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Sheet's no cheat!

img  Tobias

"Copy Right" is one of the term of the past few years - at least it seems to underly most of the current issues of the culture industry. While record companies and publishers have been pushing for an extension and widening of the term, smart  magazines like the Economist have been sensibly arguing in favour of an actual decrease in its duration. The battle is far from over, but as long as there's no definite outcome, projects like Mutopia, who take current copy right laws seriously and yet offer free sheet music to anybody who's interested, will continue to inspire us.

That is, because Mutopia doesn't offer you the notes to just anybody's works, but in fact free downloads of the Great Masters: Mozart, Brahms, Corelli, at least two composers of the Bach family (and yes, one of them is Johann Sebastian), Dvorak, Händel and the list just goes on. And it's not just some phoney B-Class works, either - you now have access to some of Chopin's nocturnes, complete Mozart symphonies or Tchaikovsky's violin concerto in D Major. It's all there - ready to be printed as a womderful PDF-document.

So how does it work? Well, it's easy and Mutopia isn't the first project of the sort - actually it's an offspring of Gutenberg, who did the same for literature and teaching materials. Copyright, as you will know, has an expiration date (usually about 70 years). The tricky thing, when it comes to sheet music, has always been, that it applies to "editions" as well. So if you "edit" a piece by Vivaldi, you can actually claim a Copy Right for that (not for the composition itself, of course). This was how the publishing industry has managed to keep their business running, despite all the masters of the past being long dead. But this is not to say that there are some magnificent editions out there, which have meanwhile run out of Copyright Protection. Some of them, as the team behind Mutopia point out, are actually possibly more interesting than some contemporary versions (Brahm's edition of Mozart works, for example).

And the good news just goes on, since the same idea has been transferred to the Choir scene. So if you surf over to the Choral Public Domain Library, you can start singing to the tunes of Buxtehude, Debussy (!), Bach (again), Faure and lots more. There's a total of 8017 scores available at the moment, so you shouldn't run out of material too soon.

Current editors may be appaled but we are more than happy about this development. The publishing business has a valuable contribution to make to the industry and music itself, but has too often restrained small scale ensembles and spontaneous renditions of pieces. Everybody's now free to play and sing - and "Copy Right" has not lost one bit of its importance.

Homepage: Mutopia Project
Homepage: Choral Public Domain Library
Homepage: Gutenberg Project

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