I just tried looking for Haydn’s Symphony no.73, ‘La chasse’ on Spotify.
Being a contrary type, and knowing that searches for symphony + no. very rarely narrow the field, even for a number as high as 73, I thought I’d just pull up Haydn and flick through a few album covers instead.
Oh look, here’s Antal Doráti and the Philharmonia Hungarica performing the complete symphonies on Decca. Perfect – just click and scroll until I hit no.73.
There are 425 lines of this. Around four times that number if you include all the ‘additional tracks’ that Spotify lists – similarly without any identifying features.
It’s word soup: an endless stream of tempo indications, with barely anything to attach them to one particular symphony. I’m listening to a minuet and trio at the moment – God knows which one. The information is completely meaningless, completely unusable. And, if I had searched for “Symphony no.73”, or even “La chasse”, unfindable too.
This a particularly shaming example, but this kind of metadata wastage happens all over digital classical music. Even in new music, where pieces tend to have unique titles, it can be almost impossible to find things that you know are there using first-time search terms. There’s one album I know where each track is simply identified by the surname of its composer. No titles at all. And there are too many others where the composer’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in the tagging. Who browses anyway, right?
Please: we’ve had digital music for nearly two decades now. Can we start to get our act together on this?
(NB I have just found that “La chasse” – on disc 21 of 33 of the Decca set – is actually one of few that can be found by searching by its title. But I think my point still stands.)