Awesome Stuff: Reclaiming Classic Culture

from the it's-about-time dept

For years, we've talked about the importance of not letting historical cultural artifacts die out. Unfortunately, today's copyright law has a way of making sure that certain classic cultural works are locked up and hidden away (which, of course, is exactly the opposite of what copyright is supposed to do). Similarly, in some cases mere adherence to tradition and pretension is locking up culture as well. So, for this week's awesome stuff post, we've got three projects about reclaiming culture.
  • First up, we've got the latest Kickstarter project from the folks at Musopen, Set Chopin Free. If you've been following this space for a while, you've probably heard of Musopen, whom we've covered before. The organization actually was a super early adopter of Kickstarter, focusing on raising money to record incredibly excellent recordings of public domain music, and then setting the recordings free as well (quick copyright lesson for those unfamiliar: anyone can record/play public domain compositions without licenses, but there's a separate copyright on any sound recordings that come out of it -- so most recordings of public domain music are still under copyright for the recording, if not the composition). After an early false start, Musopen had one of the first high profile Kickstarter successes, and now they're back for more. From the title, you can probably tell that the goal is to record all of the works of Chopin and release them for free.
    They went with a fairly ambitious goal of $75,000 to do this, which was even more than Musopen raised last time, though that was in the early days of Kickstarter, before so many people were used to it. The campaign is almost there with still over a month to go, so they'll end up surpassing the goal by quite a lot by the time this is done.
  • Here's a somewhat different one, where two guys in Italy are trying to buy up two rare mystery novels by J.S. Fletcher, with the plan to scan, ocr, correct, proofread and then release to the world the works so other scan read them. Of course, those works, "The Borgia Cabinet" from 1930 and "The Matheson Formula" from 1929 are not actually in the public domain in the US, though they are in much of the rest of the world.

    Unfortunately, it appears that this campaign hasn't been able to get any attention at all, as it's raised a grand total of nothing (with a goal of $600). It doesn't look like the team behind this has really done much at all to promote it -- there's no video with the campaign (generally considered a necessity) and even the project description is very short and without details. It's too bad, because you'd think with a little imagination, they could convince people to support the project. Also, they don't offer anything for most of the tiers -- just a thank you. Part of what tends to make crowdfunding campaigns work, even when people are convinced to support a larger ideal, is that they get some unique benefit for doing so.
  • Tragically, those appear to be the only projects on either Kickstarter or IndieGoGo (or a few other smaller crowdfunding platforms I checked out -- though there may be some elsewhere) that were attempting to make the public domain more accessible directly. However, for the third project, I thought this fit into the spirit of the above projects. It's a documentary called What Would Beethoven Do?, that takes a look how orchestras and classical music arts organizations, that have struggled to remain relevant (especially with younger audiences) are starting to learn how get beyond the stuffy reputation of classical music, and embrace new technologies, new media to become relevant again. I highly recommend the pitch video, which is quite well done:
    On the funding side, unfortunately it looks like this one is lagging a bit. The filmmakers are looking for $22,000, but they've raised less than 20% of that with about two weeks to go. It'll be a challenge to make up that difference. I was a bit surprised to see that the cheapest level to actually get a digital download of the film starts at $50 -- which seems a bit on the steep side. I wonder if they would have been able to grab more backers with a more reasonable price point.
Either way, it's good to see people looking to make important cultural artifacts relevant and accessible again. It's too bad we don't actually see more of those kinds of projects these days.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    allengarvin (profile), Sep 14th, 2013 @ 9:40am

    It's hard to get even slightly excited about a new Chopin recording. His works have been recorded dozens of times. A year never passes without indistinguishable new Chopin CDs being cranked out.

    Meanwhile, vast, vast amounts of worthy sixteenth and seventeenth century music sits around, never having been recorded and most never even performed in the modern era.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 14th, 2013 @ 10:48am


    The point isn't to add to the repertoire, but make freely available recordings.

    I wonder if the money would be better spent getting universities around the world to make recordings and donate them to a public domain project. The musicians would certainly be as good as anyone these people would hire.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    PopeRatzo (profile), Sep 14th, 2013 @ 11:17am


    I thought by "classic" they were talking about the '90s.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2013 @ 12:50pm

    Re: Re:

    Students are generally slightly below the better "for hire" people, but it is a very good idea.

    I believe you can find a lot of ok'ish free to acquire recordings of Chopin anyway, which is far larger than what is easily available btw., it is not as obscure to find as Wagenseil, Koželuh, Auber or lesser known talented composers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Cthulhu Gnu (profile), Sep 14th, 2013 @ 4:36pm

    Typical of this neo-commie site...

    Where do you think the NEXT Chopin is coming from if the music can't be monetized for centuries?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous, Sep 14th, 2013 @ 5:58pm

    Chopin wasn't so great. He never got his picture on bubblegum cards, did he?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Aaron (profile), Sep 14th, 2013 @ 7:02pm


    (Musopen founder writing)
    Agree 100%.
    But it would be much harder to raise money for those works. I'm hoping we can get a large enough base of support to try riskier projects like what you mention.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Aaron (profile), Sep 14th, 2013 @ 7:04pm

    Re: Typical of this neo-commie site...

    Copyright still exists, so composers still benefit for their entire lives + 70+ years.

    Seems like the reason we won't have more Chopins is because music tastes have changed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 15th, 2013 @ 2:09pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Since this is music you could freely use in movies or with other media, having the world's greatest performers isn't necessary. And the faculty could make recordings of themselves. The organization would have to vet the submissions for quality.

    Getting lesser known composers recorded is a whole different problem, but it could benefit from this if it were successful.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2013 @ 6:10pm

    whether or not chopin was great is nothing more than an opinion.

    I think all public domain music should be "set free"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonimous Bad Ass, Sep 15th, 2013 @ 7:33pm


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2013 @ 9:18pm

    If people want to get a taste of music that was never recorded but does have a freely available composition people could try MuseScore to digitze the music sheets and use LMMS (Linux MultiMedia Studio) to play them.

    Create a huge database of free open music that way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2013 @ 2:12am

    [Meta] How to make kickstarter embeds show with NoScript?

    Does anyone here know how I can configure NoScript not to completely hide the Kickstarter and Indiegogo embeds on the weekly Awesome Stuff posts? "Temporarily allow all this page" does nothing. I don't even see Kickstarter there, nor placeholders, nor items under Blocked Objects. Iframe blocking off doesn't help. Firefox's object inspector shows the iframe and contained html, head, and body elements but shows the latter two as empty. Manually going to Kickstarter and adding it to Noscript's trusted site list doesn't make the embeds show on Techdirt pages either. I'm probably missing something "obvious", but I can't find it, and googling availed me of nothing. So ... anyone?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Ninja (profile), Sep 16th, 2013 @ 4:20am

    The Chopin one is epic win for sure. Most public domain recordings are total crap. I'm kind of short on money and I've donated for quite a few stuff this month so I can't quite help but I hope they make it, I really like his music.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2013 @ 5:00am


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    rberni (profile), Sep 16th, 2013 @ 10:31am


    I think for some people these projects are more about the idea than it is about the product. I occasionally listen to classical music but not enough for me to go out and buy it. What little I did listen to was probably not very legit. I supported the original Musopen project (this one as well) for the simple reason that it made the music available to the public. People don't have to worry about giving out copies to friends, making it available on the Internet or if you live in some countries worry about who is listening to it with you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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