And his name isn't Bill. It's Tim Price, and he was elected at our September meeing. Welcome, Tim, and thanks!
Members are invited to submit scores for up to four wind instruments, preferably including oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and/or flute. (Instrument choice depends upon the players who participate.) We are making a special effort to try to provide short pieces for performances at public locations, such as art galleries, museums, libraries, restaurants, and other such places, but we will consider pieces of any length. The ideas here is to make CVC members' music available to be heard by the public in an informal setting--to get our music out there. If you think that you have something or want to write something which would fit well in this context, now is your chance.
The due date has been extended to March 1, 1998. If your manuscript is in MIDI form, send it as an attachment to Dennis Báthory Kitsz and he will put it on the website. If your writing music by hand, send it in via snail-mail and we will see if we can get it into MIDI form, and then get it performed (again, if we can find the players and the place). Send your scores to: Consortium of Vermont Composers, P.O. Box 65, Tunbridge, VT 05077
But we have to have the music first. Show us the Music! Our plans are to archive all the music performed with the CVC, and if there is enough interest and we can find the financing, some will get included in an annual CD which we hope to offer for sale. But that is another story. More on this later.Addendum: For a new program of music for galleries, restaurants, and other public spaces, we are seeking recordings of electroacoustic and electronic music. This is not acoustic music merely rendered into Midi form for lack of instrumentalists, but rather music conceived of for electroacoustic purposes. It may include live performers. Music must be in a high quality format, and may be on DAT or audio CD, or in .wav, .aiff or .au format readable by PCs. (Mac users please convert them or send them as CDDA for audio extraction). This is an open call, with items received reviewed at our next meeting in May. Send them to Dennis Báthory-Kitsz, 176 Cox Brook Road, Northfield, Vermont 05663.
Go to top
Go to top
I have been wanting to write some brief words about "business" topics universally applicable to all members.
The first subject seems to be copyright.
Copyright is a broad topic, imperfectly understood by all but a very few worldwide. In the word's simplest meaning as applied to composers of music, copyright is a broad concept that acknowledges (your) ownership in (your) creativity, and the basic parameters of this concept are agreed on, worldwide.
In its simplest meaning, you legally own your (music) creativity when the work in question is put in "fixed" form. "Fixed" is agreed to mean when the work has been shown in written (musically notated) form and/or when the work has been heard by means of a electronic recording of any kind. The term of this 'ownership' has varied, but for 1998 purposes the term is "life" (your life) plus "70 years." This is the term agreed to at the Berne Convention of 1986, and most of the world has signed on. The US has not but will. (Some in the Senate (Leahy included) are trying for better terms in regard to reproduction rights, etc.) But for all practical purposes "Life + 70" is now the deal. After that term the work goes into the "public domain", when anyone anywhere can use your work as they see fit.
Thus, each and every composer creates a copyright for each and every work along with the music he or she writes/records. How this right is handled has much to do with success of the work and the success of the composer. I wouldn't try to define 'success' here.
By any number of strategies or screwups, the composer has the freedom to make his or her 'right' valuable, or . . . worthless, or . . . somewhere in between.
To end this introductory rap, this legal but possibly tenuous 'right' can easily be compromised in many ways, and in addition is not necessarily easy to defend. In future pages, I will try to explicate this vital subject, while assuring everyone that I'm only a slightly more informed person on this subject that most of the others you might talk to in Vermont. For example, 'intellectual property law' (of which copyright is only a part) is not taught at VLS. Their eyes glaze over. . .Go to top
This will be short: we have had very little musical action so that means little $$ action.
The balance in the account today is $1426.91. Anticipated immediate expenses are bills associated with this newsletter issue. Dues for '98 are payable--$25 is the basic per-year rate.
I have just checked thru my records. No names at this joyous season, but: Many members have not paid '97 dues. In fact, there are people who I've always considered as loyal active Consortium participants who have not paid for '96 either. A brief totaling-up produces some $900 of back dues that we might expect to have in hand.
It's true that we haven't had any activity this fall. But we seem to agree that we are at this stage thrown back on our own resources. That means: member dues. 'nuff said for now.
Send in your 1998 dues of $25 (and back dues if applicable) to Don Stewart, Treasurer, Consortium of Vermont Composers, PO Box 65, Tunbridge, VT 05077.
Go to top
Go to top
The Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble Spring Concert: Friday, March 6th, 1998, 8 p.m., Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Burlington, Vermont. Tickets: $12 adults, $8 seniors and students.
Musicians: Berta Frank - flute ... Elaine Greenfield - piano ... Elizabeth Metcalfe - piano ... Wayne Schneider - organ ... Steven Klimowski - clarinet & bass clarinet ... Bonnie Thurber Klimowski - cello ... Thomas Read - violin
Information: Steve Klimowski or the VCME Home Page.
Go to top
We live in a new age in which the Personal Computer has become a force in life, a window into the world, a complicated instrument which millions of us can use as a tool for business, for research, or for data -- or simply as an instrument in itself which can be used to record, generate and stimulate personal communications with oneself or with the world. This has all happened so suddenly that a person who emerged just now from a twenty five year coma, a modern Rip van Winkle as it were, would hardly recognize the new world around him. And nowhere has the development of this entirely new thinking been more profound than in Music.
My first introduction to harpsichord music was through Landowska's Goldberg Variations on 78 rpm discs, played on primitive turntables using (as I recall) cactus needles sharpened every few hearings on little handheld abrasive needle-grinding machines. From there to digitized sound on CD discs, let alone a music industry expanding exponentially in ten directions -- perhaps the best term would be musical culture shock within our lifetime.
But has music become more personal? There was always something distant and exotic about turn-of-the last century European artists coming to this country to show us what music should be. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of young adolescents were set down at the piano as the instrument of choice, learning to push the right buttons for the right black dots on the score page. How many people will remark that they "used to play the piano", although it was hardly "play" in most cases, just discipline soon terminated.
As the chain of music becomes longer and more indirect, from composer to score to private performer -- or to public performer for an auudience in a concert venue -- or to a recording session in a studio, followed by mastering and finally a CD which goes to market -- Music itself becomes impersonal. In a world where the Personal Computer has leaped into use everywhere, we need some new access to Personal Music for the good of our souls. Unfortunately there is no machine like the personal computer which can put is in contact with the interior music in our minds. The violin in its case in the closet or the piano gathering dust in the livingroom are often mere reminders of a pre-recording day when you had to play music if you wanted to hear it. There is more music everywhere, but less in your private mind, close to your inner self.
So one might ask: Is there going to be such a thing in 21st Century America as "Personal Music"? Following rock or country performers to crowded halls, or getting the newest popular CDs is musical in a sense, but it is also part of the human social instinct to participate in what everyone else in into, to be in the au courant scene.
One might ask if Jazz doesn't fulfill a creative personal function for many, not specifically those who listen but those who are engaged in making jazz music. I feel that Jazz is the only place for musical self-expression at this time, but have distanced myself from jazz because of its self-imposed restrictions. It is group playing, which involves a social sense of great importance, but with costs of self-adjustment to the group. Since Jazz is performance oriented, it depends on an audience response, on outside approbation, which sets it apart from the personal music I am talking about. The pre-set formats of rhythm and a recognizable melodic thread do hold the group together so they can function musically, but this also costs, much as the self-imposed format of an early Classical Sonata cost itself a great deal of freedom. Beethoven knew all about this in his last years.
And Jazz has a history if its own, it is very conscious of its antecedents, and tends to work within an historical framework, even if much de-modulated as in the European Free Improvisation movement.. Bach's Brandenburgs could be considered a written score to something which was once Baroque jazz, with its measured cadences, instrumental leads in turns, and all. Jazz and Baroque have been noted as sharing certain features, the overall rhythmic regularity, the instrumental turns in the Concerto Grosso, and the lack of open spaces and rests, which Mozart developed in his late period. But the unaccompanied Cello Suites, which Bach wrote in house arrest in the privacy of his home, have something very different, very personal. It is music in this range which I am thinking of, I suspect it must be solo playing for a long while, if you find a second or third voice to work with in real time, that is great good fortune. But the start is you and your instrument and what the two of you can devise as you go. Is this all Fantasia? Yes, that is the way the human mind seems to work, but there is always hidden form working in the background, which is really the way the human mind works.
Playing an instrument is self-defeating in a sense, since the Beethoven Sonata you have practiced for months is in fact played much better on any one of a dozen brilliant recordings, probably with much better sound than your half-in-tune piano can muster. And if you decide to go into things seriously and study the harmony, counterpoint and historical chains of musical threads, are you prepared for the detail, the dry scholarship, the infinite splitting of analytical hairs? Is this what music is really about?
Back to the beginning: Can there be a new interest now for such a thing as PM, or Personal Music? In other words, is there such a thing as a relationship with music for you as a private person, through a musical instrument which you can manipulate to your personal satisfaction. And if so how would you want to go about it?
This is no simple situation. When you play a piece, you are repeating the inventions of a "composer", doing faithfully now what he or she was once doing expressively. This is not your personal thing, it is someone else's song, poem or story, and if you are of a mind to read others' things, this is perhaps enough. But if you have a yen for something of your own, something you design and execute yourself, then you find little help from your schools, your teachers, your mentors. You are on new ground.
Children have wonderful imagination, they tell personal stories, sing their own tunes -- until the schools regularize them soon enough. They don't have hands to play a keyboard scale yet, not enough grasp of the fingers and not enough practice. But the one who goes through eight years of lessons and does have the necessary equipment to play a piano, has usually lost imagination along the way.
Notice the way Itzak Perlman plays violin: He closes his eyes, the score is not on paper but in his mind down to the details. He has enough talent and training to make the music his own, and it shows! But is this only for the trained virtuoso to close his eyes and hear the music from within?
Putting together a personal sense of music is something which anyone can do. Hum your own tune rather than a popular one, think of sounds which come from your mind rather than from your CD player. And above all, select an instrument which you can learn to play with your personal mental and digital equipment, stay with that instrument year after year as you evoke its sounds at times when your wearied mind needs comfort. There are people who play music for fame or money, for ego or status, for friends' and family compliments ... and this is perfectly reasonable in a highly social and competitive society. But there should be room for a personal reconnoitering with the self in a flow of musical sound, which you do for yourself, by yourself, and with knowledge that it is your own music property, something nobody else in the world will be doing exactly that way at that time. There is innate individuality in music, and in a world in which the role of the individual is constantly shrinking, there should be some private retreat in which a person can be secure for an hour a day in being just with oneself. Meditation and emptying the self of the self is a good way for many, but for those who rejoice in the fullness and richness of a vibrant life-experience, music is another way. You add music to your life and speak to it privately.
I have often wondered why the cicadas which become so prominent in early August bother bowing their serrated little legs so persistently, concertizing everywhere for that short season before the great cold. Some have suggested that it is an involuntary action of no great meaning, others have found that is is an accurate indicator of the ambient air temperature. But I am sure that the cicadas have found their way into the art of music-making, and with all the energy their short lives can muster, they go about declaring with a vengeance that they are alive, that they are here, and that they can, with absolutely confidence in the process, make their very own music.Go to top
Interesting place to visit: Take in the essays found at the Music Unbound site. This is a provocative locale.
Go to top
If you're reading this on the website, you probably know this already. But it's in the newsletter, so....
You are a Vermont composer. One of the reasons you're a member of this Consortium of Vermont Composers is to be in touch with other composers, discover opportunities, find out what's going on here and in the larger world, and help yourself grow as an artist. You are a composer--a communicator.
You are also living through an era of Great Change. If you are my age, you may realize that with surprise, confusion, or distress. If you are older, you may wisely see it as the continuation of endless change. And if you are younger, you may not see it at all, because it is as familiar as your own life.
To the point: This holiday season, give yourself a present. Give yourself a computer with the trimmings--Midi capabilities, and access to the Internet.
Five years ago, I wrote an essay in Consorting that decried electronic media, particularly Midi (the Musical Instrument Digital Interface) as a replacement for printed music. I objected to its exclusivity and was disappointed that performers would rather hear demos than read scores.
I might have been right then, but no longer. Prices have fallen, and ease-of-use has improved. Score-reading performers, ensembles, and judges aren't coming back from the old days. And a new world of communication has bloomed--communication which provides benefits to composers in far more ways than a few years ago.
Here are some of the presents you can give yourself, a few of the reasons, and a few answers to your misgivings.
The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (properly MIDI, but I get tired of uppercase...) is a 15-year-old standard for sending information among various electronic instruments and computers. It has evolved from a crude command set into a sophisticated method for controlling detailed aspects of a performance--a rendition sometimes so real it actually deserves the name 'performance'.
At the very least, Midi is a proofreading tool for your scores ... and believe me, if you are still hand-writing your scores, you are in a seriously inferior position with any performers who have become used to computer-printed parts.
But Midi is more than a proofreading tool or mechanical performance medium. It has grown into a fine musical tool for demos of your work. And, in conjunction with the Web, it gives you a worldwide forum for your compositions. In my own recent experience, Lucius Weathersby premiered my Brand 9 from Outer Space in New Orleans after hearing it on the Web, Miami's Crossroads String Quartet commissioned my Hoots & Honks, and in Michigan the Lalonde Brass Quintet will play Dancing Despite Despair after hearing it on my website. Other composers have fared extraordinarily well. Composer Jeff Harrington places not only Midi renditions but also full scores on his website--and has sold hundreds of them worldwide.
Midi itself has grown. Musical sensitivity guru Manfred Clynes pioneered SuperComposer, which adds startling musicality to Midi performances. High-quality programs use samples of real instruments, and even the least expensive Midi equipment produces sounds far more satisfying than the computer-game hardware of a few years ago. And the 'General Midi' standard means the instruments you intended are probably the ones I'll hear!
And one more thing. What's the worst part of being a composer? I mean, aside from the few performances? Right, the parts. Six years ago this month, I sat in Cologne copying parts for my orchestral work, Softening Cries. I lived in Cologne for a month and never saw the city, something I resolved wouldn't happen again--and it hasn't. Inexpensive scoring programs might not make you a better composer, but they'll remove the horrific psychological investment you made in all those sheaves of notes. You want to make a major change in the first measure of the score? Make it! Generate automatic parts transpositions. Add a measure without hair loss. The copying drudgery has vanished.
Is there a down side to all this? Of course there is. Cost. The dreaded learning curve. A narrowing of certain experiences. The stress of change.
Florilège Vocal De Tours
Hôtel De Ville
Rue Des Minimes B.P. 1452
37014 Tours Cedex 1
France Tel: +33 2 47 21 65 26
Fax: +33 2 47 21 67 71
The first prize will be 10,000 French Francs. The second prize will be 5,000 FF The third prize will be 3,000 FF.
Go to top
The author, who chooses to remain anonymous at this time due to a previous commitment, is attempting to produce a CD of some of his chamber music. It's a laudable goal, but one whose march towards completion has been beset by numerous obstacles. The studio of a famous public radio station -- and if I mentioned its name, you'd recognize it in an instant -- was hired for the recording sessions. The station furnished an English-speaking engineer as part of the deal. To add a real-time quality to the recording, local musicians were hired to play the tunes, and this is what led to the discovery that MIDI is better.
1. MIDI musicians don't get sinus infections. (One musician became inopportunely sick at the last minute, causing a recording session postponement.)
2. MIDI musicians ain't temperamental. (A different musician begged off an important rehearsal, causing a recording session postponement.)
3. MIDI musicians don't have logistical dilemmas. (A still different musician was unable to borrow an instrument at the proper time, causing a recording session postponement. The logistical window of opportunity for four other musicians was only on the day prior to the return from vacation of the recording engineer, necessitating the hiring of a still different engineer.)
4. MIDI musicians can count. (The initial recording session in August took much longer than anticipated because several real-time musicians had difficulty counting in other than 4/4 time. In fact, six of the 15 tunes were so discombobulatingly out of metrical kilter that they have to be re-recorded.)
5. MIDI musicians don't wreck bank account havoc. (Since the musicians and studio and engineer are each earning an hourly wage comparable to that of a Mississippi riverboat casino entrepreneur, part II of #4 above is of particularly galling concern.)
6. MIDI musicians don't require debriefing. (After an exhilarating interfacing session with MIDI, you're done; you can walk away and go about your business. With real-time musicians, gratuitous after-session interfacing is expected.)
7. MIDI musicians don't misplace music stands, need transportation, commence to foot-tap or hiccough at inappropriate moments, have loose dental work, whine, shuffle music pages, get hangovers, or leak.
8-10. MIDI MIDI MIDI!
Go to top
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.
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 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.
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 [Update, December 1997: A Windows-native version has been announced by Apple.]. 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:
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. [Update, December 1997: A settlement was reached.] 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 [Note, December 1997: This may be sooner than later; I have been contacted by a digital watermarking company, and as soon as their product becomes available to me, I'll provide a report.], 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.
Go to top
The Kalvos & Damian New Music Bazaar -- radio show and website -- has been broadcasting composer interviews and new music for two and a half years, and the bulk of its programs are available in Internetcasts. Nearly 100 Kalvos & Damian shows are available complete 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, re-mastered by Kalvos or Damian to play your music effectively on an ordinary 28.8K modem. Eventually, all current and previous K&D shows will be available.
Though Vermont composers were consistently featured in the show's first year, with more than 30 interviews, they have continued to be 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 groundbreaker James Tenney, German creator of the Tango interactive performance program Henning Berg, senior Canadian composer and imaginative genius Ann Southam, Princeton electronic maniac Chris Koenigsberg, uncompromising and intense Toronto composer Allison Cameron, Toronto director and composer of magnificently subtle acoustic music Linda Catlin Smith, New York producer and electroacoustic magician Tom Hamilton, unrepentent avant-gardist and legend David Behrman, constructor of mystical sound installations Peter Van Riper, Michigan acoustic composer and intentse musicologist Matthew Fields, and founder of the school of digital electroacoustics and mouse lover, Laurie Spiegel
Interviews still pending from our New York tour include Michael Torke, recorded in his apartment in New York City; eclecticist Jeff Harrington; Toronto electroacoustician Sarah Peebles; new music pianist Philip Silver; Toronto acoustic subtle-ists Stephen Parkinson and Martin Arnold; and wide-ranging improviser and composer Joseph Celli. New upcoming European interviews include Arthur Sauer, David Dramm, Calliope Tsoupaki, and Robert HP Platz.
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, other interviews still upcoming are Christos Hatzis and Bill Gilliam.
A second special on-line mentoring program for Vermont school students is planned in collaboration with The WebProject; 13 composers will join the upcoming sessions. For more information, check out the 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 (email@example.com).
Keep in touch with the Bazaar at its new, easy-to-remember URL, http://www.maltedmedia.com/kalvos/.Go to top
|Consortium Membership, 1997|
|Jon Appleton||ASCAP||Michael Arnowitt-Reid||Bailey Howe Library|
|Dennis Báthory-Kitsz||Olexandra Beck||Anita Beckmann||Susan Bettmann|
|Michael Billingsley||Julia Blocksma||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 Sproul||David Robert Stewart||Donald G. Stewart||Ernie Stires|
|George B. Todd||Alan D. Walker||Gwyneth Walker||Georgeann Weaver|
|Batya Weinbaum||Barbara Wellspring||Robert Wigness|
Go to top
Board: David Fuqua, Keith Gibson, 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, Tim Price, Thomas L. Read, Don Stewart, Gwyneth Walker, Batya Weinbaum.
Go to top