Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Supreme Court Case on Scholars' Rights and Public domain

Chronicle of Higher Education

May 29, 2011
Supreme Court Takes Up Scholars' Rights
By Marc Parry


When Lawrence Golan picks up his baton here at the University of Denver, the musicians in his student orchestra see a genial conductor who corrects their mistakes without raising his voice in frustration.

Yet Mr. Golan is frustrated, not with the musicians, but with a copyright law that does them harm. For 10 years, the music professor has been quietly waging a legal campaign to overturn the statute, which makes it impossibly expensive for smaller orchestras to play certain pieces of music.

Now the case is heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high-stakes copyright showdown affects far more than sheet music. The outcome will touch a broad swath of academe for years to come, dictating what materials scholars can use in books and courses without jumping through legal hoops. The law Mr. Golan is trying to overturn has also hobbled libraries' efforts to digitize and share books, films, and music.

The conductor's fight centers on the concept of the public domain, which scholars depend on for teaching and research. When a work enters the public domain, anyone can quote from it, copy it, share it, or republish it without seeking permission or paying royalties.

The dispute that led to Golan v. Holder dates to 1994, when Congress passed a law that moved vast amounts of material from the public domain back behind the firewall of copyright protection. For conductors like Mr. Golan, that step limited access to canonical 20th-century Russian pieces that had been freely played for years.

"It was a shocking change," Mr. Golan says over dinner at a tacos-and-margaritas dive near the University of Denver's mountain-framed campus. "You used to be able to buy Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Stravinsky. All of a sudden, on one day, you couldn't anymore."

Other works once available but now restricted include books by H.G. Wells, Virginia Woolf, and C.S. Lewis; films by Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, and Jean Renoir; and artwork by M.C. Escher and Pablo Picasso. The U.S. Copyright Office estimated that the works qualifying for copyright restoration "probably number in the millions."

Congress approved the recopyrighting, limited to foreign works, to align U.S. policy with an international copyright treaty. But the Golan plaintiffs—a group that includes educators, performers, and film archivists—argue that bigger principles are at stake. Does Congress have the constitutional right to remove works from the public domain? And if it does, what's stopping it from plucking out even more freely available works?

"If you can't rely on the status of something in the public domain today—that is, if you never know whether Congress is going to act again and yank it out—you're going to be a lot more cautious about doing anything with these materials," says Mr. Golan's lawyer, Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project and a lecturer in law at Stanford Law School. "You really destroy the value and the usefulness of the public domain in a profound way if the rug can be pulled out from under you at any time."

Read the entire post HERE.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wire: Collateral Damage (effects of filesharing)


Collateral Damage

* Issue #328 (Jun 11) | Essays

Responding to Kenneth Goldsmith’s epiphany on filesharing last month, Henry Cow founder and ReR label boss Chris Cutler counts the cost of free music to those who make and distribute it
“Epiphany No 4: As a result, just like you, I stopped buying music”
Kenneth Goldsmith, The Wire 327

And where’s the harm? Surely uploading is just an extension of sharing with friends, an effective and commercially subversive way to promulgate the music you like? But friends are strangers now; a friend is anyone with a broadband connection. Search engines and P2P sites have turned the entire wired world into friends. And that changes things. You want the latest hit without paying; a bootleg of that Singapore show; some album that went missing in 1960 and was never re-pressed? No problem, a couple of clicks will get it because someone somewhere will have put it on a website and someone else will track it down for you. Of course that’s great. What kind of argument can you have with free?

Well, there’s always the second law of thermodynamics. Free always comes at a price. I don’t mean inconvenience to major record companies – though they’ve been doing all the shouting so far – but the likely and predictable repercussions for the music itself. What does free really mean outside of the purely personal effect of ‘I can get it without paying’ – a claim any mugger could make without scoring many argument points? What are the social, cultural and moral costs, the consequences? Sometimes it’s not only our attention span that has evaporated down to bug durations, but our future-directed thinking altogether. Certainly, as access has expanded, empathetic horizons have narrowed. We all apparently want better health, better education, better pension and social security provision, better transport networks, more police and safer streets – and lower taxes. We want to be paid for the work we do but, if possible, not pay for the work other people do; eat the seed corn now and let the future take care of itself. It’s a model inherited from politicians and careless corporations. So I’m afraid, in my book, the ‘all music should be free’ argument is just an infinitesimal fleck in the onward progress of this idiot wave.

Making a recording is not cost-free or work-free; it’s expensive. And those costs can only be recovered through sales. No sales, or sales so low that costs are not recouped, mean artists are forced either to cut the costs next time (with inevitable negative consequences for quality) or not to record so much – or at all. Along with a lot of dross, good music is lost this way, especially at the margins, where the most innovative work is already barely paying its way. In my own field, I know how many musical projects never leave the notebook because of problems with the pocket book.

In a healthy and plural culture, independent funding for independent artists remains the main guarantee of innovative work. And that means the ability, somehow, for musicians to earn a living from what they do. Which is why festivals, performance spaces and independent record companies are so essential: they hold the line. Without concerts or records the equation runs: No income = day job = less art + more compromise.
Think of it as an ecological issue, a question of diversity for the sake of diversity. Forget the good guys/bad guys story, it’s just a question of whether we want a static, monocultural, factory farm environment or a diverse, plural, interconnected and evolving one. If the latter, we have to start thinking beyond immediate personal convenience.

Where is honour? We pay the plumber, the electrician, the VAT inspector; we pay the service provider and the telephone company, so why so careless of the musician and the struggling label? If you plant a garden and bring its fruits to term – and your friends dig it up in the night to feed themselves, perhaps praising you for your industry – and then sit back in the expectation of another year of gardening to sustain them through the following year, would you continue to dig and delve? Do vegetables really want to be free?

Perhaps Epiphany No 7 should be: Actions have consequences...

Read the entire post HERE.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bob Dylan's The times They Are a-Changin' on his 70th Birthday

Dylan composed and recorded this in 1963 when he was twenty-two years old. Some of his commentary on the song makes sound as if he was working on intuition, not really getting what it was about to some degree. It's simple musically, though I dig the rhyme scheme. But man, for all its stark simplicity Dylan instinctively nailed the sea change that was in the air and coming.

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's naming.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Monday, May 23, 2011

NYT: Music on Virginia's Crooked Road

May 20, 2011
On Virginia’s Crooked Road, Mountain Music Lights the Way

IT starts with a well-worn fiddle, held in equally well-worn hands above a tapping black cowboy boot. Then in comes the banjo, plucked with steel finger picks, followed by the autoharp, the mandolin, the percussive beat of an upright bass. Another banjo grabs the melody, and suddenly the room is bursting with knee-slapping, country-porch music. A man in a crisp checked shirt gets up and starts to dance, bouncing out a complicated bumbumBAM bumbumBAM with his feet, moving as smoothly as a Martha Graham dancer, hitting the floor on the downbeat.

It is Thursday night in Fries (pronounced freeze), Va., population 600, on the wide New River. In the century-old Fries Theater, the silk wallpaper, once a glorious aquamarine embossed with gold ferns, is faded. A sign promises movies for 10 cents, 25 cents on weekends, but there hasn’t been a film here in years. The Fries high school closed in 1989 after the cotton mill that gave birth to this hamlet in 1902 shut down. But where the economy has faltered, the local music culture is thriving. Take a drive through the dozens of one-stoplight towns that are planted along highways that twist through this region’s blue hills and green valleys, and you’ll find that music is the manna of the community.

Fries was my first stop on the music trail known as the Crooked Road — an official designation of the state of Virginia since 2004. The heritage of the path can be found in this dance, in that tune, learned by ear from house to house and passed down through generations. The Road isn’t one single highway — it’s a roughly 300-mile series of interconnected two-lane byways and long stretches of Route 58, which skims Virginia’s North Carolina and Tennessee borders all the way to Kentucky. The sound here is Appalachian: mountain music. Joe Wilson, who wrote a book on the Crooked Road, calls the area the “pickle barrel” of American music. “You know you can’t make a good pickle by squirting vinegar on a cucumber,” he said. “You have to let it sit.”

Over five days in April, I rambled along part of the Crooked Road and towns around it, from Fries up to Ferrum and Floyd, back to Galax and out to Marion, dipping down toward Abington, and back to Galax again.


If there ever was a place where musical authenticity was born and nurtured, “raised up” as the people around here say, the Crooked Road is it. From the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons (the site of Johnny Cash’s last concert) and Clintwood, deep in coal country, to the farms near Floyd, music is still being made on fiddles and banjos, mandolins and guitars, dulcimers and autoharps. Every night you’ll find pick-up jams on front porches, performances in theaters and quartets that pack storefronts, an old courthouse and even a Dairy Queen. In summer the area is awash in festivals, from Dr. Ralph Stanley’s Memorial Day bluegrass festival in the mountains of Coeburn, Va., to the venerable Old Fiddlers Convention held every August in Galax.

This region is where old-time and bluegrass was born. Old-time is dance music, simpler and older than bluegrass. Bluegrass is filled with vocal harmonies, many made famous by (relative) newbies like Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch. It is suited more for seated audiences than the foot-stomping dance I saw in Fries, which is known as flatfoot. Both genres evolved from tunes brought by Scotch-Irish and German settlers who traveled down the wagon trails from Pennsylvania. They brought dulcimers and fiddles and later picked up the banjo from former slaves.
Read the entire story plus multimeadia HERE.

SLATE: Is Pop Bringing Back the Sax for Nostalgia's Sake?

Bringing Saxy Back
The sax solo returns to pop music.
By Jonah WeinerUpdated Monday, May 23, 2011, at 6:50 AM ET

For 36 years, Saturday Night Live has provided sanctuary to a species of musical wildlife that today sits on the endangered list: the saxophone solo. In 1975, jazz whiz David Sanborn's note-gobbling, register-vaulting altissimo ushered in the show's premiere episode, setting the brassy tone for every SNL opening sequence that followed. Since 1985, the SNL house band's lead saxophonist has been Lenny Pickett, who made his name in the venerable horn band Tower of Power. Over the course of Pickett's tenure on the show, the sax, once a pop-music staple, has fallen precipitously out of vogue—everywhere, that is, except SNL.

Last October, though, the show allowed some hunting in the preserve. In a digital short titled "The Curse," Andy Samberg, playing an arrogant businessman, is tormented by Jon Hamm, who—ponytailed, shirtless, and with biceps oiled to the point they're reflective—bursts through walls at inopportune moments and, sax in hand, lays into lustful torrents of lite-jazz honking. When the solos are done, Hamm whips his face toward the camera and, fiery-eyed with passion, intones his character's name: "Sergio!" You'd be tempted to call the joke one-note if it didn't involve such a preposterous number of notes: The sketch wrings four sublimely absurd minutes from the simple idea that blistering saxophone solos have come to sound not merely dated but ridiculous, and not merely ridiculous but hilarious.

I can't help but picture Sergio when I listen to Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)," a song from her 2010 album Teenage Dream. For the most part, the song chugs along pleasantly and, in the context of state-of-the-art pop-rock, unremarkably: crisp beat; summery guitars; big chorus about remembering, and hoping to re-create, a fun night of skinny dipping and table dancing. But just before the 3-minute mark, a saxophone bursts unexpectedly into the mix, Sergio-style, for a flurry of ecstatic screeches. The first time I heard the song, the sax took me entirely by surprise. It was ingenious. Perry's lyrics celebrate a goofy blast from the past, so what better musical corollary to that theme than a sax solo, as goofy as blasts from the past get? The "T.G.I.F." sax part, it turns out, was performed by Lenny Pickett. The caretaker had emerged from the sanctuary to release one of his beasts back into the wild.

With the release of Lady Gaga's new album, Born This Way, what was an anomaly officially becomes a pop trend: The saxophone is repopulating. Two of Born This Way's songs, "Hair" and "Edge of Glory," feature sax playing courtesy of the E Street Band's own Clarence Clemons. "It was wild. I was so excited," Clemons told Rolling Stone in a detailed report on the collaboration. "I'm a Gaga-ite." What unites Gaga's sax songs with Perry's is that both use the instrument as a nostalgia button. Gaga has said she wanted to give the song a "Bruce Springsteen vibe," adding, of "Hair," "it's really interesting, because it's putting saxophone on this really huge electronic record." (In this respect, Perry's and Gaga's sax solos are of a piece with the Black Eyed Peas' hit "The Time," a another bittersweet song that drops a chunk of undigested '80s cheese—an interpolation of Dirty Dancing's "The Time of My Life"—into an otherwise contemporary-sounding track.)
The the full story in SLATE.

Remembering Actor J.C. Quinn, Plus a Scene from Vision Quest

For some reason I thought of this guy today, actor J.C. Quinn. In the 1990s he used to come listen to my Latin jazz sextet, an ideal audience member nursing a drink and really listening through the surrounding din. He introduced himself as "J.C., you know, like John Coltrane." He always wanted to talk music on breaks while I wanted to ask him about cinema. He had great stories, and thinking back I don't know why I didn't ask him twice as many questions; I was on the job and too damn busy, I suppose. He fell into acting late but went on to study at Strasberg's Actor's Studio. He possessed a face and voice oozing with character. This scene from Vision Quest (1985) with Matthew Modine isn't particularly well written, but the dude is totally committed and just owns it; he makes it art. I miss ya, J.C.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Childhood Music Lessons May Provide Lifelong Boost in Brain Functioning

Science Daily
Childhood Music Lessons May Provide Lifelong Boost in Brain Functioning

ScienceDaily (Apr. 20, 2011) — Those childhood music lessons could pay off decades later -- even for those who no longer play an instrument -- by keeping the mind sharper as people age, according to a preliminary study published by the American Psychological Association.

The study recruited 70 healthy adults age 60 to 83 who were divided into groups based on their levels of musical experience. The musicians performed better on several cognitive tests than individuals who had never studied an instrument or learned how to read music. The research findings were published online in the APA journal Neuropsychology.

"Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of aging," said lead researcher Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, PhD. "Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older."

While much research has been done on the cognitive benefits of musical activity by children, this is the first study to examine whether those benefits can extend across a lifetime, said Hanna-Pladdy, a clinical neuropsychologist who conducted the study with cognitive psychologist Alicia MacKay, PhD, at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

The three groups of study participants included individuals with no musical training; with one to nine years of musical study; or with at least 10 years of musical training. All of the participants had similar levels of education and fitness and didn't show any evidence of Alzheimer's disease.

All of the musicians were amateurs who began playing an instrument at about 10 years of age. More than half played the piano while approximately a quarter had studied woodwind instruments such as the flute or clarinet. Smaller numbers performed with stringed instruments, percussion or brass instruments.

The high-level musicians who had studied the longest performed the best on the cognitive tests, followed by the low-level musicians and non-musicians, revealing a trend relating to years of musical practice. The high-level musicians had statistically significant higher scores than the non-musicians on cognitive tests relating to visuospatial memory, naming objects and cognitive flexibility, or the brain's ability to adapt to new information.

Read the full post HERE.

Mike Clarke and Paul Jackson Lay Down Deadly Grooves

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Storycorps: Germans in the Woods

StoryCorps is a wonderful oral history project which enables ordinary citizens to make oral history recordings about their lives. This one was set to cartoon art.

New Yorker article on the Brain and Our Sense of Time

The Possibilian
What a brush with death taught David Eagleman about the mysteries of time and the brain.
by Burkhard Bilger April 25, 2011

When David Eagleman was eight years old, he fell off a roof and kept on falling. Or so it seemed at the time. His family was living outside Albuquerque, in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. There were only a few other houses around, scattered among the bunchgrass and the cholla cactus, and a new construction site was the Eagleman boys’ idea of a perfect playground. David and his older brother, Joel, had ridden their dirt bikes to a half-finished adobe house about a quarter of a mile away. When they’d explored the rooms below, David scrambled up a wooden ladder to the roof. He stood there for a few minutes taking in the view—west across desert and subdivision to the city rising in the distance—then walked over the newly laid tar paper to a ledge above the living room. “It looked stiff,” he told me recently. “So I stepped onto the edge of it.”

In the years since, Eagleman has collected hundreds of stories like his, and they almost all share the same quality: in life-threatening situations, time seems to slow down. He remembers the feeling clearly, he says. His body stumbles forward as the tar paper tears free at his feet. His hands stretch toward the ledge, but it’s out of reach. The brick floor floats upward—some shiny nails are scattered across it—as his body rotates weightlessly above the ground. It’s a moment of absolute calm and eerie mental acuity. But the thing he remembers best is the thought that struck him in midair: this must be how Alice felt when she was tumbling down the rabbit hole.

Eagleman is thirty-nine now and an assistant professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston. Physically, he seems no worse for the fall. He did a belly flop on the bricks, he says, and his nose took most of the impact. “He made a one-point landing,” as his father puts it. The cartilage was so badly smashed that an emergency-room surgeon had to remove it all, leaving Eagleman with a rubbery proboscis that he could bend in any direction. But it stiffened up eventually, and it’s hard to tell that it was ever injured. Eagleman has puckish, neatly carved features, with a lantern jaw and modish sideburns. In Baylor’s lab-coated corridors, he wears designer jeans and square-toed ankle boots, and walks with a bounce in his step that’s suspiciously close to a strut, like Pinocchio heading off to Pleasure Island.

If Eagleman’s body bears no marks of his childhood accident, his mind has been deeply imprinted by it. He is a man obsessed by time. As the head of a lab at Baylor, Eagleman has spent the past decade tracing the neural and psychological circuitry of the brain’s biological clocks. He has had the good fortune to arrive in his field at the same time as fMRI scanners, which allow neuroscientists to observe the brain at work, in the act of thinking. But his best results have often come through more inventive means: video games, optical illusions, physical challenges. Eagleman has a talent for testing the untestable, for taking seemingly sophomoric notions and using them to nail down the slippery stuff of consciousness. “There are an infinite number of boring things to do in science,” he told me. “But we live these short life spans. Why not do the thing that’s the coolest thing in the world to do?”

A few years ago, Eagleman thought back on his fall from the roof and decided that it posed an interesting research question. Why does time slow down when we fear for our lives? Does the brain shift gears for a few suspended seconds and perceive the world at half speed, or is some other mechanism at work? The only way to know for sure was to re-create the situation in a controlled setting. Eagleman and one of his graduate students, Chess Stetson, who is now at Caltech, began by designing and programming a “perceptual chronometer.” About the size of a pack of cards, it had an L.E.D. display connected to a circuit board and powered by a nine-volt battery. The unit could be strapped to a subject’s wrist, where it would flash a number at a rate just beyond the threshold of perception. If time slowed down, Eagleman reasoned, the number would become visible. Now he just needed a good, life-threatening situation.

Early this winter, I joined Eagleman in London for his most recent project: a study of time perception in drummers. Timing studies tend to be performed on groups of random subjects or on patients with brain injuries or disorders. They’ve given us a good sense of average human abilities, but not the extremes: just how precise can a person’s timing be? “In neuroscience, you usually look for animals that are best at something,” Eagleman told me, over dinner at an Italian restaurant in Notting Hill. “If it’s memory, you study songbirds; if it’s olfaction, you look at rats and dogs. If I were studying athletes, I’d want to find the guy who can run a four-minute mile. I wouldn’t want a bunch of chubby high-school kids.”

The idea of studying drummers had come from Brian Eno, the composer, record producer, and former member of the band Roxy Music. Over the years, Eno had worked with U2, David Byrne, David Bowie, and some of the world’s most rhythmically gifted musicians. He owned a studio a few blocks away, in a converted stable on a cobblestoned cul-de-sac, and had sent an e-mail inviting a number of players to participate in Eagleman’s study. “The question is: do drummers have different brains from the rest of us?” Eno said. “Everyone who has ever worked in a band is sure that they do.”

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/04/25/110425fa_fact_bilger?printable=true¤tPage=1#ixzz1LOe5zlfe