I decided to daylog this instead of posting it formally because it doesn't really need to be clogging up the nodegel proper. this pertains mildly to the law (the fact of which have been beaten into my head, thank you very much) but is more about what I feel to be wrong with the way thinks work, on E2 and otherwise. I am not advocating copyright violation so much as I think the system itself is mildly flawed. I also note that this argument pertains to lyrics only; anyone caught uploading short stories from living authors, for example, should be shot for reasons that will become clear.
E2's new copyright policies, specifically related to song lyrics, started me thinking about what music is at its heart and about the myriad ways the information contained within a song can be conveyed.
On its most literal level, music exists as a series of sounds and silences at varying levels of pitch and inflection. It can provoke an emotional reaction, bring back memories of the last time you heard it, or a vicarious thrill from hearing about an experience similar to one of your own. For the more complicated levels of musical understanding, I sumbit this Q&A-style dialogue.
Is sheet music, Music?
Not in my mind, it's not. Sheet music is a mathematical representation of what you would be hearing in a recording. It's devoid of any emotional reaction - that's the element which is added by the performer, the person who translates the math to a feeling. It's possible for a trained musician to reproduce this reaction in their heads with nothing but a score in front of them but, if we allow the premise that music is a public art and is designed to be heard, this fact is more of an exception than a rule.
Ok, so how about a MIDI file? Is that music?
Trickier, but still no. MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) files are like electronic sheet music, the inherent difference being that each digitized tone contains information on its velocity
, or how forcefully a note is played. This creates the illusion of emotion if transcribed well, but is inherently flawed - what changes with shifts in velocity is dependent on the synthesizer
's programming. It's still just a number from 1-128, a simulacrum of emotion in a more complicated form.
Let's say we've got a song with lyrics and we remove the lyrics. Is it still music?
This is where it gets interesting. Of course it's still music, but it's missing something. Often the music can't stand on its own. Often the music isn't meant
to be listened to on its own.
Flip it: remove the music. What do we have?
Usually we're left with bad poetry
, or at least that's what it feels like. Most lyrics can't stand up without their music any more than the music flounders without its words. The lyrics alone aren't a song, they're incomplete and are often ineffective.
What's the point of all this? I don't think music can be separated into words and music, that together they should be seen as one work, viewed as an interlocking whole. I think the publication of lyrics should be included as fair use - If we were uploading mp3s of all of our favorite music we would have a serious problem on our hands, but we're not. We're enticing people to be excited about a song by noding exactly half of their content and, hopefully, describing what the music feels like and making comparisons to similar works. We're not stealing from the artists because posting lyrics is inherently lacking in content and no one's going to feel the same level of satisfaction reading the words as they would listening to the songs themselves. I don't think there's any harm in what we're doing. Yes it's illegal, and that's truly a shame, but I don't feel it's justly so.