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Music Open Source News

Open-Source Bach; Copyright-Free Goldbergs 106

Posted by timothy
from the good-brain-music dept.
rDouglass writes "An open source music notation software (MuseScore) and an award winning pianist (Kimiko Ishizaka) are raising money to create a new score and a new recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations. They will release both works to the public domain (copyright-free) using the Creative Commons Zero tool. This bypasses usual copyright protections that are given to each published edition of the score and each individual recording of the piece, and addresses a gap in the availability of free (gratis/libre) versions of the work. MuseScore scores are XML based and are thus like the source code for music. They can also be embedded into websites and linked with YouTube videos, creating rich multimedia experiences. The Kickstarter project has begun recently and $4,000 has been raised."
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Open-Source Bach; Copyright-Free Goldbergs

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  • I'm not suggesting that MIDI would be better, and I'm guessing there are, in fact, some limitations of MIDI that make it inappropriate here, but I'm very curious what those limitations are, and why XML was chosen instead?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      MIDI is a pita to read.

    • Re:Why not MIDI? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rabbidous (1844966) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @05:02PM (#35544226)
      Why not midi? As a musician, I'll ask you a parallel question: Why not write all documents in flat text? Who needs bold, underline, different fonts, pagination etc?? Midi doesn't make pretty sheet music. It only notates "note on" or "note off" or "patch change." It doesn't even notate which score a note should be on. This means, for example, that piano music would be just about impossible to play from a raw midi dump. An XML based markup, or the TeX based Lilypond allow for pretty, easy to read, scores. On the other hand, Lilypond has a midi import feature, so MIDI IS useful. It just requires some editing to make it human playable.
      • That's untrue. There are many other midi events. Maybe you only have a bottom-of-the-line Casio keyboard, that doesn't send out aftertouch signals, but you just need to upgrade your equipment in that case.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rabbidous (1844966)
          Real sheet music doesn't indicate aftertouch, and a real piano can't even play aftertouch either. I realize there are more events to midi than the ones above, but I was focusing mostly on what you need to know to play a piece of music on an instrument. These are things like phrasing, dynamics, fingerings. It also involves placing notes on the score in a conventional manner so that they are quickly understandable- Whether the stem of a note points up or down, for example, depends on many things, none of wh
      • t doesn't even notate which score a note should be on. This means, for example, that piano music would be just about impossible to play from a raw midi dump.

        I've run a few .mid's through Lilypond where no music was available for purchase. It does get the staffs right (MIDI has 'instruments' or channels), but it is ridiculously hard to play. It's best to use the score to get the music into your head, base the dynamics on your memory of the song, then just play it from memory.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        As someone who has learned piano pieces by looking at piano roll representations of MIDI files in a sequencer, i would have to disagree.

        The arbitrary usage of a heptatonic scale makes little sense when it all comes down to 12 tones in the end. Traditional notation is not necessarily easier to read at all, it is just far more common among musicians.

    • I guess it's that MIDI doesn't support notational details which don't add to the music, but add to the readability and/or playability of the music (e.g. which notes should be played with the left or right hand; synthesizers tend to not have any hands, after all).

    • Re:Why not MIDI? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Cornelius the Great (555189) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @05:07PM (#35544258)
      MIDI is very limited. MIDI was set up 30 years ago as a communication interface, and by today's standards it's a poor one- you're limited to one note per millisecond. IIRC, you are also limited to 16 channels, so composing scores for an entire orchestra is out of the question.

      To top it all off, it wasn't meant for music notation. Symbols like Accelerandos, Ritardandos are notably absent- changes to tempos are hardcoded. Many other symbols are absent as well. Sometimes notes need to be formatted in a special way (ie- for readability, or left/right hand on piano).

      Anyone who has ever composed in Finale, Sibelius, etc and tried to export to midi will notice the limitations right away. Why, what's your beef with XML anyway?
      • by dieth (951868)
        Most XML I've ever seen is excessive data packaging. My view of XML is pretty much the same as of these bananas [friendseat.com].
    • Because the only format they could think of that was more obscure and cryptic than sheet music notation was XML?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Music notation is fairly complex. Good notation is easy to read, and what makes it easy to read involves a lot of creativity on the part of the publisher, which is why good scores for music composed in the 18th century are still expensive today.

      MIDI can express the notes being played, and any notation software can render that information in a printable form, but it won't be clearly readable by a human being, even though it is technically accurate. What's being produced here is everything on the printed pa

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What the FUCK? MIDI can render piano "perfectly"? Are you mad? 128 levels of velocity is absolutely woeful when it comes to phrasing and articulation.

    • by npsimons (32752) *

      I'm not suggesting that MIDI would be better, and I'm guessing there are, in fact, some limitations of MIDI that make it inappropriate here, but I'm very curious what those limitations are, and why XML was chosen instead?

      From what little experience I've had composing on the computer, I can say that MIDI doesn't create scores very well. Just importing random MIDIs to notation in RoseGarden usually ends up unreadable/unplayable by human beings. Usually it's best to keep the source format in something more exa

    • by 517714 (762276)
      MIDI is part of the program. The link in the third paragraph to MuseScore notation software [musescore.org] says MIDI and PDF outputs are available. This project sounds like a winner to me.
  • For The Uninitiated (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 19, 2011 @04:56PM (#35544196)

    The Goldberg Variations [wikipedia.org] were made a pop classic (oxymoron?) by Glenn Gould in 1955, becoming a million seller. If you're new to Bach try The Well-Tempered Clavier [wikipedia.org]. A. Hewitt's recordings of both of the above are more recent and very good in my opinion.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by e9th (652576)
      Just before he pulps Lt. Boyle & Sgt. Pembry in The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter is listening to the Goldberg Variations. The aria, if memory serves.
      • Correct! And in Hannibal Rising, and in Slaughterhouse Five, and in The Day the Earth Stood Still, and a dozen others. This music is epic.
  • by gnud (934243) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @05:04PM (#35544238)
    While I'm certainly not opposed to the idea, both scores and recordings exists that are out of copyright. Bach is probably one of the easier composers to get hold of both scores and recordings.

    There are several copyright-free scores at IMLSP (direct link) [imslp.org].

    • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @05:23PM (#35544360) Journal

      While I'm certainly not opposed to the idea, both scores and recordings exists that are out of copyright. Bach is probably one of the easier composers to get hold of both scores and recordings.

      There are several copyright-free scores at IMLSP (direct link) [imslp.org].

      There are a few PD or CC versions there (among many which must be purchased). One problem is that the PD ones are mostly just bitmap scans of ancient prints, and the CC ones are PDFs. The PDFs are neater and cleaner than the scans, but neither of them is a "source" code - you cannot easily modify the score to make your own variations in tempo through a piece, for example, or add an extra instrument to augment the piece. That is probably the greatest benefit of releasing scores in XML or TeX format - the ability to easily adapt or modify them.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      IMSLP is great, but all their scores are scans of old editions. To use the same analogy of the submitter, these scans are like a binary distribution of a piece of software, whereas the MuseScore version is the source code.

      At the absolute minimum, it will allow you to control the way the score is laid out on the page. However, TFA suggests that the new score will actually have a lot more benefits than that -- it will include modern editorial suggestions, for example. (When it comes to Bach, that's very impor

    • by jewelises (739285) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @05:28PM (#35544392)
      Also check out Musopen [musopen.org], a large collection of public-domain classical music recordings and sheet music. They take donations and use those donations to hire professional artists to make new recordings of the pieces and then put them into the public domain.
    • I am totally opposed to this! What incentive is there for Bach to write more music if it's just going to be given away?

      • Indeed! And how are his heirs and lawyers for his estate to survive? Harumph! Harumph!
        • While obviously this doesn't apply to Bach, there are good reasons for copyright to last past the author's death (though that doesn't mean that the current "75 years after Disney Corporation dies" is justified. Helen Hooven Santmyer [slashdot.org]'s novel And Ladies of the Club [wikipedia.org] was published when she was 86, and became a best-seller. But if copyright ended at death, a publisher probably wouldn't have taken the risk of publishing a book from somebody who might die a couple of years later (and in fact did), so she wouldn'

    • IMSLP is a partner of the Open Goldberg Project and would be the first to say that we're contributing something new and unique. There are no "source code" versions of the Goldbergs that are machine readable and in public domain. There are also no modern recordings by esteemed artists that will have no usage limitations. Beyond that I can personally vouch for the exciting fact that Ishizaka is going to add something new and special to the corpus of Goldberg recordings.
    • Also try the Mutopia Project [mutopiaproject.org], which has user-contributed sheet music in Lilypond format. Ready-to-print PDF output, as well as computer-generated MIDI format previews of the music, are also available on the site. (The last time I tried to mirror its music files resulted in a 1.4 GB file dump. It had some Bach, although I'm not sure if the Goldberg Variations was among them.)
  • $1000 concert (Score:3, Interesting)

    by innocent_white_lamb (151825) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @05:20PM (#35544340)

    I just sent that website to our local Economic Development Office. How often do you get an offer from a world-famous pianist to play a concert for only $1000 plus travel costs (from Germany, where she is.) The whole production would end up costing under $10,000 which seems like a steal to me.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @05:27PM (#35544380) Homepage

    Apparently MuseScore has been around for a long time in some form, but only recently has it started to become a real contender in same music notation space as Finale and Lilypond -- I had barely played with it until today.

    Previously I've used Lilypond, which is very feature rich and produced beautiful output, but there were some things I didn't like about it. It's a non-GUI program, which is fine with me, but they kept changing the syntax of the language. Every time I installed a new version of Lilypond, I'd have to convert all my old files to the new version, and that was a big hassle. Also, for many musicians who are not programmers, the non-GUI nature of Lilypond meant that they weren't going to use it. Although there were GUI front-ends such as Denemo and Rosegarden, progress seemed extremely slow. I would check back every few years and find that they weren't really that much more capable than the last time I'd checked.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Although there were GUI front-ends such as Denemo and Rosegarden, progress seemed extremely slow. I would check back every few years and find that they weren't really that much more capable than the last time I'd checked.

      Nobody ever promised you a Rosegarden.

  • Cool. I'd like to see them performed on a harpsichord too, for historical reasons. Or perhaps a performance of the seminal organ works.
  • This is great! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by npsimons (32752) * on Saturday March 19, 2011 @06:27PM (#35544838) Homepage Journal

    In case you've never heard of the Goldberg Variations, I suggest having a listen to either of the versions by Glenn Gould (1955 or 1981). Both are incredible, and the technicality of the piece is staggering; there is one movement with differing time signatures (18/16 and 3/4) on each hand, that exchange hands, repeatedly . There are some who consider it good thinking music.

    It's funny, but I had never noticed until now that there aren't public domain versions of this piece; it's really quite eye-opening that people can recognize probably half a dozen classical pieces because they've been used so much (because they are public domain), but one of the greatest pieces by one of the greatest composers hasn't entered into the public awareness simply because of the tyranny known as copyright.

    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      hasn't entered into the public awareness simply because of the tyranny known as copyright.

      Copyright has long since expired on many editions of the scores, there are piles of PDF scans available. No one apparently has taken the time to enter it into a computer readable format, mainly becuase it's huge.

      And free recordings are hard to come by, because the people who can play it already have contracts so they can't release a free version.

      So to correct your statement, no one with the skills needed has taken the

      • Copyright has long since expired on many editions of the scores, there are piles of PDF scans available. No one apparently has taken the time to enter it into a computer readable format, mainly becuase it's huge.

        I find this surprising. People have created open source projects in their spare time that rival the largest corporate or government software projects. Why not transcription projects of this scale?

        And free recordings are hard to come by, because the people who can play it already have contracts so th

        • Why not transcription projects of this scale?

          Because it is unnecessary to transcribe a piece of music in order to perform it freely.

          On the other hand, it is sometimes necessary to code your own program to accomplish a task freely.

          And the open source projects that rival huge commercial projects tend to have corporate backers who use it to sell services and such. I'm not sure the same type of economic strategy would work for music transcription.

    • by Threni (635302)

      Ironically, the Gould recordings are now out of copyright in the UK.

      http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.111247 [naxos.com]
      "Not available in the United States, Australia and Singapore due to possible copyright restrictions"

    • by krsmav (1410223)
      The Goldberg Variations is of course PD. The International Music Scores Project/Petrucci Music Library has half a dozen versions freely available at http://imslp.org/wiki/Goldberg-Variationen,_BWV_988_(Bach,_Johann_Sebastian) [imslp.org]
  • by which others are judged.

    Both the 1955 and 1981 ("purists prefer the former") recordings are pure genius if you can ignore Gould humming in the background while he plays. It's unfortunate that Gould is no longer around to play yet another rendition to publicize a freely available score.

    For those who care:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_Gould [wikipedia.org]

  • Interesting, but... (Score:4, Informative)

    by bleh_fu (870974) on Sunday March 20, 2011 @12:35AM (#35547622)

    Contrary to TFA, there are CC licensed scores in Lilypond format available through Mutopia [mutopiaproject.org]. As far as PDF scans and such, as other posters have mentioned, there are innumerable resources [mcgill.ca].

    The big questions for me (disclaimer: I'm a professional classical pianist) is that of scholarly review. The go-to publisher for Bach today is Bärenreiter/Neue Bach Ausgabe [baerenreiter.com], and by and large, any edition of Bach that I use that isn't Bärenreiter should ideally be cross referenced with it. Of course, it is very expensive to purchase, but it is one item that any university with a music program simply must have in its library. What concerns me is that TFA simply is vague who or what they mean by scholarly review, and this alone would prevent me from considering it over current alternatives.

    IMHO the value in the project will be a (hopefully) excellent recording that is CC licensed, as there doesn't appear to be any decent recordings of the sort (through a cursory search), unless you include Wanda Landowska's eccentric harpsichord recordings [archive.org] from 1945. Genius is already easily available in recordings on piano by Gould [amazon.com] (both 1955 and 1981), Schiff [amazon.com], Hewitt [amazon.com], Barenboim [amazon.com], Perahia [amazon.com], and Leonhardt [amazon.com] on harpsichord.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And it's not just in composition software or performances like in the article.

    There's some nice synth/digital audio workstation software too. These come fairly well packaged with their own sample kits, integrated synthesizers, LADSPA effects, and plugin support for other things like soundfonts and VST effects and instruments. I believe all of them also save music in XML as well. (Perhaps not the same exact format, but I'm sure they'd be easy enough to convert since labels appear to make sense.) XML is kind

  • Once this goes into the public domain.... Once the music is available... Use it.

    Make videos with it as the background, put it in your products, play it at your corporate events, use the hell out of it. FREE is FREE. Of course you can profit from it... as long as you add value to it. The only thing you can't do with it, is prevent other people from doing the same damn thing.

    I don't understand the confusion here. Why aren't businesses doing this all the time, so they don't have to pay anyone for the rights to

  • 24 hours of being on the front page of Slashdot added $7,000 of value to the Open Goldberg Variations project. Thank you from the whole team!

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