A Digital Symphony

A classical music lover’s guide to enjoying your collection on a computer.

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Typical screenshots

This page describes what you can expect to see if you follow the approach set out in this site. The illustrations assume you are using Muso and MusicBrainz, as recommended. If you are also using (or intend to use) Logitech Media Server then see “Variations” for what to expect there.

So, let's assume you have ripped and tagged a fair few albums and imported them to Muso. The “gallery” in Muso simply gives you a view of your albums, with various possible sort orders. But, rather than just pick an album at random, let’s say you wanted to play a particular work. Because you have used MusicBrainz to supply the metadata (and Picard + Classical Extras to put it all into your tags), the “top work” (i.e. the highest level work name, such as “Symphony no. 5 in C minor, op. 67”) will be consistently named throughout the collection. You can use Muso’s hierarchical view to display Composer->Works->Performer and select the work you are interested in. Click on the composer’s name and then the work to expand the detail. In the illustration below, we have chosen Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, BWV 1001-1006. You will see that there are four performers of this work; one version is on piano and is an arrangement of the original (grouping of arrangements with originals in this way is optional, but recommended). On the right hand side you can see the albums containing the selected work (or parts of it).

Let's choose the Angela Hewitt performance of the keyboard arrangement (selecting it will just show one album on the right) and then open the album. This is what you see:

You can't actually see the chosen sonata in this picture as it is track 27 but, before we scroll down, let’s just note a few things in this screen:

  • Underneath the image is a link to a pdf file of the booklet. Quite a few labels (notably hyperion) now provide pdf downloads of the CD booklet for their albums. This link gives you access to that file.
  • All the tracks are structured into works and movements
  • The main work/movement names are the “canonical” names from MusicBrainz. To these have been added the keys in plain brackets () and text from the titles, in curly brackets {}, where it differs from the canonical names. This method of display is entirely optional and the Classical Extras Picard plugin provides many more options. The chosen options can be saved with each album, so different display methods can be used for different albums, if required.
  • Additional information is shown on the left hand side: “Work” is the name of the top-level works (including our our chosen one). Also provided are genres, sub-genres, periods and insruments. Again, the exact choices of what to display are all optional.

The next picture shows what happens if we scroll down. You will see that, from the chosen top work, this album only has one part - namely the sonata in C major, BWV 1005. Furthermore, it is an arrangement for keyboard in G major, BWV 968. We know that this arrangement is by Bach himself, not just because of the BWV number, but also because no additional arranger's name is shown. As mentioned earlier, this grouping of arrangements with the original works is an option. Right-clicking on the track will give the context menu for playing it, as shown:

You can see (just) that, in the bottom and right hand of the screen, Muso provides more information and links. Off-screen there are also links to “MusicBrainz Pages”; for an album, this will take you to the MusicBrainz page for the release.

For now, let’s just play the track. Muso allows selection from a range of different players (Logitech Media Server, iTunes, HQPlayer, Foobar or the default Windows player) but does not come with its own players. I use Logitech Media Server (see “Variations”). Muso queues the music and highlights the currently playing track on the album page. The “now playing” page shows the progress bar and displays additional information, including more “MusicBrainz Pages” links:

As well as the MusicBrainz album page, we can go to the “Album Track Entry” - the album page with the track highlighted (see next picture) - or to the track page, which shows all the releases with this exact same recording.

As you can see, MusicBrainz contains lots of information and links which you can browse to your heart’s content.

However, you may just want to listen to the music rather than do lots of research, or perhaps just read the accompanying booklet. To look at the booklet, go back to the Muso album page and select the pdf file we saw earlier. If you are not sitting at your computer while listening then you can use the Muso remote browser on a tablet. The picture below is the album page on the remote (there is also a “now playing” page and several for set-up and choosing music):

This has slightly less information but, as you can see, there is a link to give you access to the pdf file which you can then read in your favourite listening chair. Here is the excerpt relating to the work we selected:

Hopefully that gives a sense of what you can do with this system. The “Process” page outlines how to achieve this. Then read the “Symphony” pages for the details of how to do it.