Space Is the Place

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Poor Defense

Many, but not all, of the posts I will get around to uploading are available on CD. If all of the ones I've posted are, I haven't really noticed. The fact is, I do not own a single legitimate Sun Ra album.

There is no possible way I could come to the appreciation I have of Sun Ra if I spent money. First and foremost, I have seen 2 Sun Ra albums in my hometown, and the CD of Sun Ra covers at the largest community library. I found a great deal of Sun Ra when I went to Portland, but the minimum price was $25. And that was for 40 minutes of material.
I do not own a credit card so I do not buy anything online.

This comes down the importance I place of aesthetic appreciation. Rapidshare, the piece of crap it can be, allows for a fairly reliable (as far as staying available) way to increase the aesthetic appreciation to a certain audience.

I am also crazy. This means that I believe everyone thinks like me. In my opinion, just because I have the digital copy of a great album does not influence the decision to buy that album. In recent years, there have only been 2 CDs that I bought NEW (and still at a discounted retail price) that I did not have on my computer. On the other hand, I've bought over a dozen used CDs just this year at what I deemed a reasonable price ($1 apiece for numerous Hovhaness symphonies, some Arvo Part, Koyanisqatsi soundtrack, Arnold Bax, Walton, etc.).

Independent record labels are going about this in what I see as the wrong way. If they had a website and offered digital music at $5-7 an album and then Print-On-Demand CDs for $10, there'd be a possibility of me buying a record or two. It just so happens that whatever company bought the CRI record label is offering print on demand CDs for $10 when you buy 10, no shipping and handling--something I plan on doing when I get a real job and have a credit card.

I can go out and buy a DVD 2001 A Space Odyssey for $7 NEW! If I wanted to collect the soundtrack for that movie on outside sources (ie, not buying the soundtrack, but buying a Ligeti album and a Straus CD...), it would be at least 4 if not 6 times that amount.

I am a poor individual and companies will not get my money unless I think they are reasonably priced. I actually think that $7 is a very reasonable price for almost any Stanley Kubrick film. I think $7 is a very reasonable price for a lot of the music I listen to. When I have the income to buy new music, it is $7 per disc (Naxos, or it averages out over the number of discs I buy--like the Hindemith Conducts Hindemith set).

So yes. I will continue to post Sun Ra's music for people like me. If you have the money to spend on this material, you really don't need me to tell you to buy it. That is, if you think like me.

For you Americans, encourage your public libraries--community and colleges--to buy Sun Ra albums for their collection. I don't know if other countries allow the public to make suggestions, but I'm sure that you can across the States.


At 8:02 PM, Blogger Dave said...

This is not a poor defense, not at all! Unless you think of it as a defense written by a relatively poor person (poor as it not that many bucks).

I think it's a rather eloquent and very interesting explanation of how somebody who knows how to use new technology can in effect "catch up" with people who happen to have more money.

Which doesn't necessarily make them more worthy of having the music that should, by certain humanistic rights, i.e. those championed by Sonny Blount and many other hip dudes of his ilk and generation, belong to everyone. Non?

I think you're walking right down the middle of a road of a Ra-vian aesthetic. People on earth need to hear his message, and the very last thing that should prevent this is the amount of legal currency one possesses.

I have enough money, now and then, to afford a CD, but I benefit from people like you introducing me to new sounds.

Thank you.

At 10:17 PM, Blogger marxbert said...

yes, my title was a play on words.

i'm sure many people will think it is a poor defense. i have enough money to live in a place with high speed internet, for example. i can easily sacrfice comfort and live in a worse place and buy maybe one or two Ra CDs or vinyls a month with that 50 bucks. and that's that. it is a fence that I don't think one can stradle.

At 12:28 AM, Blogger Cheetah said...

1st of all your blog is the greatest and we missed you!!

Are there any Sun albums that you couldn't find?

It is more important that people are exposed to this amazing music...

Long live Space is the Place!



At 9:15 AM, Blogger David Federman said...

The copyright issue is a delicate one and I thank you for your candor about it. I share some of your fiscal circumstances. So I understand why you do not feel you should be deterred from ownership of Sun Ra's records by poverty.

Further, I realize that you make no money from your blog and are running it for altruistic purposes. Sun Ra deserves dissemination. Alas, the people interested in his music are mainly mendicants and bread-line candidates--often because they're poor, struggling artists.

But the queasy fact remains you are engaging in theft by posting these "sound recordings" and I'm engaging in theft by downloading them. The questions for me are this: Am I engaging in the cultural equivalent of civil disobedience? Am I indulging in flagrant, unjustifiable disregard of the law? Or am I standing on some widening fault line between the spirit and the letter of these laws?

I don't know. The Blog O'Spehere raises profound issues with regard to intellectual and artistic property. And we need to have a fuller understanding of them.

I don't have answers to this dilemma. I need to understand it more completely and compassionately. For sure, there are two sides here. And we need to find a fair middle ground where we can meet.

What I do know is this: I know I'm sick and tired of copyright vigilantes, but I'm also sick and tired of self-righteous pirates who think they are playing Robin Hood by posting Bob Dylan's new album a week before it's released.

At 11:36 AM, Blogger Dave said...

Extremely well put, David Ferderman. I have rationalized--and I know it's rationalization--many illegal downloads by saying, truthfully, that some of them have prompted me to spend real cash money at brick and mortar shops. I do that more than use Amazon when I can so as to support local businesses, though I have used Amazon and at times. I am also a long-term Emusic subscriber. But I am also a bit of a thief.

I think -- when I do think about it or when folks like you cause me to think about it -- that we are "standing on some widening fault line between the spirit and the letter of these laws" (well said!) And I am pretty sure that ultimately "they" are going to win this. "They" of course being them who owns the means and controls the relations of production of recorded music. They're having a hard time getting adjusted to their present lack of control over things such as the $20.00 CD, but they will prevail, especially with big business friends like the BushCheney regime.

So I guess I'm rationalizing again. I don't see my illegal downloads as blows against the empire, but I suppose I do think of them as a limited time opportunity to develop a truly decent collection of good music, something I've down without for almost all of my 50 years, until relativey recently.

Thanks again for a thoughtful and thought-provoking note.

At 2:07 PM, Blogger David Federman said...

I don't mean to make you feel guilty or paranoid. Your mission is one I heartily endorse--and it amounts to archeology. Sun Ra is no longer with us, although an alumnus band still performs. But I'm sure those who caryy on his music are not exactly rolling in dough. Do we owe them something for the enjoyment they continue to give us? And, if so, what would be a fair--even if taken--recompense? We need some forum to discuss this. In any case, thanks for your devotion to Sun Ra. I still remember the first time I listened to "The Heliocentric World" and was transported to a place I have rarely revisited since.

At 8:23 PM, Blogger marxbert said...

It it certainly an interesting question, Mr Federman. I always like thinking about how that jerkoff from Radiohead said something about everyone singing along to music off the unreleased album at concerts...

Do I see myself as a Robin Hood? Hell no. In fact, I don't even like to consider myself part of the "Blog-O-Sphere". Sun Ra may deserve to be part of it, but I'm just a stupid kid with some spare bandwidth and a love of music. Blogging is a way for me to expose people to music I like.

It was difficult for me to find this music. I want the world to be an easier place to find this music. It is very easy for me to do this. It is like picking up trash that I find in my yard. Or, for a Holden Caulfield reference, like erasing a curse word...They make the world a better place. And in the BIG scheme of things, they don't matter. Luckily, despite however many people say "best blog ever", I realize that nothing I do will raise the stock of Sun Ra, it is only something other people can do. But in all honesty, what raised the stock of Sun Ra was the recent rerelease of Space is the Place onto DVD. That's where I experienced something I had only read about (I own no Sun Ra music, I do own a legit copy of Space is hte Place).

I don't feel like Robin Hood because I'm not stealing from the rich nor am I giving to the poor. If anything, I see myself as that guy in the Monty Python skit who was stealing lupins. And then when people finally wanted something they could live on instead of lupins, the bandit got sidetracked in the complicated issue of redistributing the wealth rather than simply giving away flowers.

I'm giving away lupins. I guess if I take a step back and approach this like it wasn't something on my harddrive, I would say it was stealing. I still don't know if I would admit to it being "wrong." I have more stolen books than I can count. And those are something I can hold and throw against the wall, unlike any of my Sun Ra.

I have stolen books. For the same reason I have stolen Sun Ra music. Appreciation. Learning.
Why do I distribute this stolen music? For the same reason I loan out my books--even though I've seen firsthand I may not get them back--to see more people in the world with what I perceive as "good tastes" or what I call a "conversationalist's education."

Wow, I got to reference the lupin episode of Monty Python. I'm very happy...

At 12:20 AM, Blogger Cheetah said...

In response, I should have elaborated on my "greatest blog" comment...

I will buy Sun Ra where I find it, in whatever shape or form I can, I was exposed to amazing music that I would not have been and could not find even if I searched long and hard. I am grateful to you for expanding my horizons (and many more, you are a legend, even if you consider the blog sphere only a minor constellation)

Sure some will leach and others will be grateful, those that gave a good listen found happiness that they may have never known otherwise...

To let some friends listen to your music is a crime, well some sins are forgivable then in my eyes.

With Gratitude,


At 12:08 PM, Blogger marxbert said...

don't get me wrong. the compliments on my blog do get to my head! i enjoy hearing them. They at least make up for all the deleted links, hahaha!

As for me being a legend! Hahaha, Sun Ra is the legend. I don't know what I think about blogging. I was VERY hesitant to get involved. I suspect that my opinions about music have a value around nothing. But the music itself is invaluable. On both blogs I post on, I do not say too much about the music--and even then, it is self-consciously personal and emotional, not critical.

I only began sharing music because I saw other people doing it. Moreover, I had a connection in a university and I could not use bittorrents or other file sharing programs (Kazaa, soulseeks, etc.).
I saw the only ways to get music: http links like rapidshare, private FTPs, and parent directories.
I immediately understood how easy it was. Then I realized that I could probably spam a forum with uploaded classical music (I had a university connection at the time), and hopefully encourage many others to participate.

It has paid off. Although it is intangible, my experience with music has been tremendously broadened. More tangibly, my music collection grows almost every day I sit in front of a compputer.

Cheetah, I don't think I have ever encouraged people to buy a single CD on any of my blogs. This is different than most blogs. Maybe other blog owners bought the CD? But in most cases, I sure didn't. So how can I tell people to do something I don't?
I don't agree with the principles of music distribution at the moment. Dave Federman is right: "for sure there are two sides here"...Unfortunately, because I share nose-in-the-air 20th century classical music on one blog and esoteric space jazz on another, I look a little different than people posting the Dylan album a week before its release. But, I fear I am probably just like them. I just like different music and therefore I just post different music.

I don't like to be seen as self-righteous. Despite my pirating, I do buy material. I know people who are pleased they have not bought a cd in the last 5 years or a DVD in the last 2. I don't see anything wrong with that, just as I don't see anything wrong with buying every CD and criticizing those who download illegal music. Very libertarian in this respect (if anyone calls me a libertarian, I'll kill ya!).

I'm not PROUD of my consumerism just as I'm not PROUD of my piracy. Both are a means to aid my appreciation of life. And I suppose I am 'proud' of the way I appreciate life, but that sounds stupid...

on a decidedly anti-libertarian endnote--public libraries:
I have requested numerous libraries to buy Sun Ra albums. Two community libraries, one community college, and one university now. At the university, it would not even help me, as music students are the only ones with the right to check them out. Still, can't hurt to get the man's music out there. It only takes 5 minutes or less to fill out a request form.

At 7:02 PM, Blogger Michael G. Breece said...

Yes, well, art isn't JUST for the rich (is what I always say). Beyond that, Sun Ra (unfornately) is DEAD, that means HE doesn't get shit from record sells, isn't that the point (that the artist gets the money), know. Maybe some of the players would get a bit, but ultimately it will only benefit rich asshole type label folkal (at this stage).

Me and my wife are poor sound artists (composers, whatever) who work as janitors, we actually NEED the money, yet...possibly due to the day of the internet and file sharing it's next to impossible to get anyone to actually BUY our work (artists who actually are ALIVE and NEED the money). I've seen this to be the case with many LIVING sound artists/composers today (not just us and your opinion of our work). Very tricky situation, indeed.

At 6:44 PM, Blogger marxbert said...

it is hard to make a living off art. blaming it on the internet seems a bit naive. there were PLENTY of starving artists before Al Gore invented the internet.

if your making art you are proud of, I hope you are able to use technology to bring that art to as many people as possible. if you can't make a living at it right now, may as well be giving it away to those who like it.

but, just my 2-cents.

At 11:24 PM, Blogger greg davis said...

i went out and bought the 'strange strings' LP for $13 after hearing the mp3s on this blog.
thanks for turning me on to it!

At 7:36 PM, Blogger marxbert said...

$13 for the fucking LP? No kidding...

Very nice, very nice. Maybe I will get lucky and stumble upon some cheap Sunny Ray...

At 2:23 AM, Anonymous dxt said...

I am also crazy... European libraries have nothing like Sun Ra on the shelves, let alone Greece!
Great site...

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You may find the comments of a musician, who shares whole albums of his own online, helpful. I think they are relevant to the points you have raised here.

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