Like other new music bloggers I was delighted to see Universal Edition publish Arvo Pärt’s score for his new, and Fourth, Symphony, in an easily browsable online format. The piece, subtitled ‘Los Angeles’, was commissioned for the LA Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen, and will be performed in January. In particular I follow Daniel Wolf’s approval of UE’s decision:
This is an especially welcome move following UE’s missteps earlier this year with legal threats that temporarily disabled the International Music Score Library Project. The future of music licencing is likely to be well in the middle ground between traditional publishing arrangements and the copyright-free utopia, so it’s nice to learn that an old institution like UE both recognizes and is agile enough to explore this.
Perusal scores are a immensely valuable for critics, performers and composers, but they’re an antiquated format for all parties. They’re expensive to produce, yet often distributed free as promotional material (certainly no publisher depends on a revenue stream from selling such scores these days). They also take up a lot of valuable shelf space: I can’t be alone in owning scores that I’ll likely never look at in earnest again, but can’t bear to throw out because, well, throwing music away seems wrong.
Online scores like the one UE have produced for Pärt seem like an excellent solution that both benefits publisher and peruser. I sincerely hope that this isn’t a one-off gesture playing off the extremely marketable confluence of Pärt, Salonen and the LA Phil that this symphony represents, but is a first step towards releasing scores of many or all new works in this way. UE’s documents storage provider comes with an RSS feed, so we can all key an eye out and see how this develops.