DAVID SOLWAY ON The Mystery Of Melody. “All this discussion notwithstanding, I still can’t say what melody is. I do know that melody is something that can be hummed, and that I can’t hum plainchant or rap or Ravi Shankar. Hummability is the basic litmus test of melody. Melody is also something that is deeply satisfying, affording us an inexplicable pleasure that is not somatic. It is sensuous but not sensual, appealing to a dimension of our being that oscillates between the emotional and the spiritual, which is why it can affect our mood in profound ways and compel us to echo, duplicate, replay, rehearse, and listen to it over and over again.”
Great writing here.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US: Federal Judge Rules that “Happy Birthday” Is Free From Copyright.
Today’s opinion (read here) rejects Warner’s argument that a copyright entitles them to a presumption of validity with the judge noting that it isn’t particularly clear whether the registration included the lyrics. Furthermore, the ruling establishes that rights never properly transferred.
“Defendants ask us to find that the Hill sisters eventually gave Summy Co. the rights in the lyrics to exploit and protect, but this assertion has no support in the record. The Hill sisters gave Summy Co. the rights to the melody, and the rights to piano arrangements based on the melody, but never any rights to the lyrics.”
It looks like there’s going to be a number of lawsuits from people trying to claw back some of that royalty money.
READING THIS ARTICLE BY JOHN PODHORETZ about the new Broadway musicals also makes me think of the challenges of the contemporary music world:
Is there a recording artist at present whose new album might elicit the sort of tingling expectancy that a new Paul Simon or Talking Heads record would have in its day? For those with more highbrow tastes, is there a classical artist whose participation in a new recording of Wagner’s Ring cycle, or a new interpretation of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, might be the talk of the town?
I remember when, in the early 1980s, Americans for whom the visual arts were profoundly important could talk of little else than the German monumentalist painter Anselm Kiefer—and this at a time when it was simply taken for granted that a cultured person was familiar with the works of the Abstract Expressionists and the post-modernists that followed them. To put it most plainly: How many living painters are household names the way Jackson Pollock was? The answer, of course, is that there isn’t a one.
That’s a pretty accurate take. Podhoretz doesn’t blame the audiences, but the artists:
But there is something deeply depressing in the fact that, increasingly, the arts seem to be losing their power to capture our attention. And that is because they no longer hold out the hope that, by providing us an intellectual and emotional guide map, they can help sate our aesthetic hunger—the hunger we all have to understand our own experiences and lives by seeing things anew through the eyes of others.
PAUL CAREY CONTINUES ON Music Publishing Trends: “In other words, the old school model desires quick turnover of merchandise, yet most composers are trying to NOT compose throw-away music. I propose that publishers reward composers for creating music that sells well and amasses long term sales. Publishers could also help composers further their career and work together for mutual benefit. Thus, a further proposal- publishers would reward composers who have become identified as a quality “house brand” for that company.“
JOSHUA BRONFMAN on Music Publishing: “There’s no reason anymore that I cannot be able to view a pdf of a complete score. It’s easy, cheap, and provides tons of value. I do not care for minimum orders (typically 16-24), especially when the publishers with minimum orders are also usually not allowing me to view the complete score online. I fail to see why I can’t order and print on demand. Lots of independent folks are doing it, and it really should be possible for everyone. Pay for 50 copies at 10:00 am, run them to printing services, and sing through it at noon.“