[rumori] NYTimes.com Article: Click to Download Scores by New American Composers

Date: Wed Oct 09 2002 - 11:14:06 PDT

Click to Download Scores by New American Composers
 October 9, 2002
 In March 1939 Aaron Copland convened a meeting of activist
 New York composers at his studio on West 63rd Street in
 Manhattan to discuss challenges facing American music and
 strategize. Like his colleagues at that gathering (Otto
 Luening, Harrison Kerr, Marion Bauer, Quincy Porter and
 Howard Hanson), Copland believed that after decades of
 struggle, American music was finally overcoming the
 widespread assumption that composers of concert music by
 definition must be European.
 Publishers and recording companies had at long last begun
 to take on American composers. Still, composers had trouble
 bringing their music to wider attention, or getting scores,
 recordings and information to one another.
 What came out of that meeting was the founding of the
 American Music Center, an organization to aid in the
 distribution of music and serve as an information
 clearinghouse. When the center opened an office on West
 42nd Street later that year, it quickly became a command
 post and drop-in site. In 1990 the center moved to airy
 offices on West 26th Street. In the last few years the kind
 of networking the center was founded for has been shifting
 to its Web site (amc.net), which includes an online
 magazine called New Music Box.
 This afternoon the American Music Center takes a bold leap
 into the Internet future when it formally introduces New
 Music Jukebox (newmusicjukebox.org) in a briefing at Avery
 Fisher Hall. This free site promises to be a powerful Web
 portal for contemporary American music and the composers
 who create it, as well as performers, professionals in the
 larger field and the musically curious.
 New Music Jukebox offers a 24-hour "virtual" listening room
 with streaming and downloadable sound files, as well as
 extensive composer biographies, works lists, publishers,
 performance data and other information, all
 cross-referenced. If things go well, browsing through New
 Music Jukebox may give today's online users some sense of
 what it was like to hang out at the center's bustling,
 ramshackle office some 60 years ago, to talk shop and trade
 scores with other people in the field.
 But legal thickets could slow down the process. Besides
 using sound files from commercial recordings, which are
 protected by copyright, New Music Jukebox will also include
 scores online, either excerpted or complete, which users
 will be able to view and in many cases print out or
 download for free. To date, printed scores have been
 strictly protected; photocopying them is illegal. In order
 to include scores online, the American Music Center has
 been engaged in case-by-case negotiations with composers,
 publishers and record producers. Their success could
 represent a breakthrough in copyright law.
 With the rising costs of printing and with fewer houses
 taking on fewer composers, the system of distributing and
 promoting new works has languished. Composers have
 increasingly turned to self-publishing. The Internet offers
 an alternative way to distribute scores, yet there are
 legal complications, as Richard Kessler, 43, the center's
 executive director since 1997, acknowledges.
 "At its core, New Music Jukebox is based on the idea that
 everyone is struggling with in the music field, namely,
 that technology provides access to information and music in
 ways we have never experienced before," Mr. Kessler said in
 a recent interview. "But that great potential is being
 wrestled to the ground by intellectual-property-rights
 Comparable wrestling matches are going on in all fields
 that involve the exchange of creative work and information,
 notably pop music, which was made clear by the legal ruckus
 provoked free file-sharing Web sites.
 Mr. Kessler, an accomplished trombonist and a firebrand on
 behalf of contemporary American music, and his colleagues
 at the center have proven better at bringing about
 cooperation between publishers, recording companies and
 composers. Paradoxically, because the field of contemporary
 classical music involves vastly fewer people, products and
 dollars, they had an advantage of sorts. Still, their
 success may serve as a model to other fields of how to
 bridge conflicting interests.
 In every case involving the inclusion of a score on
 Jukebox, Mr. Kessler said, "the copyright holder determines
 how people will access it." A particular composer or
 publisher might only want the score listed as a
 bibliographical entry with information on how to obtain it,
 as well as listings of past performances and reviews. Some
 scores will be available only in excerpted form, as an
 inducement for later purchase. But other scores, especially
 shorter works, will be available complete. For larger
 chamber works, interested users must still rent individual
 parts to perform them, and pay appropriate fees to Ascap
 and B.M.I. (Broadcast Music Inc.), the organizations that
 regulate the performances and broadcast of music.
 Still, isn't New Music Jukebox inviting trouble by posting
 manuscripts on the Web?
 "We're not that worried," Mr. Kessler said. In many cases
 scores are posted in nonperformable formats. For example, a
 chamber work for eight instruments might appear only in a
 miniature-size full score. To perform the work, individual
 parts would still have to be rented. Some scores, a solo
 piano work, for example, could be downloaded in usable
 formats. But Mr. Kessler said: "Are musicians who are going
 to the trouble of performing these works in concert likely
 to avoid the royalty process? We don't think so."
 Besides, as all parties to the negotiations acknowledge, no
 one in classical music makes much money from the sales of
 printed scores. Even a score by a living master like
 Elliott Carter, who is published by Boosey & Hawkes, rarely
 exceeds $50 and might sell only a couple of hundred of
 copies a year, a significant sales figure in this field.
 As Jennifer Bilfield, the general manager of Boosey &
 Hawkes, explained recently, a printed score should be seen
 more as "a testimony to a publisher's and composer's mutual
 commitment to a work." It is like a composition's "calling
 card," she added.
 A publishing house spends the bulk of its time on the
 complex task of making music available by promoting a work,
 maintaining rental parts, and fostering performances over
 the long term. In this effort a service like New Music
 Jukebox could actually be a help, which is why Boosey &
 Hawkes has been cooperative, despite the potential

 "It's at the discretion of the composer and the publisher
 to decide how much or how little to participate," Ms.
 Bilfield said, while everyone continues to grapple step by
 step with "the more gnarly elements of the matter."
 There are 142 composers taking part in New Music Jukebox,
 with 237 sound files and 242 score files. In a year's time,
 the program is expected to offer a round-the-clock Web
 radio station and an online marketplace that will connect
 users to potentially thousands of composers and their
 "Absolutely," Mr. Kessler said. "Of the American Music
 Center's 2,500 official members, some 2,000 are composers."
 And, he added, Ascap estimates that there might be as many
 as 40,000 American composers working in the concert music
 His hope is that a wide variety of users will rely on the
 center's services, particularly New Music Jukebox. A
 concertgoer could find out more about a composer online and
 even see a score or listen to a sound file. A filmmaker
 looking for a composer could review potential
 collaborators. A flutist who learns that a work for flute
 and marimba was given its premiere but doesn't know who
 wrote it or where it was performed, could find it online
 using the search terms "flute" or "marimba."
 Over the years the center has introduced many programs to
 support the publication and recording of music, including
 pragmatic workshops on topics like "Every Composer's
 Business" and "Self-Produced CD's." The center has a staff
 of 14 and a budget of $4.8 million derived from
 fund-raising, foundation awards, and fees for administering
 grant programs for other agencies.
 Earlier this year the center transferred its historic
 collection of more than 60,000 scores and recordings of
 works by American composers (including a vast quantity of
 unpublished scores and private recordings) to the New York
 Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center,
 which can do a better job of maintaining them while still
 assuring access.
 Moving the collection was a tacit acknowledgment that the
 center's essential work can no longer be confined to its
 office. Whether the New Music Jukebox site accomplishes its
 goals and grows exponentially the way its planners hope
 will depend on whether officials at the center can continue
 to wrestle with the legal complications and forge
 compromises with publishers and recording companies. Their
 counterparts in other fields will likely be paying



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