Category Archives: The Arts

Open Goldberg Variations Project

Since December 2010, IMSLP has been working together with the Open Goldberg Variations project to help produce a new score and recording of Bach’s iconic masterpiece. We are happy to announce that both parts of the project have completed, and are now available on IMSLP.

The Open Goldberg Variations recording was made by pianist Kimiko Ishizaka in the Teldex Studio, Berlin, in January 2012, on a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial. Anne-Marie Sylvestre is the producer. The score was made and edited by Werner Schweer using the MuseScore notation program. Two rounds of public peer review contributed to the high quality of the score.

The works are listed on IMSLP as being governed by the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, but in fact, have been released into the public domain by the team who created them. It was the intention of the Open Goldberg team to use the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) tool for the licensing, but this option is not yet available on IMSLP.

Surveying Current Perceptions of Porgy and Bess

The controversy surrounding the upcoming production of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess is merely the latest stir generated across the storied history of George Gershwin’s “folk opera.” Since Porgy and Bess premiered in 1935, debate has ensued over its portrayal of African Americans and over the restrictions requiring all sung roles, at least for staged productions in the United States, be assigned to Blacks. Even the very nature of the work itself has raised questions – is it opera, musical, or some hybrid of the two?

The controversial nature of the “folk opera” has undeniably affected its popularity over the decades. However, has the equally undeniable beauty and power of Gershwin’s music, DuBose Heyward’s story, and Ira Gershwin’s lyrics finally earned for Porgy and Bess the status as America’s greatest contribution to 20th-century opera?

Have attitudes about Porgy and Bess and interest in performing the work finally reached a level where it can become a staple in the standard repertoire of vocal studios and opera houses?

Author Randye Jones explored current perceptions of Porgy and Bess through a survey of singers, vocal instructors, opera directors and others with an interest in the opera. She analyzed the participants’ responses to questions related to their knowledge of the opera, their depth of experience with the opera as either performers or listeners, their views about the characterization of African Americans in the opera, and their thoughts about the opera’s future, especially regarding the assignment of singing roles to non-Blacks.

The article includes numerous, insightful comments made by the survey respondents, as well as excerpts from interviews Jones conducted with five singers who have performed in the opera.

Surveying Current Perceptions of Porgy and Bess


IMSLP & WIMA to Merge

Wima IMSLP MergerAgreement has been reached between IMSLP and the Werner Icking Music Archive (WIMA) to merge, with the result that WIMA’s entire collection of files will be moved to IMSLP. These consist of some 65,000 scores and many more audio files, meaning that WIMA will end up as IMSLP’s biggest community project.

The Werner Icking Archive is in no way dying – it’s simply moving to a new home, one that will provide WIMA contributors with many advantages, such as IMSLP’s highly active community and detailed categorisation system.

For more information please see IMSLP’s official project page and WIMA’s announcement.

The merger of 65,000+ files into IMSLP will be a Herculean task. IMSLP cordially invites volunteers to help with the file transfer. Please see the forum thread if you would like to take part – your efforts would be greatly appreciated.

Nigerian Organ Culture

Thomas Ekundayo PhillipsThe organ is used primarily in Nigeria in churches by Christians, and secondarily in concert performances. Nigeria’s use of the pipe organ and its infusion in the musical culture is due to the influence of early missionaries who came to Nigeria, and has culminated with native born composers who have enriched the organ music literature. Nigeria-born composers have taken the use of the organ many steps further, creating works which rival their European and American colleagues.

The missionaries established churches, schools and hospitals, and introduced sacred music into these institutions. In the beginning, it was the harmonium or reed organ that was used by early missionaries. The first pipe organ in Nigeria was installed/built in Hope Waddell Institute, Calabar, Cross River State, Southern Nigeria. All the pipe organs in Nigeria are built and exported from European countries such as England, Germany and Holland. Where there are no pipe organs electronic/digital organs are used which are the imitators of the pipe organ.

Pipe organs in Nigeria vary from one manual to four manuals. Some of the builders are: Harrison and Harrison, England; Elmander of London, England; Ballinger, Germany; Pels Organ, Holland; Hushworth and Dreeper, Liverpool, England; J. W. Walker, England. The voicing of the pipes are built to accompany very large congregations: the sound must be robust enough to carry large congregations.

It is noteworthy that churches in Nigeria are always packed full and then sing lustily unlike European countries and the U.S. where the congregation may be few and sing modestly. Churches in the southern part of Nigeria have congregations not less than 300 – 4000 worshippers at a time, depending on the size of the church.

There are various Christian denominations in Nigeria, namely: Catholic, Anglican Communion, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and Pentecostal churches of various kinds, and they use the pipe organ to accompany hymn singing or for church music generally.

Most of the church organists are trained organists in church music and organ playing, and the standard of singing varies from church to church depending on the organists’ and choirmasters’ capabilities. Most of the songs we sing in Nigeria are Western oriented hymns and at times we adapt to Nigeria folk tunes.

Although many churches have pipe organs, there are few organ maintenance engineers in Nigeria; therefore, some of the organs are not properly maintained.

Nigeria has produced many world acclaimed organists and composers: E. Phillips, Fela Sowande, Ayo Bankole, Sam Akpabot, Godwin Sadoh and Kayode Oni, to mention a few.

Many Nigerian institutions of higher learning have departments of music where organists are trained, and some go to European countries and the United States for training in organ playing. Organ concerts do not occur as regularly in Nigeria as in Europeans countries. Organ recitals are given during choir festivals and occasionally in concert halls in some big cities such as Lagos, Ibadan and Port Harcourt.

Segun Akinfenwa
St. Paul’s Anglican Church

Follow Segun Akinfenwa on Twitter

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

Current Perspectives on Porgy and Bess

With the 75th anniversary of the premiere of the opera Porgy and Bess – music by George Gershwin, libretto by DuBose Heyward, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward – Randye Jones has researched the changing opinions of singers, teachers and opera directors, to the opera’s controversial subject matter.

The article published by the IMSLP Journal focuses on interviews with singers George Shirley, Angela Simpson, Stephen Swanson, Adrienne Webster, and Simon Estes.

Current Perspectives on Porgy and Bess

Porgy and Bess deals with African-American life in the fictitious Catfish Row, based on the area of Cabbage Row in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1920s.

Open Goldberg Variations – Setting Bach Free

IMSLP is pleased to announce their partnership with the Open Goldberg Variations project and We’re teaming up to create a new score and a new recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, both of which will be released into the public domain for everyone to use. Fund raising for the effort is going on right now on Check out the video below.

Upon completion of the project, these works will be available on the IMSLP website for everybody to enjoy without any limitations on usage. The Creative Commons Zero licensing tool will guarantee that every use of the works is protected.

The score will be made using MuseScore, the leading open source notation software. The score will undergo scholarly review and will retain all the benefits of being distributed in its digital source format. For example, musicians will be able to add fingerings and other markings directly into the MuseScore file.

Musical scores and recordings, when made readily available, can have a profoud benefit in musical education, in the performance of the music, and the listening enjoyment of fans. Music libraries have long played the role of providing these valuable assets, but as the Internet has grown to be the dominant communications medium, the value of a paper score and a vinyl recording have been dwarfed in the face of their digital counterparts.

By creating a new score and recording of Bach’s work, and releasing them into the public domain, IMSLP and the Open Goldberg Variations Project hope to bring Bach’s music to a wider audience than ever before. You can play a role, too, by donating directly to the project on, where fund raising is taking place. A range of donor rewards are available such as CDs and printed editions of the score. You can also dedicate one of the 30 Variations to yourself or someone you love, and the dedication will appear in all digital and printed versions of the works.

Thank you for your support of this exciting project. We look forward to its completion when we’ll be able to share a new score and recording of the Goldbergs with you.

BBC Radio 3 Message Boards – Closed

Closure of BBC Message Boards

For about ten years there’s been a flourishing internet forum attached to BBC Radio 3 – Britain’s premier classical music radio station. Suddenly, a few days ago, with little warning, no consultation, no appeals mechanism, the forum was closed. Here’s the official announcement:

BBC Radio 3 Message Boards closure

Former members have scattered across the internet, e.g. to The Radio 3 Forum, R3OK, TalkClassical, Brightcecilia.

It’s odd behaviour on the part of BBC management. Everyone knows Rupert Murdoch is circling the BBC, furious at the competition, ideologically opposed to state broadcasting, wishing to impose a Fox News type TV operation on Britain.

BBC Radio 3 is, arguably, the jewel in the crown of British broadcasting. It needs all the friends it can get.

Listeners attached to the Radio 3 Message Boards could be fractious – like any functional online community – and there were occasional hiccups with the moderation regime but, on the whole, they represented a vocal block of support for BBC Radio 3, the BBC Proms, and the BBC in general.

If you were a member of the BBC Radio 3 Message Boards don’t just disappear into the badlands of Facebook and Twitter. Check out the above forums. Keep in touch with former online friends (and enemies!) and help defend the glory that is BBC Radio 3.

Greenwich International Early Music Festival & Exhibition: 2010

It's that time of year again: the International Early Music Festival and Exhibition at Greenwich in London, probably the best such festival in the world. (Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London: 12th – 14th November 2010)

From violin makers to theorboists to rare manuscript reprints to exquisitely decorated harpsichords, the festival is like a Hell's Angels meet for early music enthusiasts. Plus it attracts top performers who give recitals and master classes.

It's also great to get to and from if travelling from central London. Simply catch a high speed catamaran from Waterloo Pier, enjoy some of the best views of London, and get off by the Cutty Sark.

The writer has no association with the festival (or Thames Clippers!)

Some photos from last year. Wherever you looked someone was blowing, scraping, plucking, honking, parping, or in deep conversation about the efficacy of catgut fiddle strings.

Greenwich Festival 2009

IMSLP Journal Launch

IMSLP is proud to announce the launch the IMSLP Journal, covering classical music, the arts, culture, pop-culture, and politics as it relates to classical music.

The IMSLP Journal is a music blog with articles contributed by IMSLP users. Articles touch a variety of topics, including but not limited to IMSLP itself. 

Submissions are sought and welcomed. To propose articles and story pitches:

  • post on the IMSLP forums or
  • email the editors at: editors [at]

The formal submissions policy is here.