on accessing the iTunes store online as its default startup activity, even though I almost never buy anything from iTunes. I only use it to service my Nanos.
Then, as each file in the books completes downloading and informs iTunes of its existence, iTunes steals my cursor, forcing me to use the mouse to bring it back into my word processor. This happens even though there is absolutely nothing iTunes needs the cursor for – I don't even have to click in a box.
They seize the cursor because hey, whatever I'm doing is trivial: Apple is here, and so I need to drop everything and worship.
This is why, when I think how much I hate Microsoft, I have to remind myself that Apple is even more arrogant and insensitive – and everything from Apple costs more.