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Carl Ruggles
November 13, 2011 8:29 AM   Subscribe

In 95 years of life, Carl Ruggles composed only 84 minutes of music - including his masterpiece for orchestra, "Sun-Treader". Charles Seeger called it "dissonant counterpoint". Charles Ives called it simply "strong, masculine music". In 1980, Michael Tilson Thomas recorded all of it for a long-out-of-print 2 LP set that has never been reissued on CD. Today, with almost none of the music from this significant American composer commercially available in any form, the Internet Archive has performed a valuable cultural service by hosting a 24-bit lossless rip of the Tilson Thomas set. It is powerful stuff.
posted by Trurl (32 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
If your digital music software can't handle 24-bit FLAC, you can use Winamp to convert the files to MP4 in your choice of bit rate.
posted by Trurl at 8:32 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Charles Ives called it simply "strong, masculine music".

If you played me this piano piece, and asked me to guess the composer, I would have said Ives.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:34 AM on November 13, 2011


Exactly how highbrow does a work need to be before posting it in violation of copyright is given a pass?

This highbrow, apparently.
posted by Aquaman at 8:51 AM on November 13, 2011


I find the "Sun-Treader" highly repetitive in it's phrases.

There are a great many provocative modern composers out there - I wouldn't consider Carl Ruggles one of them.

When it comes to symphonic scores one can look at such great commercial composers as Bernhard Hermann (who make many great experimental tracks).

Or you can completely mad by trying to grasp Stockhausen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13D1YY_BvWU

If you think Carl Ruggles "Sun-Trader" is powerful - simply listen to the following James Horner's tracks for the Movie "Brainstorm":

Lillian´s Heart Attack
Race for Time
Final Playback/ End Titles
posted by homodigitalis at 8:52 AM on November 13, 2011


Exactly how highbrow does a work need to be before posting it in violation of copyright is given a pass?

This is an unpurchasable 30 year old recording of a piece written 80 years ago by a composer who died 40 years ago. The very fact that copyright is even an issue is the clearest possible indictment of our system.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:59 AM on November 13, 2011 [38 favorites]


Great post, Trurl. I'll have to check this out in a while. The idea of a "lost" composer always fascinates me.

The wikipedia page on Ruggles has interesting things to say about his composition method and background. It's someone I never have heard of until now. Thanks much!
posted by hippybear at 9:21 AM on November 13, 2011


Great post! Ruggles is an interesting figure, he defines, perhaps even more than Ives, the "rugged individualist" strain in early 20C American music. I've always thought "Sun Treader" to be a fine piece, but it's true to say that, in the end, Ruggles is a marginal figure in musical history. Not that it means his music is any less interesting for that, but there it is.
posted by ob at 9:22 AM on November 13, 2011


Aquaman: “Exactly how highbrow does a work need to be before posting it in violation of copyright is given a pass? This highbrow, apparently.”

Can you demonstrate to me that posting here is in violation of copyright? I really don't think it is. The Internet Archive goes out of its way to guarantee their rights to host things. If you can prove a claim to the copyright, be my guest, but until then isn't complaining about it here a bit much?
posted by koeselitz at 9:23 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clarification: Not complaining, just didn't see anything about it on the host site so I thought I'd ask.

My understanding is that someone still owns the copyright since the recording is only 30 years old, and even if they are just sitting on it, it's still theirs to allow or deny the rights to copy it. Is this incorrect?
posted by Aquaman at 9:33 AM on November 13, 2011


The Internet Archive goes out of its way to guarantee their rights to host things.

Not exactly.

we cannot give ironclad guarantees as to the copyright status of items in our Collections

However, I received clearance from cortex before making the post. So anyone with a beef can direct their complaints to him.
posted by Trurl at 9:38 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's the copyright policy of the Avant Garde Project, which posted the work. (In brief, it probably is, and they'll take it down if the rightsholder complains or makes the recording commmercially available.)
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:50 AM on November 13, 2011


it's still theirs to allow or deny the rights to copy it.

Presumably. And if they did, presumably the Internet Archive or The Avant-Garde Project (from whence this rip came, originally) would take it down. I know for a fact that the AGP has made rips unavailable when a recording re-entered the market. I believe it made rips unavailable on request from an artist, too. So, if you're the artist, or if you represent the artist, feel free to contact the responsible parties.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:51 AM on November 13, 2011


I'm glad that obscurities like this are becoming accessible again, but The Avant Garde Project is lying to archive.org about the rights status of the recordings, and it will probably get pulled eventually.

Being out of print is not the same thing as being in public domain.
posted by ardgedee at 10:29 AM on November 13, 2011


When I was young, I saw a PBS documentary on Carl Ruggles. (Google tells me it was probably 1979, which seems right). To my 14-year-old mind, it seemed like it absolutely had to be a joke - a guy with a funny name, composing music that sounded absolutely awful (yes I know I was not sophisticated in the ways of avant garde music), with various people intoning importantly about how brilliant he was, but with an underlying sense that he was a real jerk. I was sure that it was an early-Woody-Allen-style fake documentary. (We didn't have Spinal Tap in those days). I was very sad to learn, years later, that it was all for real.
posted by sheldman at 10:52 AM on November 13, 2011


My favorite thing about Charles Ives was that he had a day job. Whenever I think about whining about not having enough time to do stuff I love, I think of him.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:11 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


a funny name

Ruggles is a proud New England name that has produced more than one notable artist.
posted by Trurl at 11:21 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite thing about Charles Ives was that he had a day job. Whenever I think about whining about not having enough time to do stuff I love, I think of him.

Wallace Stevens, too. Making us look bad, the both of them.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:48 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


> My favorite thing about Charles Ives was that he had a day job.

And a very successful one. Heh, I once dated a girl whose dad was an insurance exec and was aware of Ives only as an earlier insurance exec and pioneering estate planner.

It can be done, the day job number, though not so much today that I know of. It's fun imagining a time when you could be a major artist and a suit at the same time. William Carlos Williams was a practicing MD; Wallace Stevens was VP of The Hartford.
posted by jfuller at 11:54 AM on November 13, 2011


Avant-garde, as a term, sounds a little quaint to me now. It seems to belong to a culture which thought that France was the cutting edge of art.

I find that style of music just sounds like a movie soundtrack to me.

Excuse me while I go wallow in nostalgia awhile.
posted by Net Prophet at 12:31 PM on November 13, 2011


> I find that style of music just sounds like a movie soundtrack to me.

Not for nothing. Schoenberg taught music at both USC and UCLA after escaping from Germany. Dodecaphony was (and to some degree still is) all over Hollywood. For the psychopathic killer creeping down the hallway toward the sleeping child's bedroom there is no better music.
posted by jfuller at 12:51 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was introduced to Ruggles as almost a footnote in a 20th century music text, but once I went and listened to his stuff, I was enthralled. I actually digitized a copy of that Michael Tilson Thomas album back in the early 2000s for myself, but this is definitely a better version. Thanks so much for this!
posted by SNWidget at 1:21 PM on November 13, 2011


Wallace Stevens was VP of The Hartford

He even turned down a Harvard professorship because he didn't want to leave the Hartford, and he still managed to find time to get in a fistfight with Hemingway and be frenemies with Robert Frost. Talk about a modern day Renaissance Man.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 1:23 PM on November 13, 2011


Internet Archive has performed a valuable cultural service by hosting..

..a pirated copy uploaded by some user called "metal.exchange@gmail.com"
posted by stbalbach at 3:11 PM on November 13, 2011


Internet Archive has performed a valuable cultural service by hosting a pirated copy uploaded by some user called "metal.exchange@gmail.com"

Yes, don't you think?

However, if the horror of seeing Sony Corporation's right to prohibit non-profit distribution being violated compels you to action, their legal department is that way.
posted by Trurl at 3:25 PM on November 13, 2011


Each case is different, but it's rarely so black and white as a giant evil corporation vs the 99%, very often 99% vs 99%.
posted by stbalbach at 3:28 PM on November 13, 2011


The Avant Garde Project is lying to archive.org about the rights status of the recordings

AGP makes no claim to rights status of the recordings at all, other than to say that:
"AGP policy is to release only recordings that are long out of print and therefore show no signs of being capitalized upon. With very few exceptions, the compositions included in AGP installments are not currently available in any recording ..."
So unless the Ruggles recording is currently in print, I have no idea what they might be "lying" about.

Being out of print is not the same thing as being in public domain.

That's not news. If it's important to you that no one hear this recording, you can probably make enough waves to get it pulled. Knock yourself out.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:31 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


If it's important to you that no one hear this recording, you can probably make enough waves to get it pulled.

Though I will be keeping my copy. And I shall not be stingy with it.
posted by Trurl at 3:38 PM on November 13, 2011


If it's important to you that no one hear this recording

That's a mean-spirited thing to say. No one in this thread is saying "take it down!" or "you can't listen to this!". Just simply pointing out what this is: pirated. What you do with that information is your own business.
posted by stbalbach at 3:44 PM on November 13, 2011


> AGP makes no claim to rights status of the recordings at all, other than to say that:

The terms of uploading to archive.org include the requirement that the material is public domain or that the uploader owns the rights and is knowingly uploading them for free public access. This is repeated many times on the site. There's no exceptions for obscurity or coolness. This uploader is knowingly uploading copyrighted material they do not own and is behaving obtusely about it in the hopes that if they never verbally admit to not following the rules they haven't broken their compact of trust with archive.org.

There are innumerable web resources whose terms of service are considerably more accommodating of material with ethically grey statuses like this. It doesn't have to be this one.

Listen, I'm not trying to be rights police here. I have no intention of reporting anything. I really hate the current status of intellectual property laws, their enforcement, and my lawmakers' disinclination to address the handling of issues like orphan works in a reasonable and useful manner.
posted by ardgedee at 4:11 PM on November 13, 2011


I think one of the signs of a reasonable, adult person is that you look the other way for violations of rules that don’t make sense in the given situation. One of the problems today is that people on all sides seem to feel that every rule must be followed to the letter, no matter how wrong headed it is. Good things do not come from that attitude.
posted by bongo_x at 4:58 PM on November 13, 2011


I wouldn't care if it was Google (YouTube) or Pirate Bay, but Internet Archive is one of my favorite sites and I hate seeing it compromised like this as a pirate cache, because it wouldn't take much for Sony or someone to cause them trouble. It's a small non-profit that depends on grants, it lives or dies by its reputation, users who abuse it are doing no one any good. The wording of the FPP doesn't help either.
posted by stbalbach at 5:19 PM on November 13, 2011


The terms of uploading to archive.org include the requirement that the material is public domain ... There's no exceptions for obscurity or coolness.

I wasn't talking about archive.org at all. I don't have anything to do with archive.org, or what someone puts up there or doesn't. I was responding to someone's description of The Avant-Garde Project.

That's a mean-spirited thing to say.

No, not really. I don't think I've spoken badly to anyone here, I'm merely stating facts. AFAIK, the Ruggles recording isn't strictly in the public domain, but it is out of print and no one (except second-hand dealers, maybe) is making money from it. However, AFAIK, the Internet Archive and the AGP are both reasonable hosts who will pretty much remove materials on request (as they should). If someone finds this situation intolerable, it's just a matter of alerting the hosters. That's all I'm saying.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:19 PM on November 13, 2011


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