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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Cantillate

Musical Heritage, Copyright and Culture

There is a widespread misconception amongst music-lovers that traditional music is in some way set in concrete. This may be true of written (and policed) forms of alpine Ländler music, but for 'living' (aurally passed on) traditions, with every relaying, subtle change is introduced. With time and a little playfulness, this gives life to new variants or even tunes.

"In the case of music, we've already seen the effective nullification of copyright, and despite the RIAA's best efforts I haven't seen any evidence that it's hurt music sales. People will happily pay for a colorful booklet if it helps support artists, but of course they will not pay $15 a shot to keep record-company executives in fancy cars". Carl Lumma, 2003.

Quick in defense of perceived own interests, the entertainment/music industry is lax in protecting what are pretty much universally seen by traditional and folk musicians as open source, cultural heritage works.

Not only have session venues been confronted with ignorant and unwarranted royalties demands, but musicians have been known to put their own 'spin' -and then copyright- on an established traditional tune - meaning that if played in a session, it is just a matter of time before, despite being a heritage work, it is subject to charges. Legal precedent is not the same as just and right.

Big, brave, open-source, non-profit, community-provisioned, cross-cultural and Kim Jong crazy. → Like, share, back-link, pin, tweet and mail. Hashtags? For the crowdfunding: #VisualFutureOfMusic. For the future live platform: #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory. Or just register as a potential crowdfunder..


Streaming Music Live Community Heritage Contentment Wealth. #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Streaming Is Not Community: Keep Music Live

The Language of Music

Traditional or folk music has the character of conversation. Like language it develops over time as tunes are learned, forgotten and relearned - with finely nuanced change at every relay.

Music is a language, it's turns of phrase, rhythms, ornamentation and accentuation explored and developed over hundreds of years. It speaks to our emotions, evoking it's own responses: excitement, foreboding, delight, melancholy, awe or a sense of purpose. From it's origins in the community, it come to be widely used to underpin narrative in rituals as diverse as advertising, politics and entertainment.

Cultural Pillaging

Cultural Pillaging: What Fun #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Cultural Pillaging: What Fun
Traditional, folk -and their world music derivatives- have a stunningly rich melodic and stylistic legacy, one that many a contemporary group or composer -in the absence of own inspiration- has been happy to plunder.

How often were short snatches of popular folk songs or dances combined or overlaid with others, altered slightly to accommodate the odd chord variation, subject to normal thematic development?

In many cases the same occurred with the developed versions, things further obscured through alien rhythm and instrumentation. Eventually, awareness of the link back to the original is lost.

Is this innovation? Or taking existing blocks and constructing something sufficiently unfamiliar as to pass as new?

Are musicians as free of influence as they would like us to believe? Perhaps 'innovation' in contemporary music derives more from playfulness with the known in combination with advances in sound production, than any real breaking of new melodic ground.

It suspect it might be illuminating to compare every folk tune from every musical culture with the content of databases underpinning services such as Soundcloud. I doubt if any copyright would remain watertight.

Somehow, the assertion that anything relating to the language of music can be disassociated from earlier influences, and especially that it should henceforth be considered private property should be treated with extreme caution. Yet it is law, and that law is being used -whether cynically, or in the modern-day ignorance of haste- to kill off culture and heritage.

Musical Copyright

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Copyright laws define when a work IS UNDER copyright protection, not when a work is NOT UNDER copyright protection: leaving the only possible outcome the steady erosion of essentially unprotected 'open source' or heritage rights. Yet it has been common practice in America for copyright agencies to disclose to traditional musicians precisely which copyright they are trying to protect. Musicians are left shadow-boxing.

Hypocrisy and laziness go hand in hand. Many purely traditional session venues have found themselves confronted with aggressive royalty demands. Challenging these is a time-consuming and -at the end of the day- utterly thankless exercise in bureaucracy.

Copyright serves, in a musical context, three aims: concocting a plausible fiction of entirely original work, securing ownership, and exercising exclusive economic control.

Were this applied to the written or spoken word, we would no longer be able to communicate.

At what point do the building blocks of a melody become 'own work'? After two consecutive notes? Eight? Sixteen? At the lower end of these ranges, we can be certain all possibilities have been explored, leaving all else reapplication of the known.

In this sense, if genre has degenerated into a marketing construct, rights have become a legal construct. Copyright is in severe danger of killing music as language, a form of free expression. Meanwhile, society is dispossessed, relegated to the role of passive, paying consumers of own culture.

Copyright stifles not just access, but diversity (the accidents of rediscovery, remixing and even renaming), concentrates wealth in the hands of a few, and lies at the heart of huge cultural resentment worldwide. It is, however, just part of a wider system of privilege, exploitation and cultural theft.

The Exploitation Stack. #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
The Exploitation Stack


Copyright allows a few (fragile stage egos and economic hoarders) to live wildy beyond the earth's means - and any limits to common sense.

A Future Without Culture?

Arts funding gutted, commercialisation & commoditisation, revenue optimisation in the music industry, competing lifestyle expectations, fragmentation & loss of musicality through reliance on apps, flat-rate streamed noise, technology and commerce trashing event intimacy and teachers priced out of the running by software.
Declining Interest in Music Topics #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Declining Interest in Music Topics


No matter which music-related topic you choose, if you look on Google Trends, it's seems to be decline. Heritage is in decline. Culture is in decline. It seems music -as a source of wellbeing- is in decline.

Control over culture is being progressively wrestled from humanity's hands, an act as toxic (if not visibly) to wellbeing as fashion and cosmetic industry use of photoshopped anorexics in sales pitches to teenage girls.

With the advent of machine learning, algorithmic music and (inevitable) automatic copyrighting, our common musical language is further eroded: the collapse of musical culture programmed.

Copyright Oligarchs: Spooky #VisualFutureOfMusic #WorldMusicInstrumentsAndTheory
Copyright Oligarchs: Spooky
Within a decade or so, all new copyright may well be found in the hands of a tiny group of music oligarchs. Spooked? You should be.

Worse though, is the danger that culture itself is eradicated through a form of mechanisation: that our senses are so overloaded by algorithmic music that music itself ceases to have any value.

"Copyright ought to be a pragmatic bargain between artists, business, and consumers that promotes creativity, not a right of vast scope, consequence, and duration that stifles it".

You can find a brief overview of the current (legal) state of affairs relating to musical copyright in America here.


Keywords



online music learning,
online music lessons
distance music learning,
distance music lessons
remote music lessons,
remote music learning
p2p music lessons,
p2p music learning
music visualisation
music visualization
musical instrument models
interactive music instrument models
music theory tools
musical theory
p2p music interworking
p2p musical interworking
comparative musicology
ethnomusicology
world music
international music
folk music
traditional music
P2P musical interworking,
Peer-to-peer musical interworking
WebGL, Web3D,
WebVR, WebAR
Virtual Reality,
Augmented or Mixed Reality
Artificial Intelligence,
Machine Learning
Scalar Vector Graphics,
SVG
3D Cascading Style Sheets,
CSS3D
X3Dom,
XML3D


Comments, questions and (especially) critique welcome.