Scavenger hunt

Working on a legal memo this morning (as has become my habit), I found myself in a despair of precedents and murky doctrines. So I took out my music-playing phone and looked for something interesting.

Luckily, I’d recently downloaded an open-source recording of the Goldberg Variations. (The score is in the public domain, which it probably wouldn’t be if Walt Disney had hired Bach to write it.) Pianist Kimiko Ishizaka recorded it in Berlin using money raised via Kickstarter. It’s good. The opening aria is lyrical and intelligent, and the whole thing contains some beautiful interpretations. I felt much better while listening to it, and my whole day was brighter.

Years ago I suggested a Record Club theme of “songs you may legally download for free from the internet,” and everybody but (maybe) one looked at me in confusion.

But there’s a lot of free and legal music on the web. The Free Music Archive holds all sorts of music that’s either in the public domain or licensed under Creative Commons, so you can use it for free for certain things depending on what the rights-holder has decided. A lot of artists put stuff free online at Bandcamp or other places; blogs like Dingus are where opinionated people comb through these sites and present their favorites. (Here are some more sites like Dingus; not all Bandcamp albums are free to download, but the ones that cost money are often cheap.) And that’s not to mention the older-style mp3 blogs that put up still-copyrighted-but-rare tracks. And none of this is news to fans of Learning Music Monthly, which gave away its music and accepted donations, or our own SeƱor Godfree’s excellent musical output.

To paraphrase Paul Simon, maybe the music business suffers while the music thrives? (You can now get signed to a record label with no trouble at all, if that’s what you really want.)

The hard part, of course, is finding the good stuff among all the crap. Sometimes the mood strikes me to go looking, but I mostly rely on other people to filter this stuff for me, and even the filters need filtering. So if you go browsing around and find something good, post it in comments, would you?

5 responses to “Scavenger hunt”

  1. josh k-sky says:

    Why, look! Weather Balloons has a free EP for download!

  2. Iori Fujita says:

    I would like to listen the Goldberg Variations without any pianists. Bach and I are there for the music. Then we can use midi data. I offered the whole set of data. You can cange them to make your own Goldberg.
    http://www.geocities.jp/imyfujita/goldberg/indexe.html
    Music of Intellect

  3. FPS says:

    The graphic confused me for a moment because I forgot there were all those little notations for mordents, turns, &c.

    I started to wonder if Landowska was in the public domain yet but in googling her death year, I see she won’t be for 20+ years. A shame. Actually I know her Well-Tempered Clavier and not her Goldbergs, but they’re divine, played in this foursquare way that ought to be plodding but by virtue of wit, of legato, of genius.

    I guess 1937 is the year to watch right now, now-minus-75. Providing the performers died with courteous promptness upon recording, that would make some of the 78 era available, which would be wonderful. (As I understand it, which is to say barely at all, the 75 years applies to the recordings and the performers.) Acoustic era stuff might be a better bet–the mid 20s means people had a good ten or twelve years to die.

  4. J-Man says:

    The library of congress has a cornucopia of old recordings and collections available for listening. I admit that I haven’t yet plumbed the site, and it seems that most of the music is only available for streaming, but it looks like a rich resource. It takes a little rooting around to find the recordings connected with some of these collections (e.g. the Alan Lomax stuff) but there’s a ton of information here.

  5. Dave says:

    Copyright term is complicated. Everything before 1923 is public domain; some stuff from after that, but only if it fell out of copyright during certain years. Thank you, Sonny Bono.