Wednesday, 23 November 2016

New Album Online: "Digital Expressions" - Music of the Early 20th Century

I always wanted to publish my recordings of 20th century music, but there had been the big obstacle of copyright law: in order to be able to publish my recordings of this music, I would have to acquire individual mechanical licenses, if the composer is not yet dead for more than 70 years.

Now with it is possible to publish this music without upfront fee - the copyright royalties are taken from the proceeds after someone purchases the tracks.

So I have gone back to the music keyboard and have reworked a recording which I had already made back in 1999, when MP3.COM was active: "Symphonie Classique" by Serge Prokofieff. At that time in 1999 I actually did purchase a set of mechanical licenses. But it was difficult to keep track of the number of downloads, and so I removed my recording from online access.

But now with the simplified management of copyrighted music I wanted to put this work again online, and so I have re-worked and updated it with the Garritan Personal Orchestra 5 sample library. All four movements of the Symphonie Classique are now included in this new album.

Since there is quite a rigid pricing scheme by major online music distributors (iTunes seems to charge listeners £7.99 for music that is longer than 15 minutes) I decided that I need a full album, to give the listeners and prospective buyers more value for their spent money, if they would decide to purchase these recordings. So I added Kodaly's "Dances of Galanta" and Poulenc's "Organ Concerto" which I had already published earlier as singles. There are some very minor slight changes of these two recordings, compared to the earlier versions (which I kept available online for now). I also added two compositions by composers which are already in the public domain: Bartok's "Rhapsody for Violin #1" and Ravel's "Pavane for a dead princess", to provide even more value for the same price.

I called this new album "Digital Expressions", to reflect the expressive early 20th century musicality which is common in all these compositions.

Update: this album seems to have vanished in cyberspace.... Will have to republish it again.

Saturday, 13 August 2016 for Classical Music "Cover Songs"

Since several years I have published some of my music renditions on CD Baby, which has allowed me to bring this music to sites like iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and others, either as myself (e.g. iTunes, Amazon) or as Virtual Philharmonic Orchestra (e.g. iTunes, Amazon). I do like CD Baby because of the one flat fee that is to be paid when submitting music recordings for publication. No annual fee occurs, only a small fraction of the royalties is kept by CD Baby to cover expenses. This seemed to me more reasonable than paying an annual fee for the low number of listeners which my renditions attract. All these recording are either in public domain (composer dead for more than 70 years), or I hold the copyright on my own compositions.

A few weeks ago I found on the CD Baby a link to the service, and I was wondering what that was - so I checked it out. Turns out this is another music publishing site. It was recently acquired by CD Baby, hence the link to this competitor on their site. But LOUDR has one additional feature: it provides licensing for cover songs. This is a big deal: Finally I would be able to tap into the rich oevre of more recent composers such as Kodaly, Prokofiev and others. Licencing their music for my own "performance renditions" had been cumbersome: I would have to purchase a number of mechanical licenses ahead of the publication time and then would have to continuously track the downloads. I am also not sure if streaming would need a mechanical license. So all of this prevented me from publishing compositions by these copyrighted composers - really a pity. But LOUDR offers the capability of including a "cover" license for publishing such music. A "cover song" is any music which was written by a composer and is now performed by someone other than the composer. This terminology is of course more targeted towards popular music with its songs, but the principles also apply to classical music. Any music by a composer whose death occurred not more than 70 years ago is copyrighted, and any recording of this music requires a mechanical license. So I gave this music publication at LOUDR a try, and here are my experiences.

Excellent: Low Cost

LOUDR does not charge any up-front fee, which for an album at CD Baby is $49 (sometimes with a special offer reduced to $29). LOUDR also does not charge for the UPC code, which at other sites (e.g. CD Baby) costs $20. So this is a great upfront-savings. LOUDR charges a 15% fee of the purchase price for each sold track. If this is a cover song, the fee goes up: $0.091 for songs shorter than 5 minutes, and $0.0175 per minute for longer songs. This is then included in the fee that is subtracted from the revenue of each purchase. Details are given on their website. There are some additional fees for payment and for external sites, but in the examples given for a $10 album, the earnings paid out to the music creator are between $4.26 and $8.00 for each sold album. Since there is no up-front fee, there is also no pressure to create albums with many songs to make the best out of this fee. Instead one can opt to submit singles and therefore have more frequent releases.

Excellent: Attribution to Contributors

When entering the data for each track, LOUDR allows to specify a variety of contributors: arranger, composer, conductor, performer, remixer, soloist, vocal percussionist, and "featuring". This allows really to give appropriate credit to all contributors. For classical music it is especially relevant to distinguish between composer, conductor and performer. It is then also straightforward to indicate the original copyright holder (for classical music that is usually the composer).

Not so good: Classical Music Titles

Classical music faced always difficulties in the online music culture where in most cases the "artist" is the band/singer and the composer together. This is all ok when labelling for example the song "Yellow Submarine" by the Beatles: the title is clear, and the artist is "The Beatles". But indicating a classical music artist is more complex: there is the composer, then the performing orchestra and the conductor. Who should then be named as "the artist", as the meta data fields for online music require? There seems to be no real consensus - I have seen versions where "Smetana" is given as the artist for "The Moldau", but I have also seen this title as "Smetana: The Moldau" and then the artist would be the conductor - or the orchestra. To fight this chaos regarding the naming of classical music titles, the online music distributors such as Amazon, Spotify and Apple have apparently defined some standards on how such classical music track titles are to be named. One requirement is that the name of the composer should NOT be in the title.
This is all fine, but LOUDR has applied even more stringent requirements of the title. This is specified in their Style Guide which can be downloaded on their web site. This guide specifies for the track titles:

"Song titles must be formatted as
[Name of Work] in [Key], [Catalog Number]: [Movement Number]. [Movement Title]
For example:
Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67: I. Allegro con brio"

This is fine for most classical music before 1900. Newer music, however, often is not given with a key or a catalog number. If a title does not correspond to this strict scheme, LOUDR rejects it. I tried it with Zoltan Kodaly's "Dances of Galanta": I gave the correct original Hungarian title with translation: "Galántai táncok (Dances of Galánta)", without key and catalog number, as this is not shown in the score nor in any reference to this composition, but it was refused several times by the strict LOUDR upload system which seems to either operate automatically or is done just by someone screening for this specific required format. Only when finally someone from the support team responded to my request, then they did go ahead with the finalisation of the submission.
I would recommend that someone with a knowledge of the classical music repertoire would screen those titles and could then decide if the title is properly formatted. The current approach only adds unnecessary delays.

Customer Support, well...

LOUDR claims that their customer support would respond within 48 hours. But they appear to be overwhelmed, and I had to wait for responses to my emails a few days longer. They are very friendly and helpful, so I have no complaints there. But the long delay just adds to the whole publication process time. It may be also because the response is simply through email. CD Baby does have a similar approach via email, and I believe this adds to the delay time because email needs to be filtered for spam. I can imagine that their public email address gets a lot of spam mail, and therefore the processing of regular mails takes longer. I would suggest that they replace their email support system with a kind of forum with registration and login, to avoid the spam filter issues. Also they should have some support on weekends, to avoid that long backlog on Mondays coming from weekend-artists such as myself.

Overall this is a great and very promising site, and after the "Dances of Galanta" I have already another 20th century classical music treasure in the pipeline - hopefully the title issue will have been sorted out soon, because again this composition has no catalog number and therefore has already been rejected once ...

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The emotional "meaning" of music intervals

When searching for some existing work which relates to the perception of musical intervals in the ears (and the brains) of listeners, I came across this publication:

Marco Costa, Pio Enrico Ricci Bitti and Luisa Bonfiglioli (2000), Psychological Connotations of Harmonic Music Intervals, in Psychology of Music, 28, pp. 4-22, April 2000.

The article is available online here at ResearchGate. In this article the authors (from the University of Bologna) are showing their investigations into the perception of musical intervals by listeners. While their own results are indeed very interesting, their paper shows also some other treasure of knowledge which I would like to share here. Apparently there have been earlier investigations into this matter on how to perceive musical intervals, a here are some of those results in a summary table.

Here is a table which summarizes some of the generally known "properties" of intervals:

Table 1: Musical intervals and their expressiveness

Interval nameSample notesTheoretical statusExpressive function (Cooke, 1959)Expressive function (others)
minor second C-C# dissonance Semitonal tension down to the tonic, in a minor context; spiritless anguish, context of finality Dissonant, painful, uptight, afflicted, discouraged, humiliated
major secondC-D dissonance As a passing note, emotionally neutral. As a whole-tone tension down to the tonic in a major context, pleasurable longing, context of finality.Dissonant, in suspense, tormented, sad, uptight, eager, pleasant
minor thirdC-E♭ imperfect consonance Concord, but a "depression" of natural third: stoic, acceptance, tragedy.Painful, severe, languid, sweet, melancholy, frank, still, submitted
major third C-E imperfect consonance Concord, natural third: joy.Sonorous, Joyous, furious, strong, cheerful, pleasant, happy, right, pure, quiet, stable, shining
perfect fourth C-F perfect consonance As a passing note emotionally neutral. As a semitonal tension down to the minor third pathos. Lugubrious, active, tense
augmented fourth (tritonus) C-F# dissonance As a modulating note to the dominant key active aspiration. As "augmented fourth" pure and simple devilish and inimical forces.Hostile, averse, destructive, misterious
perfect fifth C-G perfect consonance Emotionally neutral, contrxt of flux, intermediacy.Consonant, pleasurable, stimulating, gentle, acrimonious, healthy, agreeable
minor sixth C-G# imperfect consonance Semitonal tension down to the dominant, in a minor context: active anguish in a context of flux.Pleasant, consonant, painful, discontended, strained, distressing, active, unstable
major sixth C-A imperfect consonance As a passing note: emotionally neutral. As a whole tone tension down to the dominant, in a major context: pleasurable longing in a context of flux.Pleasant, consonant, unstable, sweet, desirous, bright, tense
minor seventh C-B♭ dissonance Semitonal tension down to major sixth, or whole-tone tension down to minor sixth, both unsatisfactory, resolvign again down to the dominant: "lost" note, mournfulnessDissonant, sad, painful, empty, melancholy, severe, strained, bewildered, lugubrious, unsatistied
major seventh C-B dissonance As a passing note emotionally neutral. As a semitonal tension up to the tonic, violent longing, aspiration in a context of finalityDissonant, tense, bitter, disagreeable, gloomy, optimistic
octave C-c perfect consonance
Consonant, easy, solemn, majestic, strong, severe, full, stable, energetic

Here are the relevant literature references, as given by Costa et al.:
D. Cooke (1959). The language of music. New York: Oxford University Press.

N. Castiglioni (1959). Il linguaggio musicale dal Rinascimento ad oggi. Milano: Ricordi
G. Galilei (1638). Dialoghi intorno a due nuove scienze. In G. Galilei Opera Omnia (vol VIII), 1966, Firenze: Biblioteca Nazionale
C. Gervasoni (1800). La scuola della musica in tre parti divisa. Piacenza: Niccolo Orcessi.
P. Gianelli (1801). Grammatica ragionata della musica, ossia nuovo metodo facile di apprendere a ben suonare e cantare. Venezia: A.Santini
J.J. Rousseau (1782). Dictionnaire de musique. Aux Deux-Ponts: Chez Sanson et Compagnie.
R. Steiner (1975). Wesen des Musikalischen und das Tonerlebnis im Menschen. Dornoch: Rudolf Steiner Verlag
G. Tartini (1754). Trattato di musica secondo la vera scienzia dell' armonia. Padova: Giovanni Manfre Editore.

In 1940 Edgar Willems has investigated this perception a bit more - here are his results:

Table 2: Expressive values of musical intervals according to Willems (1940)

Interval Sensorial Affective Intellective
unisonous fusion, smoothness will, peace insistence, serenity
minor second derangement, roughness fear, anger shyness, illness
major second movement, friction wish, vulgarity request, displeasure
minor third heaviness, shadow sadness, pain lament, discouragement
major third clearness, limpid joy, happiness hope, balance
perfect fourth hardness, cold firmness, indifference achievement, simplicity
augmented fourth (tritonus, 45:32) fracture, heat disdain, excitement pretension, surprise
diminished Fifth (tritonus, 64:45)excitement, instability restlessness, anxiety doubt, uncertainty
perfect fifth balance, emptiness love, calm certainty, mastery
minor sixth upsetting, penumbra suffer, melancholy worry, pity
major sixth radiant, light effusiveness, kindness satisfaction, gratification
minor seventh dynamic, warmth exaltation, love lyricism, romanticism
major seventh limitation, wound wickedness, hate pride, rebellion
octave solid, stable courage, exaltation heroism, liberation

Edgar Willems (1940). L'Oreille musicale. T. I. La préparation auditive de l'enfant. Avant-propos de E. Jaques Dalcroze. II. La culture auditive. Les intervalles et les accords. Avant-propos de H. Gagnebin Reliure inconnue – 1940 available at Amazon France

These are very interesting attributes, which seem to correlate with my own perception of musical intervals. It would now be interesting if these attributes are dependent on the absolute pitch. I have not found any investigation which looked at this aspect.