Apple iTunes 9.2: Faster than Slayer

I remember when the note was green

Seven or eight years after installing iTunes, it’s an application that continues to dazzle as well as command a great deal of attention.  Besides running the iPhone and iPad, I am constantly updating my music library of over 45,000 songs.  It has been an ongoing process to add music, add hi-res art and correct any grammatical inaccuracies.  Naturally, iTunes is incredibly entertaining and has improved my life as a music fan and marketer immeasurably.

Today, Apple launched version 9.2, with improvements to artwork especially.  It seems there is a new system of creating thumbnails of the album art, enabling the “grid” view to load appreciably quicker.  It sure goes faster on my machine!

My old machine ran out of time and ultimately couldn’t run the latest software without a bad crash.  The G3 iMac lost its entire (external) music library, but thankfully, I had a backup.   Since it’s a different system for storing art, I am still in the process of rebuilding all the artwork in the library from that event.   I’m up to Elvis Costello, a tough one in a painstaking process that I cannot entrust to Gracenote’s less-than-perfect system.

With all that in mind, I’m pleased to report that I just installed iTunes 9.2 successfully.  On first look, I can see that Apple has added a bluish hue to empty art boxes to go with the notes.  9.2 also enables the user to enlarge album art when in the grid screen like previous versions, a nice feature when you are nearsighted and have a lot of artwork.

Apple’s progress with album art just shows how early we are in the history of digital music.  “Album art” grew out of a practical function – protecting fragile vinyl – that became a marketing and aesthetic (is there a difference?) vehicle, and one we are unwilling to leave behind.  I’m sure it won’t be long before iTunes or other developers create art that expands to include more than the front cover.  Aren’t there packages that include online/digital content to go with the booklets, etc.?

As Apple takes iTunes into “the cloud,” the connection between audio files and the rest of the web will become seamless.  Certain projects might really benefit from these connections.  The recent Natalie Merchant album, “Leave Your Sleep,” which includes songs co-written with poems taken from various periods which relate to a certain aspect of child development, could embed itself deeply.  The booklet is 80 pages long, a grand extravagant package.  Considering Merchant’s detailed research and deliberate songwriting process over several years, there must be a lot more written material that could deepen the experience even further for the hardcore fans.

Genius is a great service that I don’t often use, but the sidebar and its speed seem to have improved dramatically in 9.2 as well.

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