Category Archives: Politics

Magic and Mendelssohn at St James’s

st-james-piccadilly

Walk a few yards from London’s Piccadilly Circus and you reach St James’s, a fine Wren church where William Blake was baptised in 1757. It was hit during the first phase of the London Blitz on 14 October 1940:-

st-james-piccadilly-october-1940

High explosive bombs fell on the eastern corner of the churchyard gardens and on Piccadilly itself, in the process demolishing the Vestry. The Rectory was also smashed to pieces, trapping the Verger and his wife in the kitchen beneath. The blast severely weakened the Church’s brick and Portland Stone fabric: the north wall was fractured and pieces of shrapnel lacerated the building’s east end. The stained glass east window was blown out: fragmentation marks are still visible on the exterior Corinthian stone columns.

Several incendiaries then hit the Church roof and set it ablaze. The burning roof, spacious vault and wooden gallery all collapsed. The interior of St James’s – pews, plasterwork, decorations, six rows of gallery piers and supporting Corinthian and Doric columns – was rapidly consumed by fire. Although the Tower survived, St James’s Gothic steeple toppled, crashing down with its two bells. Heavy debris fell onto the Church floor, causing major structural damage.

The Verger of St James’s and his wife were trapped in the Rectory rubble for over twelve hours. Rescue teams were forced to drill through large blocks of stone and three thick masonry walls to reach them. Tragically, both died of their injuries. On the opposite side of Piccadilly – the road had been disfigured by a large bomb crater – a branch of the Fifty Shilling Tailor’s chain was also struck by an incendiary at 8.15pm and caught fire. Molten wax tailors dummies fell into the street. Nearby, the roofs of buildings around Piccadilly Circus glowed red with incendiary fires.

When the smoke cleared, early on 15 October, St James’s was a burnt-out ruin, open to the elements. It remained a roofless shell for nearly seven years. Source

I ran a market stall at St James’s yesterday, and in a quiet moment was thinking about the October raid when, suddenly, Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream drifted across the courtyard. I walked into the church and there, magically, was the Orchestra of the City rehearsing for a concert that evening. Unfortunately, I only had a camera phone:

Orchestra-of-the-City-St-James-Piccadilly-1.jpg

Mendelssohn was vilified by the Nazis for being a Jew and his music banned. So, a few days short of the 71st anniversary of the raid, St James’s poked Hitler in the eye with a good dose of Mendelssohn (they also performed his third symphony). It was quite gratifying.

Orchestra-of-the-City-St-James-Piccadilly

I couldn’t stay for the concert but, in some ways, rehearsals are preferable. The orchestra stops and starts, the conductor explains what he wants, the players make notes on their scores, people in the audience come and go. I stayed for a while, the orchestra was very good, then returned to the market.

St James’s 2
Hitler 1

Orchestra-of-the-City-St-James-Piccadilly-2

puffinpoint-st-james-piccadillypuffinpoint-st-james-piccadilly-2.jpg

The LPO Four, Music & Politics

A row is fizzing in the London classical music world over the suspension of four musicians from the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO). Their crime? To have used the letters “LPO” after their names in a letter published in The Independent newspaper:-

Proms exploited for arts propaganda campaign

As musicians we are dismayed that the BBC has invited the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to play at the Proms on 1 September. The IPO has a deep involvement with the Israeli state – not least its self-proclaimed “partnership” with the Israeli Defence Forces. This is the same state and army that impedes in every way it can the development of Palestinian culture, including the prevention of Palestinian musicians from travelling abroad to perform.

Our main concern is that Israel deliberately uses the arts as propaganda to promote a misleading image of Israel. Through this campaign, officially called “Brand Israel”, denials of human rights and violations of international law are hidden behind a cultural smokescreen. The IPO is perhaps Israel ‘s prime asset in this campaign.

The Director of the Proms, Roger Wright, was asked to cancel the concert in accordance with the call from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott (PACBI). He rejected this call, saying that the invitation is “purely musical”.

Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians fits the UN definition of apartheid. We call on the BBC to cancel this concert.

Derek Ball (composer)
Frances Bernstein (community choir leader)
Steve Bingham (violinist)
John Claydon (saxophonist)
Malcolm Crowthers (music photographer)
Raymond Deane (composer)
Tom Eisner (violinist LPO)
Nancy Elan (violinist LPO)
Deborah Fink (soprano)
Catherine Ford (violinist, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment)
Reem Kelani (Palestinian singer, musician and broadcaster)
Les Levidow (violinist)
Susie Meszaros (violinist, Chilingirian Quartet)
Roy Mowatt (violinist, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment)
Ian Pace (pianist)
Leon Rosselson (singer-songwriter)
Dominic Saunders (pianist)
Chris Somes-Charlton (artist manager)
Leni Solinger (violinist)
Sarah Streatfeild (violinist LPO)
Sue Sutherley (cellist, LPO)
Tom Suarez (violinist, New York)
Kareem Taylor (Oud Player/Guitarist and Composer)
Miriam Walton (pianist, organist and French horn player)

When LPO management suspended them they (the management) made the claim: “music and politics do not mix”.

Presumably, if Henryk Górecki was alive, he would immediately tear up his Third Symphony, and we’ll hear shortly that Daniel Barenboim is to cease all work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and devote his energies to “non-political” musical activities, e.g. conducting jingles for children’s TV programmes.

Golan v. Holder: Should Shostakovich be Public Domain?

I am happy to announce that IMSLP will be submitting an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case Golan v. Holder, a case challenging the constitutionality of copyright restoration under Section 514 of the URAA.  A group of Harvard Law School students led by Phillip Hill (HLS ’13) and supervised by Professor Charles Nesson will be representing IMSLP.

IMSLP will be supporting the petitioners, which includes a group of orchestra conductors, educators, performers, film archivists, and motion picture distributors.  If we prevail and URAA § 514 is struck down as unconstitutional, all of Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Stravinsky (among others) will be public domain in the U.S., and potentially available on IMSLP.

In fact, the music of these three composers was public domain before URAA § 514 restored copyright in 1995.  This restoration is very dangerous precedent: Congress believes it has the power to usurp the public domain for the benefit of a few copyright holders, despite the Constitution limiting copyright to “limited Times”.  This limitation would seem meaningless if Congress could restore copyright whenever it wants.  If we allow URAA § 514 to stand, we would be one big step closer to perpetual copyright.

Furthermore, URAA § 514 also tramples on the right to freedom of speech of all artists who relied on these works before the copyright was restored, by forcing them to retract and make unavailable derivative works that were created legally.

IMSLP greatly welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision to take up such an important case, and hope to see an affirmation of the strength and vitality of the public domain.

IMSLP & the MPA – Thank You

During the recent take-down of IMSLP by the UK Music Publishers Association something heartening happened.

People went to download a score from IMSLP and found the site unavailable. News of the take-down spread on Twitter and elsewhere.

A substantial cross-section of the international classical music community pianists, conductors, viol consorts, composers, music students, music librarians, makers of ornate wooden music stands, music journalists, opera singers, music academics – went on the internet and expressed their unhappiness at the MPA’s behaviour.

The MPA, rather unwisely, then tried to persuade IMSLP Journal to censor the take-down notice. We declined and publicised the demand – the attempted take-down of the take-down notice (I know, I’ve read Kafka too). Cue: a further trumpet voluntary of incredulity rang out across cyberspace.

A few hours later the MPA used Twitter – interestingly – to raise the white flag.

Why heartening?

  • the speed with which the MPA was persuaded to see reason. When Universal Edition attacked IMSLP, the take-down went on for months. Okay, circumstances differ in this case, but the fact remains that IMSLP was back online within 24 hours;
  • the solidarity shown by musicians from across the globe in support of IMSLP. It was a genuine international coalition. Classical musicians can be fractious and egotistical but, in the end, they’re trained to play together. It’s their job. Give them a good score and they make a terrific noise;
  • the skill and confidence with which the new media – Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums etc – was used to place pressure on the MPA. Classical musicians should be proud.

IMSLP – non-profit, staffed by volunteers – is an organisation which musicians have shown themselves willing to defend. It’s an essential part of the world music scene; an iconic cultural treasure trove for everyone concerned with music heritage.

IMSLP is also a jewel in Canada’s artistic crown, as a recent CBC News report illustrates. To attack IMSLP is to attack Canadian high culture. Music publishers beware. Do you really want the Mounties after you?!

This article is to thank musicians and music-lovers everywhere for defending IMSLP. It’s fair to say that without your support last month IMSLP would still be offline.

Download Jeremiah Clarke’s Prince of Denmark’s March from IMSLP

IMSLP, Copyright & the MPA (UK)

All IMSLP score pages on the wiki now carry the following statement:

imslp-mpa

Example

This post on the IMSLP forums by Carolus, an IMSLP administrator, explains the background:

***

Now that things are calming down some, I wish to thank the Music Publishers Association of the UK for retracting their DMCA complaint to GoDaddy. GoDaddy’s standard response to a DMCA copyright complaint of this nature is to freeze the domain for 10 days, instead of referring the complaint to the site owner. Thus we all owe the MPA-UK sincere thanks for their retraction. I also want to take the opportunity to point out that IMSLP in no way advocates the violation of copyright laws, either now or in the past. As our disclaimer – which must be acknowledged before any visitor is allowed to download a file – explicitly states:

Please obey the copyright laws of your country and consult the copyright statute itself or a qualified IP attorney to verify whether a certain file is in the public domain in your country or if downloading a copy constitutes fair use.

In many cases where a given work is most likely still protected in one or more of our three territorial divisions – 50 pma countries, the USA, 70 pma countries – we have provided direct links to copies of the item available for sale at Sheet Music Plus or at Amazon. Full Disclosure: IMSLP does receive commissions from both concerns if someone actually purchases a copy, which go to fund our operating expenses – which have never stopped increasing as we’ve grown.

Thus, if Rachmaninoff’s The Bells, Op. 35 is still under copyright in your country, you should be purchasing the score from its lawful copyright owner unless the fair-use provisions of your country’s copyright statutes permit the download of the score and you are operating within those exemptions. It might not be legal for you to download the score from this site, so please be certain it is before you do. This, of course, was the one of the main issues of the cease and desist letter Feldmahler received back in the fall of 2007 from Universal Edition. They were demanding that IMSLP set up some sort of automated blocking system based upon the users IP address. There are a number of reasons that such a scheme is simply not feasible, but I’ll just address a single major one here: the lack of uniformity about what constitutes a fair-use exemption to copyright among the laws of various countries.

One reason our copyright tagging system works as well as it does is that we have divided copyright laws around the world into two major groupings according to term length: life-plus-50 years (Canada, Japan, China, and a majority of countries in the world outside of Europe) and life-plus-70 years (Europe and a few other countries – like those in the former USSR), plus a major exception to the general rule. The monster exception is of course the USA, whose copyright law is probably the most complicated morass of rules and exceptions found anywhere on the planet. The fact that our parent company is headquartered there – despite the main server’s Canadian locale – means we absolutely must pay very close attention to US law. Thus we have three major copyright classes under our tagging system: 50-pma / USA / 70-pma. That’s why you see a three-part indication for every file. A tag reading V/V/V should be free almost anywhere in the world.

There are approximately 180 different laws in force worldwide at present. It is simply not possible for anyone – not even a major commercial concern like Amazon – to keep daily track of 180 or more different copyright laws, each with different exemptions for fair use and other purposes, etc. – many of which are also frequently subject to changes, from either legislative amendments or judicial interpretations.

Detroit Symphony Strike – Settlement Needed

I wrote this on 9th October 2010:

Orchestral strikes are always poignant. Musicians are a bit like miners: they stick together. It’s their job to stick together.

Plus it’s hard for orchestral management to organise scab labour. If an orchestra’s on strike and the employer brings in alternative musicians – assuming such people are available and willing to break a strike, undermining the striking musicians who may be friends and colleagues – audiences don’t like it. They paid to listen to Orchestra X, not Orchestra Y, while Orchestra X demonstrates on the street outside the hall. Source

18 weeks later that seems pretty much what DSO management intends. Striking Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra write:

detroit-symphony-strike

It appears that the DSO Board and management have finally dropped the mask. They never intended to reach a contract agreement with the musicians of the DSO. Instead, their intention is, and has always been, to start over with a new group of musicians working without a union contract. What kind of an orchestra does the Board think they can have with no professional musicians? The Board’s and management’s misunderstanding of the DSO and its audience goes very deep–they seem to think that DSO subscribers and donors will continue the same level of support for an amateur pickup orchestra that they have given to the proud world-class ensemble that has been built up in Detroit over so many decades. Please send emails expressing your opinion to editor@detroitsymphonymusicians.org. Say, “Please post” and we’ll add your message to our website. Source

Do DSO management really expect Detroit audiences to run the gauntlet of a permanent picket line when attending a performance of, say, Beethoven’s Ode to Freedom, assuming strike-breaking musicians can be found? Do they expect international conductors and soloists to work with a scab orchestra, with the shouts of the pickets peppering quiet passages? Or will the police be sent in to break heads in the locked out woodwind section?

Because that’s what will happen if this dispute isn’t settled, via a reasonable compromise, hammered out in a civilized manner, round the negotiating table. These people won’t just go away. It’s their job not to go away.

More on the dispute here.

detroit-symphony-strike

Strike at Detroit Symphony Orchestra

 

Orchestral strikes are always poignant. Musicians are a bit like miners: they stick together. It's their job to stick together. 

Plus it's hard for orchestral management to organise scab labour. If an orchestra's on strike and the employer brings in alternative musicians – assuming such people are available and willing to break a strike, undermining the striking musicians who may be friends and colleagues – audiences don't like it. They paid to listen to Orchestra X, not Orchestra Y, while Orchestra X demonstrates on the street outside the hall.

Here's wishing the Detroit musicians good luck. Let's hope they can get round a table with the employer and negotiate a decent settlement.

Detroit-Symphony-Orchestra


 

Musical instrument collection closure – Victoria & Albert Museum

Victoria & Albert Museum: musical instrument collection closure

Photos taken, in bad light through dusty display cabinets, at Gallery 40a of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London on 21st February 2010. The collection of musical instruments closed the following day, to be replaced by a fashion display. The instruments were placed in storage or distributed to other galleries.

Victoria & Albert Museum: musical instrument collection closure

Victoria & Albert Museum: musical instrument collection closure

Victoria & Albert Museum: musical instrument collection closure

Victoria & Albert Museum: musical instrument collection closure

Victoria & Albert Museum: musical instrument collection closure

Victoria & Albert Museum: musical instrument collection closure

Victoria & Albert Museum: musical instrument collection closure