30 Minutes With Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull Page 2

You probably don't care too much for MP3. MP3 is of absolutely no interest to me whatsoever. Musically, it's a highly compressed audio file. It still takes way too long to download. And we're still a matter of years away - not too many, but, still, a few years away - from any kind of universality of technological download for most people on earth to download something with some semblance of musical quality. But it's not going to be quick and it's not going to be universal overnight.

Modem speeds at the moment? I mean, just forget it. It takes hours to download an album. And if you do do it, well, you've got a lot more time in your life than I do.

I know I used to enjoy making compilation tapes, back when I had the time to do them. When home taping first came around with the advent of the cassette, the artist and the record company all got fearfully worried that this would result in a huge amount of pirating of music, that it would spell the end of the music industry - and, of course, it didn't happen, because all of us who made our little tapes all recognized the trade-offs in terms of quality. The hassle factor of copying - even in real-time, 1-to-1 - it's a dreary job. And we tend to go into the record store and buy the CD, anyway.

Downloading has got to be really quick - a matter of seconds - to make it worth it to go to that extreme. What's going to make it worthwhile, in my humble opinion, is that the cheap and cheerful end of the glitzy pop charts will be highly compressed audio that will be downloadable onto a static format like a memory chip, smart-media card, or whatever. It'll need 100 MB to make it worth the hassle. But the advantages are that you'll have a very small player that's jog-proof so you can take it running, go to the gym, or put it in your car - it's a convenience. But it's not even going to have the quality of CD...

That's my problem with it. If it's not going to have the quality level of CD, why bother? The answer is convenience. It's speed of download time if you're taking it off the Net - legally, we hope - or whether you're just copying it from your friends. People who enjoy music and want to enjoy the quality of the original analog recordings - then you need a minimum of 24 bits - which doesn't sound like a whole lot more than the 16 we're used to with the CD, but it's a logarithmic progression. 24 bits, to all intents and purposes to the human ear, has the smoothness of the dynamic response we associate with analog recording.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but I've never felt comfortable with the quality of sound of CDs. It's always sounded edgy, harsh, and, above all, fatiguing.

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