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Music

Open Well-Tempered Clavier: a Kickstarter Campaign For Open Source Bach 70

Posted by Soulskill
from the giving-bach-to-the-musical-community dept.
rDouglass writes "The Open Goldberg Variations team has launched a new project to make an open source, public domain version of J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. The work is significant because of its enormous influence on musicians and composers throughout history. A new studio recording, a new digital MuseScore score (with support for MusicXML and MIDI), as well as all source materials (multitrack WAV, lossless FLAC) will be provided as libre and gratis downloads. New to the project are publisher GRIN Verlag, as well as record label PARMA Recordings. GRIN and PARMA will produce and distribute the physical score and double CD, even though the digital versions are to be widely available and in the public domain. Their enthusiasm for the project runs counter to the general publishing and music industry's fear of digital file sharing, and shows growing momentum for finding new models to make free music commercially sustainable."
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Open Well-Tempered Clavier: a Kickstarter Campaign For Open Source Bach

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    The 4-CD set by Andras Schiff was the first recording I ever had to save and scrimp for, when I was still back in high school, and it's been worth every penny. I had heard one track and was told the rest was great, and it is. I'm a drummer, but listening to this recording a couple hundred times is probably responsible for any melodic and harmonic sense I may have developed at that time. I haven't heard the version referenced in TFA, but it's hard to make this music sound bad. Highly recommended in principle

    • by chuckinator (2409512) on Friday September 20, 2013 @03:12PM (#44906809)
      There are great works like the Clavier that exist in all fields of studies, and it's a gift to all of mankind when a genius has the opportunity to complete a magnum opus of this calibre. Newton's Principia comes to mind as well as Da Vinci's Codex, but even newer and more modern studies have their own Book to follow. I have been criticized for my antiquated viewpoints on curating a library of masterpieces, but you either stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before you or you are forever doomed to recreate their process and most likely produce inferior results.
    • My personal favorite is Bob van Asperen's recording on Virgin. Exuberant!

       

  • by jovius (974690) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:31PM (#44906427)

    There also exists public domain recording by musopen.org [musopen.org], which will probably pale in comparison, but nonetheless it's great that these efforts exist.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Robert Douglass has been working and co-operating with Musopen.org who are also doing something similar for Chopin. This is Kickstarter number 3 for Mr Douglass and Ms. Ishizaka - well worth anyone's support as it will produce a superb outcome.

    • The current Musopen version is quite nice, and on harpsichord. This will sound totally different. It will be quite awesome, I promise.
  • by femtobyte (710429) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:36PM (#44906469)

    A piano is a tremendously wonderful instrument for piano music. But this (Well-Tempered Clavier) is not piano music! You can make a decent-sounding performance of clavier music on the piano, just like you can transcribe a vocal for violin, but you lose a lot of the specific things the composer --- especially a master of the instrument like Bach --- put into the work. Basically, all intricate and fast-moving detail in a piece gets mushed up and lost on the piano, which is designed for a smoother, more "blended" sound than the clearly articulated single notes of pre-piano predecessors. Please, if you want an open cultural reference to Bach's keyboard music, play it on appropriate kinds of keyboard!

    • Point taken, though Glenn Gould did an excellent job on the piano nevertheless. His technique allowed him to articulate single notes and still allow for changes in softness.
    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:50PM (#44906615)

      It's true Bach didn't perform on a piano, though to be pedantic, the word clavier doesn't denote a specific kind of instrument. It's just a traditional name for keyboard instruments, and sometimes the piano is considered in the family. Bach himself apparently performed on both the harpsichord and clavichord, though his work is most associated with the harpsichord.

      • by Jaegs (645749)

        Bach did perform on the piano, just not as a primary instrument:

        At first [Silbermann's] experiments were - well - experimental! It is known that JS Bach tried one and commented critically by pointing out serious defects - heavy touch and weakness of the higher notes. Later instruments however, Bach was able to praise, and it is on record that when in 1747 Bach visited Frederick the Great at Potsdam he played upon Silbermann pianofortes, of which the king possessed a number, possibly fifteen. All pianofortes

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      fast-moving detail in a piece gets mushed up and lost on the piano...

      A compromise may be to use a "piano-forte", which is the word sometimes used to describe wooden-framed or early pianos. Some of the earlier pianos sounded half like a harpsichord and half like a modern piano because they were built out of harpsichord parts and designs.

      You don't get quite the tinny sound of a harpsichord, yet have the familiarity of the piano sound. A clavichord is another alternative, but the sound rubs some the wrong way

      • by femtobyte (710429) on Friday September 20, 2013 @03:37PM (#44907107)

        Much of the "tinny sounding" reputation for harpsichords was due to poorly made harpsichord reproductions from the 1930's-'50s, before good scholarship on re-inventing the art of harpsichord building had been collected, so "harpsichords" were rigged together from iron-frame, metal-stringed piano parts. A variety of more modern reproduction instruments, and restored originals, indicates that members of the harpsichord family don't generally have the clanky, tinny sound associated with mid-20th-century harpsichord music (during the initial revival of interest in older musical forms). The clavier family was often closely associated with the lute --- a very "delicate" and nuanced instrument --- during its heyday.

        I think having the "limitation" of pre-piano movements (little/no control over volume from key velocity) is important to performing Bach's keyboard music "authentically" (for a "cultural reference" production), since alternate ways around that are built into the composition/performance of pieces (nuances lost on a piano), which allow proper performances to actually be quite dynamic. One can find plenty of clavier-family instruments with a more pleasing tone to modern ears than more "aggressive" examples of harpsichords, especially not "tinny sounding" poor reproduction instruments.

        • by Tablizer (95088)

          Could you by chance find a Youtube vid or MP3 sample somewhere to illustrate the authentic sound?

    • by fermat1313 (927331) on Friday September 20, 2013 @03:29PM (#44907023)

      In agreement with Atmchicago, I have to disagree with you here. He wrote them for the clavichord, and that instrument has a specific sound. There are people who record on the clavichord, but as a performance instrument it's quite lacking in volume and is only appropriate for small rooms. Also, the clavichord wasn't really Bach's ideal instrument, as it gave the performer no ability to play soft and loud. Bach's writings were clear about his frustrations with this limitation, which is the main reason the Piano took off like it did.

      The key to playing Bach on the piano (as well as Mozart and lots of other pre-Romantic composers) is to use the sustain pedal sparingly if at all, to maintain the clean sound. Glenn Gould was a master at performing music with a clean sound, and there are many other pianists who do this quite well, such as Angela Hewitt.

      If you listen to Gould's 1981 recording of the Bach's Goldberg variations [youtube.com], he achieved (with a Yamaha piano rather than his usual Steinway) a very distinct bell-like and clean tone, very dry without a hint of the lushness and sentimentality of the "traditional" Romantic sound the modern piano was designed for. Gould was one of the best at getting this sound, but he's definitely not the only one.

      • by femtobyte (710429) on Friday September 20, 2013 @04:05PM (#44907431)

        The fact that Bach's compositions reflect "frustrations with the limitations" of the instrument is probably the best argument for performing them on that instrument: built into the structure of the pieces are all the best-effort inventions to push the boundary of those limitations (which tend to get lost, or simply rendered irrelevant, in piano performances). Bach may have preferred to write and perform on a piano-forte, but he knew what instrument he was primarily writing for.

        The limitations of pre-piano keyboard instruments for large-scale performance halls don't seem to be a big problem if you're focusing on making a recording (rather than giving a big live performance). With modern recording technology, we really live in a golden age for more intimate chamber music --- you no longer have to be wealthy enough to hire a private orchestra to enjoy "small-scale" productions in the comfort of your own home on a pair of headphones or speakers. The emphasis on making instruments big and loud enough to fill a concert hall (much of the drive behind the development of the piano) is less important if most of your listeners will be via a digital recording anyway.

        I have nothing particularly against piano performances of these pieces; they can be quite enjoyable and musically well-done. Gould's work is well done, as is Ishizaka's previously released set of the Goldberg Variations. My objection here is that, if you present something as intended to be a "reference" edition for hearing and understanding Bach, that ought to include presenting the specific instrumental limitations that Bach was working with/around (rather than erasing Bach's efforts for what he "might have done" in a world where the piano became popular a few decades earlier).

  • by BenSchuarmer (922752) on Friday September 20, 2013 @03:25PM (#44906969)
    Why would this J. S. Bach guy write any more music if people are just going to steal it?
  • But we all believe in Bach !

  • by deviated_prevert (1146403) on Friday September 20, 2013 @03:37PM (#44907105) Journal
    Werner Icking started an archive [icking-music-archive.org] years ago for the purpose of making public domain editions available online. The huge selection of Bach's music is already there available for all to use. I use the violin partitas and sonatas, cello sonatas and some of the solo keyboard works of Bach all the time as a reference and for study. Many who contributed used Lilypond and MusiXTeX to set the scores. MIDI files are terrible for the purpose of notating polyphonic music like Bach. It is a digital toy essentially and never truly represents accurate notation.

    Companies like Peters that do sell good accurate scores of Bach are so behind the times they literally cannot see the forest because the trees are still being cut down. It is entirely possible for them to distribute decent editions for sale in e-pub and the technology to put scores on e-ink could be made usable with essentially e-reader technology that is score sized instead of pocket book. I would gladly pay for a decent music e-ink reader that would work on my music stand. The information age is slogging along and eventually the real potential of digital music notation will happen. But unfortunately we still have those who have their heads up their assets in the music publishing industry.

    Werner was a stickler for accurate notation and much of what is there on the historic digital archive, especially the Bach section, is very accurate. Unfortunately since his death others have corrupted what he started and some of the archive is not good or even accurate notation, however most of the Bach is excellent and done by people who understand the importance of accuracy in music notation. Many of the scores adhere to original source where ever possible. Which can be very difficult as in the time of the great champions of Bach's music during the late classical era much of Bach's sheet music had fallen into oblivion.

    For instance a friend of Felix Mendelssohn actually found music scores by Bach being used by a butcher to wrap meats! So the digitizing for all time of all our great heritage of written music is as important as project Gutenberg. Werner understood this as many others do and either the existing music publishing houses will get on board or they will be a footnote in the history of written music.

    • Yes - and the score that we're going to make goes to 11 in comparison. Because it's digital, meaning "source code", not just a printed PDF. Check this out - it's important for the understanding of what we're doing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zHey9x8Xuc [youtube.com]
      • Yes - and the score that we're going to make goes to 11 in comparison. Because it's digital, meaning "source code", not just a printed PDF. Check this out - it's important for the understanding of what we're doing:

        The real "source" is the printed score in most cases, especially for those who actually read, study and write music. Irresponsible and at times illiterate keyboard players creating MIDI "source code" is not the answer to the preservation of our heritage of printed music. To archive "digital music" in the form of MIDI or editable format is a blind alley quite literally. Originals must be preserved by responsible organizations!

        For instance the historic first edition publications that are in collections need

        • We're not "irresponsible and at times illiterate keyboard players". I have 3 higher degrees in music, and I'm just the one overseeing the project. Furthermore, nobody said we're archiving music in MIDI. The "responsible" organizations that will archive these works include IMSLP, Musopen, Wikimedia Commons, Archive.org, and Freemusicarchive. I agree with your analysis of the twilight of the publishing gods. PS we're not using MIDI from a keyboard. Please look at the score of the Goldberg Variations that we
          • We're not "irresponsible and at times illiterate keyboard players". I have 3 higher degrees in music, and I'm just the one overseeing the project. Furthermore, nobody said we're archiving music in MIDI. The "responsible" organizations that will archive these works include IMSLP, Musopen, Wikimedia Commons, Archive.org, and Freemusicarchive. PS we're not using MIDI from a keyboard.

            Very glad to hear that this effort is more than just another digitally dysfunctional music notation idea. Yes I am using MuseScore already. The input methods in the software are highly logical I have paginated studies to work as pdf that are readable on e-ink devices. I do see a very realistic possibility of using larger e-ink devices on a music stand instead of paper in the near future. This is why a common format such as PDF is so important! What might finally free up the digital distribution of scores is

  • by westlake (615356) on Friday September 20, 2013 @03:39PM (#44907127)

    is that audiences are not interested in an academic reference recording of Bach but in the richly varied interpretations of artists each with their own gifts --- using arrangements of their own choice, instruments of their own choice, in a venue of their own choice.

    It is like trying to capture Shakespeare in a bottle.

    Uncork the thing and what you will get is a performance wholly typical of the acting style and staging of the year the play was recorded.

    • is that audiences are not interested in an academic reference recording of Bach but in the richly varied interpretations of artists each with their own gifts --- using arrangements of their own choice, instruments of their own choice, in a venue of their own choice.

      It is like trying to capture Shakespeare in a bottle.

      If you watch Glen Gould going over Peters editions at Columbia Records during recording sessions you would fully understand the importance of scholarly work to preserve musical scores. Without decent editions of sheet music for musicians to interpret in the first place there would be no great recordings. Many great Jazz musicians use Bach's music for melodic and harmonic inspiration, as have many composers over the centuries. Jaco Pastorius [youtube.com] whom many consider the greatest improvising bassist of all time, wo

  • Where do I get a cantankerous clavier?

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