Diary of the ones that disappeared


Janacek Diary of one who disappeared (Bostridge)

I knew when I conceived this site that tracks could simply vanish from Spotify.  Maybe I just hoped it would never happen to me, put it from my mind as one of those things that doesn’t bear thinking about.  Because for me it’s a uniquely inconvenient phenomenon.  At least, I don’t see anyone else out there who’s built a whole site on the conceit of their Spotify playlists being works of art, structurally vulnerable to the smallest disturbance.

Only when the worst happened, thrice over, in the period between writing the content for Playlist 1 and its going live, was I forced to consider strategies for dealing with the damage that could be caused.  Case One was straightforward enough, involving simply sourcing a different version of the Janáček piece I’d used.  Even had none been available, a different example from the composer’s catalogue of piano works could have been fitted pretty seamlessly into the fabric of the playlist, with barely a tweak to the accompanying commentary needed.

But then Janáček is a very well-recorded composer.  Case Two was harder.  When my original Track 2 disappeared, the like-for-like option wasn’t a shot that was on the board.  The track is an arrangement of a very obscure piece, of which no other recording exists, let alone one for keyboard that happens to be on Spotify.  Yet this was a gap that needed filling if my chronological list was to avoid giving the impression that no keyboard music existed before the sixteenth century – a notion I obviously wouldn’t wish to be seen propagating.  After some deliberation I replaced the errant track with a completely different example of early keyboard music, the present Track 2, and wrote a new commentary around it.  (Adding insult to injury, the lost track subsequently came back to Spotify.  My response was to re-insert it alongside its replacement, now as Track 3.  Take that, Spotify.)

A different solution, strategy at least, had to be found in Case Three, affecting as it did an unsubstitutable track that shows no sign of returning to Spotify any time soon.  When Cornelius Cardew’s Croppy boy went awol, there was no comparable example of the composer’s piano music in the Spotify catalogue to stand in its place.  But even had there been, a good portion of what I had written concerned that particular piece, so using a different one would have meant re-working the commentary significantly – and it was fine as it was.

As it happens, I preferred to allow this particular hole simply to close up, rather than replace the sabotaged entry with a completely different one.  This did nothing, however, to compensate for the loss of the entry itself.  For what I had written remained as valid as when I wrote it, and I was very reluctant to throw it away, not least because of the work that had gone into it as one of the more elaborate pieces of research / writing in the list.

Hence this retirement home-cum-purgatory, its title paraphrasing that of one of Janáček’s finest vocal works.  Here such casualties can be given a new lease of life, with the prospect that one day they might even be brought back into the fold.  As to where this leaves the playlist-as-artform concept, let’s just say in perpetual jeopardy and leave it there, except to add that this whole experience has made me very wary about future choices.

For the present, then, The croppy boy stands as the sole page in this diary.  To view the commentary and listen to the track – obviously not in Spotify – click the link:

Cornelius Cardew: The croppy boy