Newsletter of the Consortium of Vermont Composers

This edition of Consorting is sponsored by ...
Malted/Media Productions


Summer 1997 -- Volume VIII, Number 2

Zeke Hecker

Directorís Report

by Zeke Hecker

   When eight of us consorted at David Fuqua's house in April (we call these gatherings "meetings of the board," but in effect if you're a member of the Consortium and you show up at such a meeting, you're on the board), we talked about what composers always talk about.


   We discussed how much we (the organization, that is) have, and how we should spend it. We considered how to get our music performed on The Cheap, using existing venues and doing some creative collaboration with other organizations. But we also realized that The Cheap isn't always The Good, or for that matter The Right. If you want satisfactory results, you need good performers, and they deserve to be paid. If you want recorded archives (ours are extensive, thanks primarily to Dennis Báthory-Kitsz) and libraries of scores to be properly transcribed, transferred, maintained, and catalogued, you have to pay somebody; it's a big job, and should not be a labor purely of love. Newsletters, ASCAP fees, hall rentals, posters, programs, the works: they cost.

   Where does such money come from? Membership fees are a start, and for us so far they have been pretty close to a finish, too. Grants help, and we've been lucky to get a couple. "FourScore," the peripatetic fall festival, could not have happened without assistance from the Vermont Community Foundation, among other sources. Door donations make a dent. One participant in the meeting suggested that a composer whose work was represented on a Consortium program should be personally responsible for fronting the money to pay the performers, and then get partly reimbursed from the take; further, that the composer should be assessed according not only to the number of performers, but also the length of the piece: pay by the minute, as you do with the phone company. I can assure you that the suggestion generated some, uh, lively discussion. But it was made in all seriousness, and we did not dismiss it out of hand. It raises the perennial questions of who we are, what we do, why, and for whom.

   If an organization wants money to flow into its orbit (hence the term "affluent," as opposed to "effluent," but that's rather an artistic issue), it generally seeks tax-exempt nonprofit status. That opens it up: individuals, corporations, and foundations are much more inclined to contribute to a nonprofit outfit.

   Which brings me to that very issue.

Non-profit status

   For a couple of years we've discussed the possibility of applying for tax-exempt status. We've sought the advice of an attorney who knows about these things. Recently the advice arrived. Perhaps it's not the last word on the subject, but it's discouraging. In sum, he says that as currently constituted we're not really an educational organization existing for public benefit, but a private one designed to further the interests of its composer/members. He believes that an application to the IRS would fail. He suggests three possible courses of action:

  1. Call ourselves a "trade organization" and set up a separate charitable/educational fund.
  2. Substantially revise the character of CVC, to wit:
    1. a board of directors made up primarily of non-composers, representatives of the public
    2. assure that works to be performed are juried
    3. demonstrate that composers whose works are performed genuinely need support
    4. greatly increase the number of explicitly educational events
    5. adjust the newsletter and the website accordingly.
    These steps increase the chances of a successful application, but by no means guarantee it.
  3. Secure a recognized charitable organization as a reliable fiscal agent.
   I have cruelly abbreviated and simplified his arguments, but you get the idea.

   Another suggestion-not from the lawyer, but from a CVC member-is to explore the possibility of affiliating with another, larger organization, perhaps surrendering some of our autonomy but gaining resources.

   Whoa! Are we approaching some kinda Rubicon, or what?

   How formal an organization do we wish to be? How large? How open? Do we want to establish criteria for membership and restrict performances to "juried" works? Are we really a "trade association?" How much time do we wish to put into CVC, as impresarios and fundraisers and managers and public relations people? Who exactly is that "we"- the membership at large, or a small and sometimes beleaguered board?

   I'm not sure about my own answers to all these questions. I cringe at the competitive model ("we won't let the public hear your stuff 'cause it's not good enough") not only as a matter of conviction, but because I'm one of those composers who, by background and marginal position in the musical world, probably wouldn't make the cut. I like the Consortium because it's wide open. Also, while it's true that nonprofit status would create advantages, it would also mean more work for more people who might profitably spend that time in other ways: composing music, f'rinstance.

   What do you think?

   Oh, and we also talked about music: how to embrace a wider variety of styles and idioms, especially "cutting edge" material, which is still underrepresented on our programs for the usual reasons-mainly that it's less easy and comfortable for performers than more conventional music. We admired the beautiful instruments of the Javanese gamelan in David Fuqua's living room; we ate some superior snacks; we laughed a lot. You shoulda been there. Next time, maybe?

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Why Money? What about the Music?

by David Fuqua

   It's a constant topic at our meetings. It's the subject of several of the articles in this newsletter. Money just keeps seeming to poke its nose into all of the Consortium's goings on. The question suggests itself: is this a good thing?

   There is no doubt that the Consortium as it is currently set up needs a certain amount of money. Newsletters cost money, as do concerts and festivals, even if players play for free. Our financial needs are modest but real, and therefore money becomes a necessary topic.

   But if we start worrying too much about money, will we lose our focus? If we apply for official IRS 501(c)3 non-profit status, will the accompanying bureaucracy to overwhelm our energies? One of the perils of official non-profit status is that we might expend so much effort worrying about funding and quarterly reports that we would not have the energy to pursue other activities; many non-profits seem more concerned with raising money than actually pursuing the causes they were formed to address.

   Another idea is to ally the Consortium with an "umbrella" non-profit organization. This would probably be much simpler administratively (for us, at least), but we would lose a great deal of autonomy, and potentially our separate identity. Any umbrella organization would probably also take certain percentage of the money that the Consortium receives to help pay for its own administrative expenses.

   Perhaps the Consortium has a certain amount of freedom precisely because we are independent and not non-profit. We don't have to file quarterly reports with the IRS, we can do anything we want to (and can motivate ourselves to do) without worrying about how some tax bureaucrat or arts administrator will perceive us. On the other hand, we still worry about money, and many funding sources are closed to us because we are not non-profit.

   Whichever path we should follow, money will intrude itself into our goings-on whether or not we want it to. So the question at the top of this article is in the final analysis not particularly important: no matter what we do money will remain an issue for the Consortium. The real question is: How can we arrange our money matters so that the issues of funding are not an obstacle to the real business of Consortium?

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News and Notes

Listkeeping Note

   Check your mailing label. If it is wrong -- name, address, expiration -- or if you are not getting a newsletter and know you are a current member and should be receiving it, please contact our new listkeeper, David Gunn, 7 Huntington Place, Waterbury, Vermont 05676,

Next meeting

   Our next meeting will be held in late July or early August. The exact time and date will be announced, and we encourage everyone to attend. Call David at (603) 448-3415 for more information,

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Orchestra Composition Award Announced

   The Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra recently announced its first competition for compositions for chamber orchestra.

   Citizens or permanent residents of the United States are eligible. Work must be playable by string section of 88663 and a maximum of double winds with no more than three percussion parts including tympani. Concertos and works for string orchestra are eligible. Length of work should be a minimum of ten minutes and a maximum of twenty minutes. Composers may submit more than one work. There is a non-refundable entry fee of $30 for each work submitted.

   Send one score per work, accompanied by a cassette recording if available. MIDI realizations will be accepted. Entries must be postmarked by November 1, 1997. Do not send by registered mail or other service that requires the addressee's signature. Winners will be announced by February 1, 1998. All compositions submitted will be considered in the judging process. The process includes a primary screening, a semi-final round and a final round of reviews to determine the winning composition.

   First place includes a $300 cash award and two performances of the work by the Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra on their 1998-99 concert season in Walnut Creek and Pittsburg, California. Composers will be encouraged to attend the performances. Other works of merit will receive recognition and will also be considered for programming.

   Email for questions. Send entries to: Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra, 232 Sharon Court, Martinez, California 94553

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Warebrook Festival Features Vermont Composers

   The Warebrook Contemporary Music Festival announces its seventh season, July 11-13, 1997, presenting vocal and chamber works of the twentieth century. We present the modern and the cutting edge against the rural, traditional backdrop of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Based on a 450 acre working dairy farm 15 miles from the Canadian Border, we present concerts and workshops in charming historic venues throughout the region. Our concert represents the diversity of style inherent in contemporary art music; in addition to world premiere performances, we will also present standard masterworks of the twentieth century. Performing artists are drawn from New England at large, and represent top proponents of new music.

   Warebrook will open on Friday, July 11, at 6 pm at the Irasburg Town Hall with a reception and art exhibit (featuring work by local artists), followed by the first concert at 8:00 pm. Other special events include a lecture/performance by Warebrook's 1997 Guest Composer Donald Martino; a panel discussion regarding contemporary concert music in today's society; a concert featuring vocal works by Vermont based composers; and a composer's workshop presented by avant garde performer Daniel Orlansky (didgeridoo/steel cello). Programs will include works by Charles Fussell, Donald Martino, Theodore Antoniou (premiere), Lukas Foss, Milton Babbitt, Alec Wilder, William Kraft, Linda Bouchard, and Owen Underhill.

   Of special interest to Consortium members is the song recital on Saturday, July 12 at 10:30 AM at the Gateway in Newport, Vermont. This recital will feature works by Vermont composers Sara Doncaster, John Koch, Zeke Hecker, and Dorothy Robson, and be performed by Lisa Jablow.

   For more information or a complete schedule of events, call (802) 754-6631 or email

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Treasury Report, June 1997

by Don Stewart

   At this moment, our balance is $1239.61, although $65 of that has been misdirected by the Randolph National Bank (I'll get it back!). That sum includes dues paid for 1997, and what we have left from 1996 activities.

   The following good members have paid dues ($25 each and every year) for 1997: Harris, Martin, ASCAP, Price, Hanson, Koch, Nielsen, G. Walker, Elo, Mertl, Milne, David Stewart, Don Stewart, A. Walker, Appleton, Lawrence, Jamison, Meachem, Grover, Shawn, McCrae, Edwards, Smee, Read, Gunn, and Sproul. Some of you have made additional contributions. There are a couple who were paid from 1996 into 1997. I show a total dues and contributions for 1997 of $795. If there are errors here, please call me at 889-3354; I can track it.

   Our ability to press on with activities is heavily dependent on individual dues. At this moment, there are no grants in sight. In the next newsletter, I'd like to be able to show that all who want to be members are members.

   Our inquiry into IRS 501c3 exemption status is meeting resistance. In short, we have be advised that the CVC is in fact a "trade organization." If so, we are not eligible. But I personally disagree. However, there is a possibility of joining forces with American Composers' Forum (formerly known as Minnesota Composers' Forum). Any comments?

   Please do speak up if you know of any funding possibilities. I will follow up if appropriate.

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Listkeeping Note ... New -- January 1997

   Check your mailing label. If itís wrong -- name, address, expiration -- or if youíre not getting a newsletter and know youíre a current member and should be receiving it, please contact our new listkeeper, David Gunn, 7 Huntington Place, Waterbury, Vermont 05676

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The Cutting Edge and the Butterknife

by William Harris

   Some sharp person once said that the hand is the cutting edge of the mind, a notion I liked years ago when first heard, and adhere to firmly. The intimate connection between hand and mind is the avenue of access to the speeding process of thought. It may be the chisel and hammer carving marble, the fingers on a piano keyboard, the two hands doing different operations simultaneously on that little cigar box which we call a violin, but the hand is always there as physical agent, as it were, representing the mind.

Bill Harris    But in recent years the term cutting edge has been used as a hype term for anything really new, advanced, the dawn of a new age, with about as much meaning as another cutting edge term for the new, from half a century ago: "the cat's pajamas." One might ask with Francois Villon, "Where are the cutting edges of yesteryear?", and the answer is "In the Smithsonian" where they belong: examples of the little bumps and lifts by which society constructs its fabric of standardized operations.

   Not that there haven't been important advances which changed the course of history, like the screw cutting lathe of the late eighteenth century, or the fly-ball inverse controller which could regulate speed of anything from a steam engine to a Victrola. But these have a tendency to pile together, build upon each other, and produce the surprising logarithmic results we call "our civilization."

   But what about Music? If I devise something utterly new, perhaps strange and surprising, and startle an audience with the fact that they have never heard anything like it before-is this "cutting edge?" Put another way, is experiment qua experiment automatically "cutting edge", without thinking about its reason, its quality, its craftmanship?

   In the hype world of advertising, for example in the new electronic technology associated with music making or music reproduction, I constantly find a cutting-edge whisper, which points to the fast advances in audio engineering of this decade. But the faster the advances, the faster the obsolescence. I recall the Olds 88 V-8 OHV engine of l952 as the dawn of a new auto era, now disappeared in the mist of changed needs, computer driven engines, economy and concerns about pollution.

   So I am going to state flatly that when I hear calls for "cutting edge" music for the next Consortium concert, I am going to object, and take a look at the other edge of the musical spectrum, where I think there is a much more serious problem.

PB&J Music?

   A butter knife has not much edge, it is designed that way, and does a first-rate job smearing up American's favorite standby: The Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich on White Bread. Millions love this concoction, which represents good ole-fashion ordinariness, the comfort of no surprises to the taste, and a long-standing American tradition. In a world of new global taste-possibilities, this old standby endures.

   There is a certain analog to the PB&J sandwich in music. It is easy to digest, your can hear it on auto-pilot without disturbing your other thoughts, you can find it on thousands of radio stations which run the gamut from Country to ten kinds of Rock to Oldies, and one of the oddest oddities is that carpenters on the job have a trade preference which is markedly different from drywall workers or plumbers. One variety is heard in doctors' offices, another on telephone hold, but all are "butter-knife music," easy to make and easy to take.

   This is the low end of the musical spectrum, but there is an upper end, too, and we have been finding more than a trickle of it in the Consortium's concerts. We have from the start been committed to finely crafted work, which leaves a wide spectrum from diatonic/harmonic to chromatic/dissonant, without mentioning new rhythmics and new tone/timbres. There is plenty of room for newness, but much of our recent performances have crowded around the familiar, the well-known, the easily-digestible.

   If the Consortium is to move with purpose into its second decade, it must set some expectations now. There is no possible way of specifying what kind of music it decides to promote, there is no hype formula in serious composition for new sound, "the new, stuff on the edge," but there is one sensible caution which we might take to heart:

   We don't want concerts which are collections of tired work, proven formulae, music oriented toward a general public gate-which never appears anyway. We are doing music which we believe in, which can be performed with energy, just as it is written in fire. We are not looking for a new sound which sets a school of composition apart, we are not subscribing to any of the -isms taught in graduate programs, or made fashionable in either Soho or in LA clubs. We are working in the isolation of Vermont, out on our own, thinking in a stubborn personal way. The Consortium has an identity, and as it defines that identity better, it can afford to be selective.

   Forget about the Cutting Edge of this year which will be the dull kitchen knife of tomorrow. Move away from the PB&J music, which loses the purpose of our hard-fought Consortium survival. Find a broader base from which to draw new compositions and new performers, remembering that in this country where "money talks and nobody walks" (as a used car dealer aptly puts it), we are going to have to have funds for performers, for composers, for halls, for recording, for a few CD's, and for commissions of new work. Money does not grow on trees, they didn't put Ben Franklin's picture on the hundred dollar bill as a tribute to old times, and as any driver knows "No gas, no go!"

   Let's assume that somehow we are going to get serious funding in the next year or two, and rethink what we would really like to do with our music and our effort. In fact, without serious plans for the future, things which we can put down on paper in documents for funding applications, we don't have much chance of getting funding at all. Our principal weakness at this point is a general lack of direction, a lack of ideas, of plans for the future. To be a do-er, you have to be in a certain sense a dreamer too.

   So final word from this corner is: Think hard, think new, and think big. Then some of us can go to bat and try to get some big money to make it all happen.

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Networking Update

by Dennis Báthory-Kitsz

   The Kalvos & Damian New Music Bazaar radio show and the on-line Bazaar it inspired have grown. The site counts thousands of visitors each month and includes pages on each guest composer (see the index of composers), together with their catalogs, interview clips, musical examples, biographies, and other goodies; this newsletter and special Consortium announcements; news of the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, a large list of composer websites worldwide, and an extensive list of resources available for composers. The site includes photos and sound clips, together with sound players for web browsing software. Visit the Kalvos & Damian Home Page and explore more than 900 on-line pages, photos, graphics and audio clips. Finally, tapes of the Bazaar can be ordered -- or can be heard in their entirety on line (see related story)

  Interesting place to visit: Take in the essays found at the Music Unbound site. This is a provocative locale.

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Book Review:

Musical Improvisation by Derek Bailey

by William Harris

   I would like to call attention to the republication in 1997 of a very important book but one which may easily be overlooked. In 1980 Prentice-Hall published in this country a book which appeared a few years earlier in England, Derek Bailey's Musical Improvisation.

   I read it years ago at a time when I saw little hope for improvisation other than in the somewhat auto-mimetic world of jazz, and felt that Bailey had virtually reached a dead-end. But it was not to be so, in Europe a movement sprang up, calling itself "Free Improvisation." A casual survey of the web shows much musical activity in improvisation, much of it in Europe but significant centers worldwide. Since the name does not in any sense define the movement, local directions have emerged, but from what I have been able to gather, it emerged in the 1960's as "demodulation" of the current jazz idiom, favoring a jazz-like jam sound and the use of electric guitar and traditional jazz instruments.

   Still the idea of Improvisation is reborn, after a century in which composers often played no instrument and written out scores "were" the music in a certain sense. There was a time when, if you wanted to hear a piece of music, you bought sheet music and played it on your piano, or turned on the player mechanism underneath. How things have changed!

   But the ancient urge to make some musical construct of your own is still there. Rather than speak further, I would like to quote a few words from a man whose name you probably know well:

   Alexander Moskowski reported that in 1919 Einstein told him that". . . improvisation on the piano was a necessity of his life. Every journey that takes him away from the instrument for some time excites a home-sickness for his piano, and when he returns he longingly caresses the keys to ease himself of the burden of the tone experiences that have mounted up in him, giving them utterance by improvisations."

   Conversations with Einstein, published in 1921, as cited in the above-mentioned book by Derek Bailey, which brings us back again in a two-thirds century turn.

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Your Music on the Web

Ways, Means, Rights, and the Old West: New Concepts, Paradigms and Fears

by Dennis Báthory-Kitsz

Should you put your music on the Internet? Yes. No. Yes.

Why yes? It's the first worldwide vehicle composers have for distribution of music. Why no? It's the first worldwide vehicle for losing control of your work of art.

New Concept: The World Wide Web reaches users everywhere with computers that range from simple text readers through advanced graphic displays, from no sound to full studio-quality digital reproduction, from slow near-Teletype-speed connections to blazing-fast lines capable of receiving full-screen video. How your music is received depends more on the receiver than on the sender.

Paradigm shift: You are no longer in control.

New Concept: The World Wide Web is like the Old West. Rules change. Tracking royalties is all but impossible, and widespread cooperation is not on the near horizon. Copies spew forth from websites like roadsalt onto a winter highway. As Internet connections get faster, high-quality copies of your latest compositions are only a mouse click away.

Paradigm shift: You are no longer in control.

Part I of this article takes a look at getting your music onto the Web. Part II looks into ways of deciding when, why and how to put your music on the Web--and what you can do to protect your rights.

I: Internet Music and Sound Primer

Putting your music on the Web means making musical compromises. Web technology and thinking are new. The techniques to transfer digital sound across the Web are scarcely five years old. That means lots of choices--and playback that ranges in quality from high-end CD gloss to shellac 78 noise!

The Sound is Out There

Look first at ordinary digital sound storage. For a compact disc, the original sound vibration is converted into a changing voltage signal, then the voltage is examined (sampled) every .00002 seconds. That sample is converted into a number representing its voltage at that instant, to an accuracy of better than .002%, one part in 16 binary digits (bits) or one part in 216. Recording in stereo means two such sets of samples. That's 44,100 samples per second, times 16 bits, times 2 for stereo ... 1,411,200 bits per second. But that's not all. With overhead (error correction and data formatting), the total rises to nearly two million bits of information for every second of high-quality stereo signal.

The quality of sound on the Web hangs on how files are transferred; it is very different from a CD. Some user in Lithuania wants your digital sound file. That user's computer (the client) sends out a request that wends its way to the computer where your sound file is stored (the server). The sound--digitally encoded and compressed--is converted to small 'packets', tagged with the client's location, and sent off by the server. The packets travel from computer to computer across the Internet, making their way to the client where they are re-assembled in the correct order, decoded, and uncompressed to recover the original information. Minor errors are corrected where possible, and seriously garbled information is requested again. It's a complicated situation.

The present Internet connection of choice is 28,800 bits per second (28.8Kbps)--less than two percent of the speed needed to reproduce CD quality in real time on the Net.

So compromise solutions are inevitable. One involves describing the musical activities rather than the sound; the other involves compressing the sound itself.


The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) evolved from an ad hoc attempt to standardize digital instruments nearly 15 years ago into a full-fledged set of techniques for creating complete musical performances in electronic form. MIDI specifies notes, patches (instruments), durations, volumes, and dozens of control parameters such as portamento and pedaling. These MIDI control parameters are applied by hardware and software to a collection of electronic 'instruments'. The instruments might be samples of the sound of actual acoustic instruments, nicely formed algorithmic approximations of actual instruments, or just crude imitations little better than the beeping video games of yore.

With careful crafting of MIDI parameters and a good playback instrument, though, extraordinarily realistic and convincing 'performances' can be created.

So what's the problem with storing all your music on the Web as MIDI files?

First, you need to create a MIDI file for your music in the first place. If it's a keyboard piece and you're a good player, you can simply play an electronic keyboard connected to a MIDI recorder. The stored MIDI information will retain most of the sensitivity you play with. But if the music is an orchestration, you have considerable work to do: playing in instrumental lines one at a time, or typing them in and adding expressive elements. You can also create MIDI files from various musical scoring or sequencing programs.

The real problem with MIDI on the Web, though, is that you can't predict what MIDI equipment your listener will be using. Your carefully-wrought sound creation may sound like a buzzy mess on a cheap computer sound card. Similarly, you might have created a handsome orchestral score--but your listener has a system that can only play ten voices. Or you may have designed clever instrumental changes to produce a wonderful effect on your own system, but still need to rewrite the MIDI file specifically to use the standardized set of instruments called General MIDI.

Digital Sound

Digital recording of sound is not yet a gratifying solution for composers on the Web. Perhaps when the world uses high-speed optical connections capable of transmitting CD-quality sound in real time, that will change. For the moment, the majority of listeners still do not have 28.8Kbps connections to the Internet.

There are two compromise possibilities, then. The first is to let the listener receive (download) the entire digital file before playing it. The second option is to stream the audio to the listener, so it plays as it is received.

You can see the dilemma in the first choice. To receive CD-quality audio, it would require more than a minute to download each second of sound--say, half a day before someone could hear your lovely, 15-minute string quartet movement (as well as 150 megabytes of disk space). It's not really an option.

Enter compression, a technique that removes or alters the sound file to make it smaller. The math is frightening (as are some of the results), because it attempts to take into account psychoacoustic phenomena such as the ear's response to certain frequency ranges, and the tendency to mask quieter sounds. Some applications of compression are subtle and successful, such as the recordable minidisc; others are downright heavy-handed and disastrous for musical applications.

Compression not only reduces the size of the file (and the time it takes to receive it), but also permits one more twist: streaming audio. If the sound file is squashed quite small, the average Internet connection will be fast enough to keep up with decompression and playback in real time.

So here's a look at some of the technologies as they stand today.

Audio Technologies

RealAudio. This is the most popular form of audio technology on the Web. RealAudio comes in myriad forms, from streaming (a license fee is required for the server) and non-streaming (license-free) audio from 14.4Kbps connections on up. The encoder itself is free, so anyone with a recent, powerful home computer can prepare RealAudio from a live input source (and the 28.8 mono version of RealAudio3 streaming sounds pretty darn good). A 5-minute tune in RealAudio3/28.8Kbps is a 600K file, and in lower-fidelity RealAudio2/14.4Kbps it's 300K. RealAudio is available for most major computer platforms, and the playback software is available as a browser "plug-in". Playback can sometimes be buggy.

TrueSpeech. This is a dog, but it's free in its streaming version. For music, this compression makes acoustic 78s sound good by comparison, but it comes as part of Windows 95--crank up an existing sound file, and save it in TrueSpeech format. Done. TrueSpeech works best with single lines of music. A 5-minute clip is about 300K in TrueSpeech. It's available for PC and Macintosh platforms.

MPEG. This comes in various layers and compression levels, and is difficult to use, with a variety of competing and costly encoders and just as many incompatible players. Some streaming versions are available (usually with special hardware), but MPEG is mostly reserved for downloaded files. The sound quality is quite good. With MPEG1/L2 files compressed at 11:1, quite listenable music can be had, and the recent appearance of MPEG1/L3 is even more of an improvement. A 5-minute piece in MPEG1/L2 11:1 compression is about 1200K. Most major platforms can use MPEG.

QuickTime. This format is frequently found on CDs with video content, but also has a lesser-known audio-only feature with very good quality. Players are available for most major platforms, but the encoder is Macintosh-native. Browser "plug-ins" are also available. Playback can sometimes be buggy. (I don't have file size information for QuickTime.)

Shockwave. This format includes animation, video and other features, does permit streaming, and requires an expensive encoder as part of its development system. Audio is not a Shockwave specialty, but it's adequate. The playback is done with a browser "plug-in".

Uncompressed formats include .au, .aiff, and .wav files in 8- and 16-bit versions at various sampling rates from about 8Khz to 48Khz. They are Unix, Macintosh and Windows respectively, but most browsers and sound editors today will play these files. These are reliable formats if your listeners will be doing further editing, but they are large files and usually reserved for very brief excerpts on the Web.

(Parameter-based MIDI also has a browser "plug-in", but does not offer a streaming capability; replacement plug-ins such as Crescendo do stream Midi.)

Creating Files for the Web

This is really the subject of a whole book, but the process can be summarized this way:

  1. Decide what music you want to present.
  2. Determine if the 'orchestration' may be in the user's hands (i.e., MIDI is acceptable) or in your hands only (requiring an audio file method).
  3. If it's to be MIDI, craft the re-orchestration from your original work of art to play back well on the cheapest of systems in General MIDI format.
  4. If it's to be an audio file, decide what level of quality you need. Be sure to do considerable work on normalizing and equalizing the sound (as well as adding some subtle reverb) before you send it to an encoding system.
  5. If the quality must be high (i.e., sound quality is inherent to the music, as in certain electroacoustic genres, not merely because it sounds better), choose a downloading format (MPEG or QuickTime compression, or uncompressed .au, .aiff, or .wav files)
  6. You can also use a high-quality streaming format (such as RealAudio3), and if spatial elements are important, choose the stereo version, even with its lower sound quality.
  7. Try to avoid low-quality formats such as RealAudio2 or TrueSpeech unless space and download time are at an absolute premium.
  8. Always remember: your listener is in control--and may "click off" if your file takes too long or you haven't done a good audio workup.
  9. Finally, make sure the final sound file is something you would want to hear. Now you're ready to scare yourself.

II: Internet Rights Primer

Prepare to be scared. Everybody's scared about the Internet if they're fanatical about their intellectual property rights. But once again, here's the World Wide Web mantra: You are no longer in control.

Why is this so true? Because the World Wide Web portion of the Internet was invented with openness, accessibility, portability, and lack of barriers in mind. It did not come with a lock and key. Everything posted on the Web flows right into the user's machine, where it can be captured in toto. Even the Web's native tongue (HyperText Markup Language, or HTML) is a transportable and platform-independent technique that displays to the user's taste, not to the Web page designer's liking. The images display as the user likes them. The music plays on the user's system. It can be text alone, silent and graphics-free. It can be read by a text-to-speech system. You are no longer in control.

Performance rights groups and composer licensing agencies have fought a battle for the better part of the 20th century to secure intellectual property rights. And just as those rights have been bolstered by near-universal acceptance of the Berne Convention, along came the World Wide Web. It is only one of the many Internet protocols--the software and hardware that organizes and distributes packets of data via thousands of interlinked computers--but it is the most accessible. Its purpose was to bring to life the concept of non-linear information, of meandering through concept searches and thought links without following a pre-determined pathway.

A little history helps sweeten the understanding. While the Web was just getting underway, other forms of Internet traffic had already begun to mature. Email had usurped the office copier for distributing messages and copied texts. Usenet was the home of rough-and-tumble posted conversations on tens of thousands of topics. Live Internet relay chat could be cordial or blistering. Electronic bulletin boards were everywhere, some replicating their contents and forwarding it to other bulletin boards. And they all had one thing in common: almost complete lack of interest in intellectual property rights. Text, photos, music, and software were exchanged. The users were very few by comparison to the world at large, and publishers ignored them. Publishers were absurdly ignorant of the whole electronic arena. Finally, a powerful "Wild West" subculture existed where the powerful could dominate and the quiet could survive. A 'netiquette' evolved, but ever so slowly.

Meanwhile, commercial services like the veteran Compuserve and upstart America Online developed tightly controlled content and established strict rules of conduct. Millions of occasional users began to sign up for their easy-to-use features, chat rooms, and forums (which alienated experienced Internet jockeys--even today, AOL users are regularly told "get a real Internet service provider" when they show up on Usenet). Still, intellectual property was at best a formal concept way off in the digital corner, even on commercial Compuserve and AOL.

And then, in the European Particle Physics Laboratory, the Web was born. The non-linear information concept with its simple presentation and its hyperlinks made access to information easy and multi-layered. The mouse-click soon replaced heavy typing. Publishing on the Web became simple with a few hours study of so-called 'markup language'. Internet users jumped on the Web. The commercial services finally opened their gates two years ago. Millions were talking--and trading. (Big business blustered in badly, but that's another story.)

Lost in the fray--and dismissed by many--was ownership of intellectual property. Publishing on the Web was considered tantamount to giving away the store. 'Copyleft' and 'Free Art' gurus preached a gospel of freedom from copyright. Texts, images, music, software, and entire websites were pinched.

And that remains the state of the Web today. Music licensing agencies such as ASCAP and BMI have concluded agreements with some commercial services, but it's old thinking in a new world. And composers need to get ready.


There is no question that copyright subsists in material published on the Web. Despite philosophical differences and outright disagreement with the principle itself, few dispute that Web materials are covered by the Berne Convention. Internet copyright law centers have been established.

But that's where it ends. Music, images, and text--all hypermedia--are nearly impossible to hang onto, and jurisdiction is nightmarish. If someone in the U.S. emails an anonymous music file that's been downloaded by clicking a link to a server in the Netherlands, which is a mirror of a site in Canada, and in turn is linked to the file itself stored on a server in Brazil, and then stops briefly on several computers before actual reaching the client machine, where is the jurisdiction? Who is the distributor? And if that file is someone's MIDI arrangement of a copyrighted tune, how is intellectual ownership split?

In the past, these issues were handled by a combination of good (and sometimes bad) will, strikes, court action, and legislation, but the Web is immune to a great many of these pressures. Besides, the copyright treaty never required registration, and the issue is further complicated by a recent change in the convention which no longer even requires that notice be placed on the work of authorship. Copyright subsists from the moment of manifestation, and registration and notice are mere niceties. The Web isn't nice.

Things are clouded further. Recently in Scotland, the courts barred one newspaper from providing links to another, ruling that the information offered by the links was owned. In Germany, strict laws have pitted Compuserve against the government over whether the company is a provider of a communications service vs. being a provider of the content itself. One New York composer recently found his music backing up the antics on an international sex site--and they hadn't even stolen the music, they had merely provided an active link to his own website!

What You Can Do

You can avoid posting your music. However, the Web is the best distribution method for contemporary music in the history of civilization, and if you want a hearing, it's the place to do it.

If you do post your music, however, consider it gone. You can't protect yourself. So-called 'digital watermarking' is years away, and even when implemented, it does little more than identify the copyright holder. The Web is an open structure. That's why it works. You are no longer in control.

But there are ways of presenting yourself as a good netizen and kewl person, too. Posting your music gets it heard, and asking nicely that credit be given goes a long way on the Net. In my experience, people actually respect a real person behind the music.

If it still makes you skittish, realize that MIDI files are the easiest to snag because they're small and portable--meaning they'll play on just about any system. They are also transmitted in the MIDI format, which can be edited and re-worked; even scores can be produced from MIDI files. Some websites archive tens of thousands of files, and many of these sites do their best to identify copyright owners and get permissions ... many, but not all. If you include MIDI on your website, and it's very interesting and especially if it's clever and poppish, be prepared to see copies of it circulated.

Raise awareness by posting copyright notices both near the MIDI link and inside the file, just for identification--even though they're easily stripped out. (Though I'm offering warnings, I have 55 of my own compositions posted, and don't worry much about it ... probably because of an email I received from Sweden stating simply, "I hate to say it but your music stink.")

Audio files are less of a problem. Huge, uncompressed audio files, which sound as good as CDs, won't often be downloaded. Compressed files are good to listen to, but hold little interest in the trader's world because of size and sound quality. Still, a copyright notice with and inside the file helps always raise intellectual property awareness.

Musical scores are a different issue; ordinary Web graphics are unsatisfactory. Several transportable file formats exist, so it's possible to publish a complete score as part of a website. The Enigma Transportable Format of Finale not only provides the complete score, but also a library of MIDI information embedded with it: That's really giving away the store. A little less risky is Adobe Acrobat, a popular document viewing and printing program that's very effective for offering high-quality pages of music, text and illustrations. Several commercial publishers now present score excerpts in Acrobat format. Other methods include PostScript files for printing purposes, but these are large and of limited use.


If protection is impossible, then what options are available to the composer?

Few viable possibilities have presented themselves, but in a series of brainstorming emails last year, Laurie Spiegel and I came up with some interesting ideas, some based on technical issues, others based on the original idea of intellectual property--that economic reward is merely a formalized bribe to encourage more creation, not compensation to the artist for an intangible.

In the end, more availability may mean more performances (unless your composition is electronic/electroacoustic). For acoustic composers, it may be akin to the free bread display in the local store. It may be the continued life of the musical art in a consumer age. Composer Gilles Yves Bonneau has always talked of the composer as an isolated flower--"the violet in the woods"--but these woods are being paved by the infobahn. How we think of ourselves in this world will determine how we continue to survive, grow, and even prosper.

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Kalvos & Damian Now Internetcasting

Vermont Composers are Invited to Join the Live, Spontaneous Radio Program
by Kalvos or Damian

The Bazaar   The Kalvos & Damian New Music Bazaar -- radio show and website -- is now well into its third year of broadcasting composer interviews and new music. To accompany its 100th show celebration, the first K&D programs appeared on the Internet. Now more than 40 shows are available on AudioNet.

   The Bazaar is broadcast every Saturday afternoon from 2:30 to 4:30 on WGDR-FM 91.1 in Plainfield, Vermont, but Internet shows are archived and can be heard at any time. The netcasts are in RealAudio 3, a high-quality, monophonic audio stream. Eventually, all current and previous shows will be available.

   Though Vermont composers were consistently featured in the show's first year, with more than 30 interviews, they have been sparse in 1997; only Craig Bove has joined us from Vermont this year (a really wonderful interview), as well as the students of Su Lian Tan and Evan Bennett in a remarkable live performance (see below). Vermont composers are very much encouraged to contact the producers, Dennis Báthory-Kitsz (802-485-3972; 176 Cox Brook Road, Northfield, Vermont 05663) and David Gunn (802-244-1747; 7 Huntington Place, Waterbury, Vermont 05676). Composer interviews and music run 60 to 80 minutes on each program.

   Since the last Consorting, K&D show guests have included Toronto electronic composer Udo Kasemets, New York composer and member of Twisted Tutu, Eve Beglarian, writer and composer Gary Barwin, New York algorithmic rock musician and leader of Dr. Nerve, Nick Didkvosky, plunderphonics genius John Oswald, composer, music engraver, and very funny interviewee Elma Miller, creator of the Internet-sucking musical ParaSite Johan van Kreij, and quiet but musically aggressive composer Daniel Weymouth.    Interviews still pending from our New York tour include Michael Torke, recorded in his apartment in New York City; groundbreaking electroacoustician David Behrman, eclecticist Jeff Harrington, electroacoustician/improviser Tom Hamilton, performance artist Peter Van Riper, computer composer Chris Koenigsberg, and eclecticist Joseph Celli. A new upcoming European interview is with Arthur Sauer.

   A special presentation on K&D's February 15 show was Gimpel the Fool, an opera by students of Su Lian Tan of Middlebury. The opera, complete with 16 instrumentalists and chorus of 20, was performed live in the Bazaar's performance studio at WGDR. With the cooperation of station manager and engineer Stu Bautz, the two-hour performance was broadcast in beautiful, clear sound. Tapes of this performance (and other K&D shows) are available, and it's posted at the K&D AudioNet site.

   From the Toronto tour, interviews still upcoming are Ann Southam, Allison Cameron, Martin Arnold, Christos Hatzis, Sarah Peebles, Stephen Parkinson, Bill Gilliam, James Tenney, and Linda Catlin Smith.

   A very special On-line mentoring program was done in collaboration with The WebProject, including composers Anne La Berge in Amsterdam, Richard Tolenaar in Amersfoort, Rhys Chatham and Eliane Radigue in Paris, and Laurie Spiegel, Tom Hamilton and Nick Didkovsky in New York. For more information, check out the European Composers Mentoring Project

   Again, Vermont composers are encouraged to join the K&D show, whose schedule is open beginning in May. The composer-hosts can also be reached by email: Dennis (Contact Form) or David (

   Keep in touch with the Bazaar at its new, easy-to-remember URL,

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List of Consortium Members

Membersí addresses and phone numbers are only provided with the printed version of the newsletter. Please contact David Gunn. This list was updated July 24, 1997.

Consortium Membership, 1997
Jon Appleton ASCAP Michael Arnowitt-Reid Bailey Howe Library
Dennis Báthory-Kitsz Olexandra Beck Anita Beckmann Susan Bettmann
Michael Billingsley Julia Blocksman Gilles Yves Bonneau Douglas Boyce
Stanley Charkey Bill & Tom Cleary Constitution Brass Quintet Susan & Dennis Darrah
Paul Dedell Sarah Doncaster Kathy Eddy Arpad Elo
David Fuqua Stephanie Gelfan David Gibson James Grant
Larry Grover David Gunn Craig Hanson William Harris
Barbara J. Heath Zeke Hecker Hope Hong Bruce Hobson
Pierre Jalbert Donald Jamison Charlotte Jay Rip Keller
Ed Knight John Koch David Kraus Maria Lattimore
Ed Lawrence John Levin Jim Lowe Peggy Madden
Jorge Martin Orra Maussade Bill Mayer Elizabeth McCrae
Don McLean Margaret R. Meachem Gregory Mertl Antonia Messuri
George Milne Dennis Murphy Erik Nielsen Beth Phinney
Bea Phillips Vita & Louis Pisciotta Timothy Key Price William D. Prue
T L Read Dorothy Robson Charlie E. Schneeweis Allen Shawn
Evelyn E. Sheppard Marga Richter Skelly Agnes Birdsong Smee Sonatina Enterprises
Glenn Spoul David Robert Stewart Donald G. Stewart Ernie Stires
George B. Todd Alan D. Walker Gwyneth Walker Georgeann Weaver
Batya Weinbaum Barbara Wellspring Robert Wigness

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Published by the Consortium of Vermont Composers
Zeke Hecker, Southern Director and President
Lisa Jablow, Northern Director
David Fuqua, Editor
Don Stewart, Treasurer
David Gunn, Listkeeper

Board: David Fuqua, David Gunn, Craig Hanson, Bill Harris, Zeke Hecker, Lisa Jablow, Dennis Báthory-Kitsz, Maria Lattimore, Ed Lawrence, Peggy Madden, Don McLean, Erik Nielsen, Bea Phillips, Thomas L. Read, Don Stewart, Gwyneth Walker, Batya Weinbaum.

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