Free scores promote the spread of classical music
Published: Sunday, March 13, 2011
Updated: Sunday, March 13, 2011 20:03
Classical music is considered by many to be truly timeless music that will be played for generations to come.
With countless composers making music over hundreds of years and creating a massive amount of sheet music in the process, it seems almost impossible to keep track of it all.
One Harvard Law student has been attempting to do just that, creating an extensive online archive of sheet music available to the public for free.
The International Music Score Library Project, which was created five years ago by 24-year-old Edward Guo, currently has 85,000 scores and adds several thousand more each month. The archive has quickly become one of the largest sources for music scores in the world.
Free sheet music for all sounds great at first, but music publishers are less than thrilled to hear that the sheet music they sell is being offered free of charge online.
Publishers argue the fact that people aren't buying sheet music is hurting the future of the genre of classical music.
I tend to disagree — in fact, I believe that free sheet music to the public promotes the music of composers.
Not only does this website, imslp.org, encourage individual creativity and education about composers, it also makes the music more widely available and encourages young players to learn these beloved compositions.
Music shouldn't be limited to only people who can afford a glossy paperback edition at Barnes & Noble. Sheet music should be available to anyone who takes interest and is willing to spend the time learning it.
According to an article in the New York Times, Guo first got the idea for an online bank of sheet music from growing up in China and being frustrated with the small selection of musical scores in bookstores.
He said in the article that it was his duty as a musician to promote music and that's the basic philosophy behind the website. His cause seems noble enough, especially since I'm a huge music lover.
The website had many copyright issues in the past, and now has a disclaimer that appears before you access any score, stating that there is no guarantee that the work is in the public domain and that the downloader must obey copyright laws.
I believe that it's up to the person to use it responsibly, since all Guo is trying to do is make more sheet music available.
I believe that there is nothing wrong with downloading sheet music, as long as they don't try to pass it off as their own work.
Most of the composers from the archive are long gone and I think that publishers should stop trying to make as much money as they can from their music.
We should circulate the sheet music as much as we can and encourage people to play classical music. I think it's silly to stop people from downloading these compositions. It's not like they're pirating the latest Pixar movie, they just want to learn music.
Buying sheet music can become pretty expensive over time. A player in an orchestra or pianist will go through an endless array of songs in their lifetime.
On Amazon.com, a sheet music book containing Beethoven's Symphonys No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7 costs about $8. I can only imagine how much a musician will spend during their lifetime on scores.
It doesn't make sense to pay that much for something that is offered for free online. The Borromeo String Quartet, for example, uses laptops with downloaded scores and often uses IMSLP as a source.
The website is a great way for musicians to obtain sheet music and it should be preserved.
Guo has good intentions and should not be held accountable for breaking any copyright laws, nor should publishers have any right to attack his website.
I respect him for bringing these beautiful compositions to a wider audience.