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Classical Gas
September 13, 2010 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Don't delay. Operators are standing by. For the next 30 hours or so you can still get in on the movement to free music. Musopen is a nonprofit organization raising money to record out-of-copyright classical music. They plan to post the results online for free. As of now, they plan to record the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky and for every additional $1000 donated they will record another set of compositions such as Mozart’s violin sonatas. They've done it before. Ain't it a gas?
posted by DaddyNewt (33 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is pretty smart. Somebody's got to pay the musicians.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:17 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: "Somebody's got to pay the musicians"

You can routinely grab collections of 99 works by various composers on Amazon for 2-5 bucks each. Not sure how that artist payment model works out, but I have to imagine it's as least as good.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:20 AM on September 13, 2010


It's sad this is even necessary. That money could be going towards projects that use exant recordings were it not for overlong copyrights.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:42 AM on September 13, 2010


Kickstarter is a pretty neat site, it's interesting that their project isn't close to being in the running for $25k on Pepsi's site, and yet they have raised almost double that on Kickstarter from individuals mostly donating less than $100 each. Since recordings of all music are much more publicly available today than they used to be, it will be interesting to see if soliciting donations in pre-production and releasing the finished product for free will end up being a viable alternative to the old business model of selling individual physical copies.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:46 AM on September 13, 2010


Geez, Louise, just what we need. More recordings of the same old warhorses. There are hundreds of wonderful composers living and dead whose works have never been recorded. Do we really need to expend scarce resources on Beethoven etc.? Just go to the library and check out the CD for crian out loud. Or turn on your local classical radio stations. They play this stuff til it runs out of your ears (so to speak).
posted by charlesminus at 12:11 PM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do we really need to expend scarce resources on Beethoven etc.?

I don't see them taking tax money. It's their (everyone who donated) money. What's it to you if they spend it on that?

Granted the idea of new composer creative commons invitational does sound interesting. I wonder how much does it cost for a symphony to be learned and performed? You probably save money doing the classics because of the built in existing knowledge of the piece.
posted by zabuni at 12:19 PM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Geez, Louise, just what we need. More recordings of the same old warhorses.

Agreed. The focus shouldn't necessarily be on going through the motions and recording works and composers that we imagine everyone has heard of, but on shaping performances that will bring people to understand why music like this has endured for centuries. Sure, this could include a Beethoven symphony, &c., but there's so much music that is so rarely given a chance to be heard but has just as much potential for impacting lives. And no, not just Tudor anthems either!
posted by Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy at 12:35 PM on September 13, 2010


The obsession with the old masters is part of what keeps the public perception classical music mired in mustiness and obsolescence.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:36 PM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I sort of agree with charlesminus et al. There should be more resources out there for classical works by contemporary composers. And I would certainly support a contemporary-focused site like this.

In my (limited) experience, a lot of composers haven't really had the nuances of Creative Commons, etc., explained to them. If someone went out and explained to composers how this kind of project could result in more of their works getting performed and recorded, you'd have a great value proposition.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:47 PM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


That said, this is a great site.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:47 PM on September 13, 2010


You can routinely grab collections of 99 works by various composers on Amazon for 2-5 bucks each. Not sure how that artist payment model works out, but I have to imagine it's as least as good.

Yeah, it doesn't seem too hard to find very cheap recordings by some random orchestra. The good money is reserved for the more famous classic recordings.
posted by smackfu at 1:00 PM on September 13, 2010


Somebody's got to pay the musicians.

$1000 pays for a whole set of recordings by an internationally renowned orchestra? Are the musicians even getting paid?
posted by smackfu at 1:04 PM on September 13, 2010


Just go to the library and check out the CD for crian out loud.

This is missing the point. If I'm making a student film, and I want to use a Brahms Symphony, currently I have to expend a significant amount of effort to verify that I have permission to use the performance recording without getting into legal trouble.

It's akin to saying that hiring an artist to draw a new picture of a computer is stupid, when there is so much free clip art available on Google Images or MS Word! Try to use those "free" images as part of your new company logo and see how free they are.

Making sure the recording is free and clear from the get-go is much simpler than trying to free existing works.
posted by benzenedream at 1:58 PM on September 13, 2010 [10 favorites]


More recordings of the same old warhorses.

Yeah, except most -- if not all -- decent recordings of those "old warhorses" that you'll find are still under copyright. So you can't, just as an example, use them as a soundtrack to a movie. Even though the music might have been written in 1815, if the earliest decent stereo recording you can find was done in 1955, well, you're S.O.L.

(Of course, a lot of people just say "fuck it" and use the recording anyway, since it's pretty difficult to nail down exactly which recording you used and go after you, so it's at least a little safer than using the latest pop album or something. But it's still just as illegal.)

Anyway, I think it's a good project and I hope it's successful enough so that once they've done the big names, they can keep going.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:02 PM on September 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


$1000 pays for a whole set of recordings by an internationally renowned orchestra? Are the musicians even getting paid?

Sure, probably just not musicians living in the U.S. or western Europe. I'm guessing they're going to go the route of hiring a professional orchestra from somewhere in eastern Europe / former Soviet republics where there probably are a glut of highly-capable musicians looking for work.
posted by gyc at 3:43 PM on September 13, 2010


I wonder if this model could revolutionize the music industry?

How much would we have to raise to get the London Symphony Orchestra to record with Radiohead? Or whatever - I'm thinking there could be pair-ups so crazy that throngs of people would donate a ton of money just to make it happen...
posted by destinyland at 3:45 PM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I look forward to using these for samples. Some people in this thread need to learn that there is more to "free" music than just music you don't pay for.
posted by azarbayejani at 4:15 PM on September 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is missing the point. If I'm making a student film, and I want to use a Brahms Symphony, currently I have to expend a significant amount of effort to verify that I have permission to use the performance recording without getting into legal trouble.

That's not much of a point. If you are just pasting stuff together you are not making a film, you are making a collage. Make your own soundtrack. Find some musicians who will help you. Or do it without music. That would be hard, but I bet you would learn a lot about making a film I think its lazy to look around for some recorded music and stick it on your film to make is sound impressive. This is a student film? I think students are supposed to l earn. To me, what you are talking about is like asking why you just can't stick a few pages from Tolstoy into your creative writing project.
posted by charlesminus at 4:54 PM on September 13, 2010


Having recordings that are not protected by copyright is a good cause even though they'll probably "lose*" in comparison to the classic recordings.

*No accounting for taste etc.
posted by ersatz at 5:02 PM on September 13, 2010


That's not much of a point. If you are just pasting stuff together you are not making a film, you are making a collage.

You don't seem to understand how the creative process works.

E.g., Inception featured some Edith Piaf music rather prominently, as well as a very clever soundtrack that contained some reworking of that music. Now, the studio had a team of lawyers to clear the rights, but that sort of creativity shouldn't be limited to the wealthy.

Repeat after me: The entire point of copyright is to enhance the public domain. When you get to the point where it's taking away more than it's adding (and it has been for years now) it's no longer functioning as intended.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:30 PM on September 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Charlesminus: the specific example doesn't matter, and plagiarism is a different issue from copyright. The whole point of making Creative Commons open works is that one can make collages, and use the work however you or anyone else sees fit. The alternative is that the wheel (drawing/performance/photo) must be reinvented every single time due to copyright restrictions, or license fees must be paid for prior art. This is a significant block for nonprofit and limited time/money art projects.

Writing a webserver in C++, a network driver, and your own markup language would be a good learning experience, but it would also mean that almost no websites would ever get off the ground.
posted by benzenedream at 5:38 PM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


charlesminus, I'm really wondering what movies (or other art, for that matter) you approve of. I don't think there are very many that fit your stringent definition of creativity. Or maybe you're just being arbitrarily trolly? I'm not sure.
posted by roll truck roll at 6:03 PM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by DaddyNewt at 7:40 PM on September 13, 2010


I sort of agree with charlesminus et al. There should be more resources out there for classical works by contemporary composers.

So there's nothing stopping the pair of you from starting your own project where you get people to commit money to record whatever the hell you like. But in reality, most people don't actually care enough to get off their arses and do something about it. They just want to tell people how they should expend their time and energy rather than actually investing their own, right?

The point isn't the what -- the point is the how. If it appeals to you, then go ahead and start your own project -- that way, you get to fund whatever the hell you like.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:16 PM on September 13, 2010


This is such a great idea that it's remarkable that anyone would want to complain about it. Working musicians get paid. The public gets free music. And a few more people get work tending the vast catalog of out-of-copyright music. If this particular market can support the production of thousands of dated recordings of classical music, then perhaps it is willing to finance several recordings of a given piece--new orchestras, new conductors every so often... As it is, one buys a classical recording and wonders if even a single living, working musician sees a penny from the purchase.

And I can't agree that there's anything obsolete or musty about the proposed recording (if I read that right). The familiarity with this music would seem to be what makes the project viable. I suppose new "classical" composers have to earn their audience like most other working artists, and there's no reason I can see that this project should detract from that endeavor. Maybe once most of the famous stuff is out there for people to enjoy for free, it might generate interest in new compositions, or at least live performance.
posted by millions at 8:53 PM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


charlesminus, I'm really wondering what movies (or other art, for that matter) you approve of.

I didn't know you cared.

Stan Brakhage

Take three stooges and call me in the morning.
posted by charlesminus at 9:51 PM on September 13, 2010


I'm guessing they're going to go the route of hiring a professional orchestra from somewhere in eastern Europe / former Soviet republics where there probably are a glut of highly-capable musicians looking for work.

Perhaps. I wonder if, with some cleverness and flexibility in what sort of orchestra you'd be willing to accept, if you couldn't get it done pretty cheaply even here in the States, though.

"Internationally renowned" leaves room for a pretty good number of orchestras — enough so that, I would think, you'd probably be able to go through their schedules and find some that are already set to perform the pieces you want to record. From there it would be a matter of talking/buying one's way into a dress rehearsal or arranging an additional performance for the purpose of doing the recording. It seems like that would have to be the cheaper route than hiring an orchestra who then has to learn and practice the piece you want to record, and only ever performs it for you.

For the sake of consistency they might want to have one orchestra and conductor perform the whole deal (and their Kickstarter page says they have $50,000+, way more than the $11k they needed, so I think they can now afford it), but if budget was a major concern I bet you could get a pretty good cross-section of "classic classical" looking at the extant schedules of professional orchestras in major US cities.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:11 PM on September 13, 2010


PeterMcDermott: "
So there's nothing stopping the pair of you from starting your own project where you get people to commit money to record whatever the hell you like. But in reality, most people don't actually care enough to get off their arses and do something about it.
"

I also said I like this site.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:29 PM on September 13, 2010


Even Brakhage had to ask permission to use other's music in his work and wasn't able to use some works because of copyright issues.
posted by benzenedream at 11:28 PM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think they're trying for the London Symphony Orch.
posted by Duug at 8:36 AM on September 14, 2010


The obsession with the old masters is part of what keeps the public perception classical music mired in mustiness and obsolescence.

It's strange if that's true. The old masters are far closer to the sort of music people generally tend to listen than is the sort of atonal and minimalist gimmickry that's been promoted for most of the recent decades.
posted by Anything at 6:23 PM on September 14, 2010


I do like me some atonal and minimalist gimmickry, but that's certainly not all that contemporary classical music has to offer.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:59 PM on September 14, 2010


I do like me some atonal and minimalist gimmickry, but that's certainly not all that contemporary classical music has to offer.

Certainly not, but I have the feeling that they're responsible for most people's suspicion of anything more modern than 'classical classical.'
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:26 PM on September 14, 2010


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