Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Remarkable markets

I decided to learn Beethoven's "Andante Favori," which he intended to be the middle movement of his "Waldstein" Sonata. He (wisely) decided not to include it in that sonata, but it was too good to throw out--so it exists as a stand-alone piece of music. It's easy to get good editions of all the Beethoven Sonatas, but it can be hard to get good editions of the many "miscellaneous" non-Sonata pieces he wrote for the piano such as the Andante Favori. My local shop has the music for the "Andante Favori." However it's 10 pages in a huge book that is imported from Germany and costs big bucks. I could download the music for free from IMSLP, but the quality of the scores there can vary, and this one was not so good. My piano teacher has the Vienna Urtext edition, which is excellent--for the first time I can remember, he told me to go and buy this particular score.

So, I was a consumer with a need. No local brick-and-mortar store has any Vienna Urtext editions; if I wanted to buy a copy of this score, I could order one from the publisher, in Vienna, and pay an arm and a leg for it--and without an arm and a leg, I couldn't very well play it.

So here's the miracle of the internet. Somewhere in deepest darkest England, there is a used book merchant who had a used copy of the score for cheap. Amazon connected me, the consumer with a need, and the bookseller with some goods, eight time zones away. Five days later, the book is in my hot little hands. That is incredible market efficiency. Given the microscopic niche size of the market and the distances and times involved, it practically does merit the word "miracle." Essentially, in this economy, neither distance nor market size count for anything. Such a thing couldn't have happened ten years ago. Given the inexorable rise in fuel prices (and thus transport), it may not be possible in another ten or twenty years. But I'll enjoy it while I can, and hopefully sometime soon the Monday Musical Offering will be the Andante Favori.

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