The Largest Classical Music Site On the Net
April 6, 2003 11:36 PM   Subscribe

The Classical Music Archives
posted by crunchland (14 comments total)
First of all, hi fidelity MP3 is not 128k. Classical music is not accurately represented in anything less than 256k, given the higher instrumentation. 192k would be acceptable but there would be parts lost in the lowered bandwith.

Just my 50 cents.
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:17 AM on April 7, 2003

Oh, and a word of advice: LAME 3.92, Exact Audio copier for you Windows users.
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:18 AM on April 7, 2003

$25 to d/l midi's. what a deal.
posted by mb01 at 1:08 AM on April 7, 2003

This site only has small samples, but it's nicely organized and worth snooping around in.
posted by Ljubljana at 1:21 AM on April 7, 2003

What we need is a public database of high fidelity classical music. Doesn't classic music become public after so long? Anyone know?
posted by Keyser Soze at 2:32 AM on April 7, 2003

The compositions... yes. The performances... no. Or to be more precise, high-fidelity recordings haven't been around long enough for any of them to have passed into the public domain (the cutoff is, roughly, 1922-23).

There are bunches of obscure orchestras that grant rights to their performances pretty cheaply - hence the $2.00 classical CDs that used to be all over the stores - so I wouldn't be surprised if someone could obtain the rights to them for a Web site easily. Probably wouldn't be free, though.
posted by mmoncur at 3:16 AM on April 7, 2003

Many fingers, none of them from the originating masters, are in the classical music pie.

The copyright (strictly speaking) expires 70 years after the death of the composer. In the USA only works published there prior to 1923 and meet the 70 year posthumous test are considered to be in the public domain.

But that's just strictly addresses the the intellectual property of the composition. It doesn't yet get us to an MP3 we can listen to and share for free, because someone still has to perform the notation. If an orchestra performs the piece, then the orchestra has a right to derive royalties from their performance, as well as any recording label that presses and packages the music for distribution.

That accounts for the proliferation of MIDI versions of classical tunes available on the web. It is common enough for a single person to orchestrate a MIDI version of a classic. If that person decides to waive their interest in royalties in favor of open release of the music, you can have a work product that is clear of any royalty encumbrances and that can be offered for free (if the music indeed fits the >70+ criteria in regards to the composer.)

Do I hear you say, "Well, that's a wet bag of drunken cockroaches. Let's try something else dead simple...the sheet music. Isn't that free?"

Ummm, sometimes. If a publishing company holds rights to the sheet music for a work, no matter the date of composition, and that sheet music is in circulation by that sheet music imprint, anyone who has had creative input in transcribing and distributing the sheets have a copyright claim equal to the above mentioned composer copyright. In other words, the sheet music arranger and even the editor (yes, even composers have editors when their works go to press) are covered by the "70 years beyond death" copyright clause.

Here's the only twist: If you find a printed copy of sheet music that dates back 70 years after the death of the transcriber, you now finally have a truly "open source" provenance. Such documents are not easy to gain access to as they are not only fragile copies of paper, but also historical documents.

The Mutopia Project consists of a "Gutenburg Project-like" group of volunteers who typeset copies of public domain sheet music, using GNU typesetting software and then make them freely available.
posted by Dunvegan at 3:32 AM on April 7, 2003

I'm sorry Dunvegan... let me make sure I fully understand here... if you transcribe (say using Sibelius) an old piece of Beethoven sheet music, it's legal, but if you transcribe an identical modern piece, it's illegal? Intellectual property suxx0rs.

If some organisation was to make a big web archive of pre-20th century sheet music, surely it would be impossible to acertain whether they had copied it from modern or old sources, and they would be impossible to prosecute? I think in this age where everyone can be their own publisher, this is a case where every loophole should be exploited to prevent great music being "owned" by people who are essentially doing the job of photocopiers and OCR machines.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:11 AM on April 7, 2003

Try Karadar if you have a spare 20 minutes. There's a large selection of Classical MP3s - all apparently legal and free - but the user interface will drive you nuts.
posted by grahamwell at 4:13 AM on April 7, 2003

for what its worth, it looks like you can download the midis for free. the sheer volume of files, from pre-renaissance to romanticists, is impressive, if nothing else. and if midi was good enough for wendy carlos, it's good enough for me.
posted by crunchland at 8:45 AM on April 7, 2003

Most of you probably know about it, but the best reference (no mp3s or midi, but full biographies and lists of recordings) for classical music I've found is (sister site of which covers jazz and popular).

And Dunvegan, thanks for the link to The Mutopia Project, it looks awesome!
posted by gwint at 10:10 AM on April 7, 2003

the sheer volume of files, from pre-renaissance to romanticists, is impressive, if nothing else.

I'm not impressed. Where's Luco Marenzio, my favorite renaissance composer?

Still, I like the cozy little bookshelf interface. Very "classy."
posted by soyjoy at 11:11 AM on April 7, 2003

Heh. Some call him Luco, some call him Luca. Unfortunately, I linked to one of the latter. Please adjust your sets.
posted by soyjoy at 11:13 AM on April 7, 2003

If you transcribe (say using Sibelius) an old piece of Beethoven sheet music, it's legal, but if you transcribe an identical modern piece, it's illegal?
If, in transcribing Beethoven's notes, you also transcribe anything that was added/amended by an editor who's still in copyright, yes. In many cases, it would even apply to the way that more than one manuscript source is combined to make a performing edition.
I get around a lot of copyright issues (and fees) for some of the groups I conduct by editing music where the composer's out of copyright myself. One of the hardest things there is getting your hands on a decent version to work from - older, out of copyright editions (particularly of early music) tend to be more heavily edited (and less faithful to the originals) than their modern counterparts. They also don't record editorial amendments anywhere near as comprehensively as is now standard.
With the best modern editions, it's relatively easy to work out what was actually in the original manuscripts - I'll often (if I can't get my hands on a facsimile of the m/s) buy one copy of good edition, and prepare from it a 'best guess' of the manuscript, which I can then, reasonably safely, use as a basis for my own edition.
posted by monkey closet at 2:21 AM on April 8, 2003

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