Why did Apple launch a classical music version of Apple Music? I chatted with Lang Lang

Chopin is like creamy apple pie, Liszt is spicy, Bach is high-end bread, and Beethoven is like elbow.

On January 25, at the Today at Apple event at the Apple Store in Sanlitun, when asked which composer he preferred, international piano master Lang Lang responded with food.

When he is not playing the piano, Lang Lang fully demonstrates the down-to-earth spirit of Northeastern people. Listening to music is like eating. You don't have to stick to one style. You can have a little bit of everything to achieve a balanced nutrition.

At this Apple event, Lang Lang attended with a new identity – "Apple Music Classical Music" Artist Ambassador.

"Apple Music Classical Music" is an Apple native app. The "Chinese version" has just been released recently. It is independent of Apple Music but has a shared subscription. Apple Music members can use it for free.

In March 2023, "Apple Music Classical Music" was released in Europe, the United States, Australia, Southeast Asia and other places. Starting from January 24, it can finally be downloaded in China, supporting iPhone, iPad and Android phones.

Why did Apple, which invited Lang Lang to the platform, design an app specifically for classical music?

Making finding a piece of classical music easier

To answer this question, we must first start with the difference between classical music and other music.

When we search for popular songs on platforms such as QQ Music and enter a song name, the page information will be displayed with the song name, artist, album, and duration, which is enough for us to accurately play a certain version.

However, this information is not enough to accurately find classical music. Composers write classical music scores, and their results are called "works." The same classical music work may be performed by countless musicians, resulting in different versions of "recordings."

The names of "works" are often very complex, such as Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67", which is named in a standard format.

"Symphony" indicates that the type of work is a symphony, "No. 5" indicates that this is the fifth symphony composed by Beethoven, "C Minor" indicates that the key is C minor, and "Op. 67" means that this is Beethoven's symphony The 67th work published.

This naming and cataloging method may seem troublesome, but it is actually so that the composer's works can be systematically classified and identified.

At the same time, the four notes "short, short, long" at the beginning of this work are described as "knocking on the door of destiny", so it is also known as "Symphony of Destiny".

As one of Beethoven's most popular works, the Fifth Symphony has been a regular repertoire of symphony orchestras since its premiere in 1808, and is also one of the most frequently performed works in the history of classical music. One recording was performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

The above information is all "data points" for a classical piece and recordings.

If you want to find the recording version of the Vienna Philharmonic accurately and quickly now, some music apps are basically at a loss because their metadata and search algorithms are not suitable for classical music at all.

But Apple has to face the difficulties. Apple Music classical music was born to solve this problem. It is based on the classical music streaming media "Primphonic" acquired by Apple in 2021.

This acquisition was possible mainly because Primephonic filled the gap in streaming services for classical music. According to the classical music system, it improved metadata and algorithms to make it easier for users to find different versions of the same work.

Now, it is much simpler if we want to find a certain recording of a certain work.

When we enter "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony" in the Apple Music classical music search box, we can find that there are 600 recorded versions. Then we continue to search in these recordings and enter "Vienna Philharmonic", and we can find the final version we want to listen to. of recording.

But the first step doesn’t always have to be a beginning and an end. Searching for "Beethoven 5", Beethoven's works related to the fifth are all filtered out, such as the Fifth Symphony, the Fifth Piano Concerto, and the Fifth Violin Sonata. The scope has been greatly narrowed. Search for "Beethoven Op. 67" or "Beethoven's Destiny" and the results will be more accurate.

In other words, it is not necessary to write out all the keywords. By flexibly using single or multiple keywords such as composer, catalog number, conductor, nickname, etc., we can always find the classical music we want.

Even Lang Lang sometimes has trouble naming classical music. He can never remember the numbers of Mozart's 27 piano concertos. When communicating professionally with people in the industry, he always uses abbreviations such as "Bei Wu", "Xiao Yi" and "Moonlight". In fact, he put these words on Apple Music Classical If you search with LeSou, the final results will not be difficult to find.

Currently, Apple Music has more than 5 million classical music tracks and more than 50 million data points. It is the world's largest classical music streaming library and is designed for classical music search and browsing services.

After the mainland version is launched, language is no longer a problem and simplified Chinese search is supported.

▲ Localization is also reflected in the fact that you can find representative works of musicians such as Nie Er and Xian Xinghai.

If you don’t want to perform a precise search, but just want to listen to a certain type of classical music, Apple Music Classical Music also provides this option—generally select different categories such as composers, periods, conductors, instruments, etc. on the “Browse” page. For example, if you are interested in a certain composer or conductor, you can listen to their works from beginning to end.

The conductor Lang Lang most admired was his mentor Barenboim, and he also liked Karajan very much. The latter passed away in 1989. Lang Lang was still a child at the time, but his performances and recordings remained and influenced him. generation after generation.

In fact, there was no shortage of streaming media for classical music before, but there were always shortcomings: niche, expensive, unable to compare different recordings, lack of guidance for "newbies"…

Apple Music Classical Music is like a hexagonal warrior, meeting the following conditions at the same time: no advertising, low price (Apple Music personal subscription fee is 11 yuan/month), good sound quality, abundant resources, convenient search, and coverage of global users.

A classic manual for everyone

Searching may be convenient for classical music fans, but users who don’t know anything about classical music don’t know what they want to listen to, let alone how to search, so how do they use Apple Music for classical music?

The answer is: You don’t need to understand music theory, just click the play button and listen directly.

Apple Music Classical has a team of classical music editors around the world who arrange much of the app’s content.

"Listen Now" on the homepage has playlists of various styles. It not only selects the representative works of a certain composer, but also introduces their unknown works. The former is a standard operation of many streaming media, while the latter is somewhat It means breaking the rules.

One of my favorite "playlists" is "Mood and Atmosphere", which recommends classical music that can be listened to during dinner, meditation, commuting, depression, etc. The goal is very clear. We don't need to know what genre, mode, or style can express our feelings. Mood, this "track list" is like a pre-made dish with everything ready, just click to play.

I also asked Lang Lang the same question, and his answer was that if you want to use classical music as a "background" when commuting, working, or fishing, if you like soothing, you can listen to Chopin's Nocturnes and Bach's Goldberg Variations. , those who appreciate passionate music may wish to choose Requiem, Brahms Symphony, and Vienna New Year Concert.

From this point of view, for me who don’t know much about classical music, the “track lists” are like “digital jukeboxes” with the qualities of a master.

However, there may be hundreds of recorded versions of a certain work, and the editors have also taken the difficulty of selection into consideration. The "Editor's Choice" that shines in the C position is the one they think is the best.

Not only that, the "Related Recommendations" at the bottom allow you to continue a similar listening experience after listening to the current work. Lu Xun said that next to a jujube tree is another jujube tree, and next to a piano concerto, there may be another piano concerto.

Now I finally started to enjoy classical music. Almost every album, every work, and every composer has a text introduction. While listening to the music, you can take a look at the musician's life and portrait, the creative background of the work, and the appreciation skills. .

In addition to Apple's editorial team, some musicians who contributed works and recordings were also invited to participate and launch a "musician-selected playlist", which may not necessarily be all their own works, but it is enough to reflect their attitude towards music.

Lang Lang's playlist is called "Classical Music for Children." He attaches great importance to the education and promotion of classical music. He has also previously recorded the album "Piano Book" for Apple Music, which is based on "Moonlight" and "For Alice". Classic tunes for children.

This may be the meaning of Apple Music classical music: to give more "newbies" who want to listen to classical music a very low starting point – start listening first, and then you will slowly understand why this work is important and how to listen to it. If you understand it, you can listen to something else.

In fact, Apple has always had a tradition of human editors. Apple Music's playlists are also based on human editors, supplemented by machine algorithms, as well as editor selections from the App Store and Apple News' selection of news sources.

These subjective "non-personalized recommendations", when AI changes the world, letting humans rather than algorithms establish our connection with music is a very "classical" behavior in itself, like a building that creates instruction manuals for each work. Music library.

The Apple Music classical music playback interface also has a very user-friendly setting. You can click on the red text information to jump to a specific interface, allowing you to learn more about a certain composer, a certain orchestra, or a certain conductor.

When we listen to pop music, we tend to be more impressed by the singers rather than the songwriters, but this interface treats everyone involved in the performance equally, giving them equal attention from the audience.

Whether you search by yourself using keywords or follow the editor's opinions, the important thing is that listening to classical music makes it easier to stick to it. As Apple says, Apple Music Classical is designed for everyone.

A self-proclaimed "people-crazy" type of musician, Lang Lang still hopes that everyone will come to watch the performance live. When classical music was not a daily routine for most people, the main role of streaming media was promotion and education, but offline experience is still irreplaceable. .

The feeling of being live is different, you are completely living in the music. Online is great, but it’s not Live, it’s not truly immersive.

When you hear Lang Lang perform the famous Chinese classical song "Jasmine" at the Apple Store, you can understand the power of the scene. When a tune familiar to Chinese people is played by a piano master, the simple and beautiful melody is released to the maximum extent, resonating at the same frequency in everyone's chest, and the notes continue and flow endlessly. So I want to convey Lang Lang’s original words:

Don’t come to the event if you have the app, we will cry in the bathroom.

The music lives on

We have a deep love and respect for classical music.

said Oliver Schusser, Apple's vice president in charge of Apple Music and Beats, when the acquisition of Primephonic was announced in 2021.

Apple has always emphasized its love for music and has been changing our relationship with music.

As early as when Apple was still a computer company, Macintosh provided music creation software such as Logic and GarageBand.

Then, Apple released the iPod in 2001 and the iTunes music store in 2003. The iPod and iTunes software and hardware were combined. A "little brick" that can hold 1,000 songs and listen for 10 hours has overtaken the Walkman and ushered in the era of digital music downloads.

Taking out the iPod from his jeans pocket, Jobs convinced the world that the iPod didn't just exist to play songs, but more importantly, changed the way people discovered, listened to and shared music.

When the iPhone came out in 2007, everything changed again. The function of a music player was put into a multi-touch smartphone, and iTunes inspired the App Store for downloading and purchasing apps.

When the era of online playback arrived, Apple revolutionized itself again and acquired music streaming services. Once in 2014, it acquired Beats Music, the predecessor of Apple Music; and once in 2021, it acquired Primephonic to lay the foundation for Apple Music classical music.

In 2015, Apple Music and iPhone replaced iTunes and iPod as the golden combination, with a library of 30 million songs upon launch, and continued music consumption in the streaming media era with online playback and monthly subscriptions.

When it comes to listening to music, Apple is both comprehensive and restrained.

While other music apps are full of excitement, Apple Music has always focused solely on "listening to music" itself: it has a global music library covering more than 160 countries and regions, is compatible with Apple's major hardware products, and also supports the Android ecosystem.

Apple Music Classical music inherits this silence, making people immersed in complete songs that often last more than half an hour.

Apple’s music experience is pure and simple, and it’s becoming more in-depth.

Apple Music launched lossless audio and spatial audio with Dolby Atmos technology in 2021, and then carried it over to Apple Music Classical.

Currently, Apple Music classical music supports high-resolution lossless audio up to 192kHz/24-bit, and thousands of recordings can be played through spatial audio.

Apple believes that spatial audio is the future of audio technology. Spatial audio allows sound to linger around and above the space and dynamically adjust according to the position of our heads, making the sound three-dimensional and immersive, as if we were at the performance site.

When I heard Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor conducted by Karajan, which had been reproduced with space audio on the subway on a winter morning, I was shocked. Especially in the part of the Ode to Joy, the human voice is like the words of the gods, which gradually makes me feel depressed. All human beings are brothers and sisters. At this moment, I can forgive everything, including the crowded Line 3 in Guangzhou.

When Apple announced the discontinuation of iPod in 2022, the title of the announcement was: The music lives on. We no longer need iPods, but we still need music, and let technology empower music more.

Every technological advancement makes music easier to record and disseminate. Oral transmission in ancient Greece, Newm scores and staffs in the Middle Ages, printing at the end of the 15th century, and the invention of recording technology from the late 19th to the 20th century, music can be recorded and distributed through various media such as records, tapes, and CDs. Save and play. The way people listen to music has also gone through media such as live music, records, tapes, Walkmans, CDs, MP3s, and streaming media, from physical objects to downloads to subscriptions.

The Beatles' finale "Now and Then" was completed in 2023. With the help of AI, John Lennon's posthumous work was released after 45 years; Rachmaninoff, who was born in the 1870s, rushed to the scene. With the invention of recording technology, he is one of the few composers to have his own recordings, and now his old recordings are being restored as if they were played on a brand new piano.

Music is a flowing architecture and an art that defeats time. It depends on the medium and transcends history. The same great work will always be performed from generation to generation. The music that is ringing in your ears and my ears right now may have been composed 500 years ago, but a brand new recording came out just yesterday.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma once said that classical music, and indeed all culture, is fundamentally about connection, about building bonds of understanding across time and space. When it is easier for us to find a certain classical music work, or fall in love with classical music because of a certain album, it is the fate of technology that continues to write a glorious chapter of human civilization.

It is as sharp as autumn frost and can ward off evil disasters. Work email: [email protected]

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