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03 July 2008

The Boiling Halvah Chronicles: The Prequel / I love Shawn Fanning / my Yma Sumac mp3 / I am woman hear me roar

Courtesy of the F_minor archives circa 2000

At this time, the End Of The World was perceived as the original Napster (which had TONS of GG on it, it wasn't just teenage garage bands whining about boiling halvah)


On the original Ur-Napster, in the days of dialup and 56kps speeds, downloading an mp3 took an eternity, and while waiting for it to complete, you could hang in Napster's chatroom with thousands of other denizens of this House of Depravity.

One lapidary post:

ShoeMirrorGuy: Metallica can suck the corn out of my shit.


Mary Jo Watts wrote:

To come back to an older thread raised by Anne Marble in July b/c I'm
really curious...

Do any of you take advantage of Napster's "offerings" of GG recordings?
If so, why? Is Napster ethical?

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Re: GG and Napster and MP3

omigawd ... i wondered where this went ... i posted it just to mary jo by mistake.

Woo Woo what a great controversy! Thanks, Mary Jo!

Let me see if I can get this half-right from memory ... F. Scott Fitzgerald said an artist is someone who can carry two diametrically opposite ideas in his head without going crazy.

Idea 1. I make my living from Intellectual Property and rely on the world to respect it in order to make my living from it.

Idea 2. I discovered .mp3's and, not long ago, Napster, and I think they're wonderful. Before I logged on, I suspected Napster would be nothing but the ghastliest cacaphony of rap, tekno, Britney Spears, The Carpenters, Lilith Faire, ABBA and whiney-teen music (?), but the first time I typed "Glenn Gould" on Napster, I was astonished at the huge number of selections that spewed back. (Not to mention Caruso, Weill, Teresa Stratas, all my classical favorites, that avant-garde loony Harry Partch, and wonderful treats from the ancient past like the comedy duo of Jonathan & Darlene Edwards doing to "I Am Woman" what should have been done at its birth.)

I think it's a magnificent achievement that 1904 Caruso recordings, shouted into a mechanical sound collecting horn to scratch a wiggle on a wax cylinder, are now being preserved for cyberspace and the future in a format that can never warp or degrade. Regardless of what his Estate may think, everything I know about Gould's obsession with any technology that did good things for music tells me he would have been thrilled with .mp3's and Napster.

As I hose up these wonderful nearly-lost musical treats from Napster, it's clear that people in their 50s and 60s and beyond are having the time of their lives transferring their beloved old vinyl (many of these treats never made the jump to CDs) to .mp3s as a labor of love, and offering them up to the world, wondering who might want them. Almost every time I'm on Napster, some far-away stranger tries to download my Yma Sumac tune. Napster is like the music store of a music-lover's fantasies.

I need to say a word here about the 19-year-old Northeastern University boy who invented Napster by writing its clever song-swapping and cataloging software. He only made much more efficient a process that was already going full-tilt and gangbusters on IRC (Internet Relay Chat). But where an .mp3 chatroom might "only" give you access to the collections of 200 users at a time, Napster connects you with the hard-disk collections of hundreds of thousands or even millions at a time. Even South-American .mp3 chatrooms couldn't find me any Astor Piazzolla. Napster offered me a dozen Piazzolla tunes instantly.

When Justice and Law and Decency and Order finally prevail, and Metallica and the music industry put Napster out of business, what do they want to happen to this brilliant, clever, music-loving lad? Will they be happy when he's back hanging around in the parking lot of the all-night Seven-Eleven? I sincerely think we need to recognize and reward a prodigious technological talent who's given so much fun and pleasure to a world of music lovers, and resist the stiff-necked Puritanical temptation to represent him as some sort of New Age war criminal.

And I don't have a doubt in the world that sampling an artist's music from Napster stimulates millions of people to go out and $BUY$ the whole album. How many times in a record store has an unknown artist caught our eye, but we decided the investment was too dear to take a dare? And then wondered what we might have missed. Napster brilliantly fills that "take a dare, it's free" gap.

Is Napster ethical? Would that the world, and cyberspace, had simple answers to such a question! I think the unsimple answer is that, as in cutting-edge medical technology, ethics are about twelve years behind technology. (It's certainly ethical to keep ME alive for an extra ten years, but is it ethical to keep 5 billion people alive -- and with Viagra -- for an extra ten years?) In "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," the King and the Archbishop have a wonderful conversation about a most terrible and frightening new invention -- the printing press -- and how it will cause nothing but grief and woe for civilization. We got past that.

In one of his "Life Is Hell" strips, Matt Groening asks the music industry's contention: "Is Home Taping Killing Music?" Groening replies: "Yes. Instead of making billions and billions and billions of dollars, the music industry is now making only billions and billions of dollars."

The Grateful Dead (like Gould, obsessed with cutting-edge technology, and a pioneer in cybercommunications for the "masses") also need to be mentioned. For the last decade before Garcia's death, The Dead was consistantly among the Top 5 highest money-making bands (despite their shocking longevity and superannuation). One of The Dead's unique strategies was to ENCOURAGE bootlegging and the briskest possible underground trade in bootlegged Dead tapes. (Amazing particularly when you consider they only played about three recognizeably different songs.) Their fans loved them for it, and became a loyal cult -- Deadheads -- the likes of which no other rockers have ever approached.

Likewise, one of Teresa Stratas' closest friends, whom she tended in the years before his death, was a creature who haunted Lincoln Center stealing sound and selling opera bootlegs for opera lovers who just couldn't get enough of their favorite stars. So even among the artists who purportedly are the victims, there's a great range of opinion about the ethics of stealing and selling and swapping their music. (The Diva of the movie "Diva," played by the wonderful Wilhelmina Wiggins-Fernandez, calls the very act of recording her voice "la viol" -- rape.)

Go Napster! You rock! You rule! (You should hear what Napster users have to say about Metallica. If I were Metallica, I couldn't have planned a more certain way to make all my fans suddenly detest me.)

Technical Addendum for the Napster-Addicted: As .mp3 files are huge, very soon they will challenge your hard disk. Even if you remain content to download them at the painfully slow 56k modem speed, you'll soon be tempted to store them off-line. Zip drives, which many of us already have, are a great start, but Napster and .mp3 files have been the chief boost in the new popularity of CD burners/toasters (CDRW, "Read-Write" CDs) as the solution to off-line mass storage. With this machine, of course, you can make your own "mix" CDs.

Elmer ("racin' to the future first") Elevator

Elmer Elevator's Discount Prep:

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