Free Scores Made Available Online By Composer

Free Scores Made Available Online By Composer

Pianist and composer Frederic Rzewski

American pianist and composer Rzewski and pianist Jenny Lin have teamed up to distribute his music free to anyone who is interested in it. That’s right, free.

The composer got the idea after reading an article that used the term “copyleft” to refer to a category of software that could be freely copied and used provided that the name of the original author was mentioned and others could further copy and use the program in the same way. Though born in the world of developing technology, Rzewski writes on Jenny Lin’s website, the idea “clearly has implications in every area of ‘spiritual property’.” Excited by the philosophy, he has applied the concept to music distribution. Now “anyone can copy my music (those pieces that are not already published, that is) as long as they identify the composer, don’t claim authorship themselves, and allow others to freely make copies of their copies.”

“I think that this is the best way for the music to get around,” Rzewski writes. “I don’t think publishers are very useful in this, and may even make it more difficult; and I don’t particularly want to be a publisher myself.”

Pianist Jenny Lin

Lin says that when Rzewski first introduced her to the “copyleft” concept, she thought it was a joke. After all, why would a composer want to give music away? But as a performer, she also saw the merits since scores can be hard to find and very expensive. Rzewski’s manager, Esther Freifeld, had been sending the materials out at cost, but Lin suggested that her time, copying and mailing costs could be avoided by posting the manuscripts on the Internet. Rzewski questioned the quality one could achieve with files on the web, but agreed to a trial run and allowed Lin to post the two works of his she was going to perform, No Place to Go But Around and Mayn Yingele, on her site. They went up in May and by mid-July, Lin says, the page had had several hundred hits.

In the future, Lin hopes to continue the project by posting the works of other composers she is performing on her site whenever possible. Making scores easier to get a hold of, she feels, will encourage additional performances of the pieces. And on a grander scale, she also thinks that the exposure will eventually make composers more visible and generate closer bonds with the performers of their own work.

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