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Music For Each Other

21 Dec 2003

Last night, at a holiday party, we met a young woman who was home for the holidays from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. She is studying the viola, and brought home with her her boyfriend, from mainland China, who is a remarkably gifted pianist. Her sister, also a musician, was there as well, and the three of them played traditional carols for us as we sang and generally felt festive.

But then, after, someone convinced them to perform for us, and they chose Mozart’s “Symphonia Concertante in E flat Major.” For 20 minutes, we sat rapt while children played on the floor and the music poured through the room. It was a remarkable experience.

What struck me on the way home, however, was how far away from that experience music has really become. Nearly everything I read about music these days has to do with law suits, intellectual property, digital rights, and other weighty issues having to do with the recording industry and their desperate attempt to keep people away from music. I laughed when I realized we had probably broken the law earlier by not paying a royalty on that performance.

That’s not music. That’s business and technology. Music is what we share in our homes, with friends and family. It is easy to forget how wonderful and powerful music can be, and how that has very little to do with who “owns” it and is “entitled” compensation. Thank god the RIAA hasn’t broken down our doors yet. We’re still free to enjoy music with each other. At least for now. ​