Open Goldberg Variations: Bach for Everyone

Links, Video Inside

by: Colin Oettle

In what will hopefully become a trend in the industry, a team of musicians has recently undertaken a project to create a new, free edition of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The project, called Open Goldberg Variations, hopes to make Bach’s masterwork available to the public by releasing both a score and recording in the public domain—that is, without copyright. The name “Open Goldberg Variations” comes from the “open source” ideology of the tech world. Just as open-source software makes the code for its programs available to the public, Open Goldberg Variations plans to create an edition of the Goldbergs that will be available for anyone to download, view, or edit without the copyright restrictions enforced by conventional publishers.

While creating a copyright-free release of both a score and recording is already exciting, the philosophy behind the project encompasses a bigger issue than simply “free Bach.” It represents a movement away from expensive, designer editions of works which amateur, or even some professional musicians, might be less inclined to purchase. This could potentially curb the frequently discouraging discovery that a desired work is either scarce, unaffordable, or both. However, like many benevolent efforts, the project must first raise enough funds to pay expenses prior to the release. View Full Article »

Album Review: Grá agus Bás

by: Jake DeBacher

It’s not often these days that I am grabbed immediately by modern classical works. But Donnacha Dennehy’s latest release, Grá agus Bás, stands as a firm exception. Of course, there are plenty of pieces I enjoy from an intellectual standpoint, like Steve Reich’s Four Organs. I find that as the piece evolves, so does my understanding of it. But unlike Dennehy’s work, there isn’t anything about it that really strikes me in the first few seconds.

Dennehy’s titular piece is a twenty-five minute odyssey that grabs the listener and maintains that grip right to the end. Its sonic landscapes are a barren depiction of Dennehy’s native Ireland, and they are reminiscent of the spectral works of Murail and Grisey particularly in orchestration. The piece opens with Irish folk singer Iarla Ó Lionáird and develops slowly but gorgeously. While the presence of minimalist traditions is undeniable, so is Dennehy’s transcendence of the genre’s limitations. The strings provide a rippling sound which allows Ó Lionáird’s voice, punctuated by the winds, percussion, and the perhaps unexpected electric guitar, to soar.
View Full Article » Comes Under Attack

by: Jake DeBacher

Alex Ross
The International Music Score Library Project, commonly known by its acronym IMSLP, is an online repository of free sheet music. It consists of works in the “public domain,” or those whose copyrights have expired. The site has weathered attacks from music publishers since its inception over five years ago, and long-time users will remember an eight month period starting in late 2007 when IMSLP fought a Cease and Desist letter issued by music publisher Universal Edition. Since then, however, the site’s opposition has been relatively harmless—until recently.

On April 21st, GoDaddy—the host of IMSLP—received a DMCA notice from a little-known UK group, the Music Publishers Association, indicating that IMSLP was hosting a piece (Rachmaninoff’s The Bells) that violates US and UK copyright law. GoDaddy responded by removing the domain, rendering it inaccessible. The action was met with uproar by the IMSLP community, who argued that the claims were unfounded. A day later, the MPA’s request was rescinded and GoDaddy put the site back online. View Full Article »

Philadelphia Orchestra Files for Bankruptcy

by: Colin Oettle

Philadelphia Orchestra
The 111 year old Philadelphia Orchestra became the first world-class orchestra to file for bankruptcy amid the financial morass currently plaguing American orchestras. However, unlike the Syracuse Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra did not cancel any performances or order an organization-wide shutdown. The season will continue as planned, but the future of the organization will depend on the proceedings in bankruptcy court.

While the move was expected, many feel it was unnecessary. The orchestra has assets, including an endowment, that total $140 million—three times its current liabilities. Management views the endowment as donor-restricted and therefore unusable, which means the orchestra is currently operating with a deficit. An emergency fundraising campaign is projected to reduce the $13 million budget gap to around $5 million, but the board is hoping to shed millions in liabilities during bankruptcy proceedings. View Full Article »

Zhou Long Wins Pulitzer

by: Jake DeBacher

Zhou Long
Composer Zhou Long has just been named recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Music, joining both an elite list of winners and an even more exclusive number of immigrants who have won the award. While it may seem odd to see the quintessential American music prize go to a non-native, the only official stipulation is that the prize must go to an “American,” as with other Pulitzers.

His winning work, Madame White Snake, is an opera that “draws on a Chinese folk tale to blend the musical traditions of the East and the West,” according to the board that awarded the prize. It was premiered in Boston in February of last year. View Full Article »

Detroit Symphony Returns to Stage

Standing Room Only

by: Colin Oettle

Leonard Slatkin
The Detroit Symphony has returned to the stage after six long months of contract negotiation. It marked the achievement with a weekend of free concerts led by music director Leonard Slatkin, featuring symbolic works such as Dvorak’s New World Symphony and Barber’s Adagio for Strings.

While the return of a major American orchestra is decidedly joyous, there were reminders of the struggles the organization faced during the 26 weeks musicians were on strike. Some players did not return to their posts, including the entire percussion section. View Full Article »

Schumanns Set to Save Classical Music

by: Colin Oettle

Elizabeth and Sonya Schumann
Pianists Elizabeth and Sonya Schumann are spearheading a project that will bring engaging musical experiences to children. The project is based at, a web platform for funding creative projects.

The sisters believe exposing children to high quality classical performances in a relatable context will create a new generation of classical music lovers. So, they created a children’s CD by carefully pairing short works with an exciting narrative about a girl who adventures overnight in a zoo. Their contribution to music education could simultaneously combat declining classical audiences and enrich the lives of a new generation. Watch the video for a more in depth explanation of the project! View Full Article »

Whitacre’s Virtual Choir of 2052 Voices Performs “Sleep”

Sound Engineer Probably Retires

by: Colin Oettle

A year and a half after Eric Whitacre created a recording of “Lux Aurumque” from videos uploaded to YouTube by 52 separate singers, he and his team set out to create a more massive virtual performance of his work “Sleep.”

Whitacre gave a TED talk in March explaining his vision for these projects, which began when a young woman posted herself singing the soprano line to one of his pieces on YouTube. He posted a video of him conducting Lux Aurumque and invited submissions for the collaboration.

52 uploads later, he created a virtual choir by syncing all the audio tracks together for a unique choral performance. This second effort, however, dwarfs the first project by incorporating the audio and video tracks of 2052 different singers. Read on for the video. View Full Article »

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