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Alex’s iPod

Steve Layton writes:  “Our hip weekly in Seattle, The Stranger, has a yearly “Strangercrombie” Xmas-auction of unusual gifts. One of the music-related gifts up for grabs is this”:

Alex Ross’s iPod

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross set music nerds’ hearts aflutter last year on his national iPod Tour, lecturing on 20th-century composers from Ligeti to Bjork to Messiaen and playing samples from his iPod. Now here’s your chance to possess an Alex Ross-programmed iPod of your very own. The venerable Ross has programmed two playlists into this very iPod Nano (silver) in his own New York apartment with his own delicate fingers.  Eeeeee! Priceless! Opening bid: $1.99!

Don’t you have to be old to be venerable?

Elsewhere, the WaPo had a wonderful young-musical-genius-finds-a-way-despite-all-adversity story today.  


Comment from Ian Moss
Time: December 14, 2006, 7:35 pm

Yikes, somebody needs a cold shower.

Comment from andrea
Time: December 14, 2006, 7:44 pm

i particularly like the girlish squeal at the end. very trl.

Comment from David Rakowski
Time: December 14, 2006, 7:49 pm

“The venerable Ross has programmed two playlists into this very iPod Nano (silver) in his own New York apartment with his own delicate fingers.”

I’m sorry to be boorish here, but to any innocent onlooker it looks like rampant copyright violation is happening, as if Alex programs the stuff he owns onto the charity iPod, and the high bidder gets a whole bunch of music for …. free.

I think it should be duly noted that everything here is above board, since I believe all involved are honorable people who respect copyrights. Anyone?

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: December 14, 2006, 8:13 pm

You could take the question to them yourself:

That’s an interesting point: if you sold your own iPod or other MP3 player and didn’t wipe it clean, could you be sued for copyright violation? Or if you sold your old computer with all your MP3s still on the hard drive? Or sold a box of old self-dubbed cassettes at a garage sale? Gave some rewritable CDs to someone to use, that you’d already burned some music to previously?

I’d think the answer was yes to all of them. Yet…

Comment from David Rakowski
Time: December 14, 2006, 8:26 pm

Yes, the answer to all of them is yes. The law is not ambiguous on any of those points.

Comment from Alex Ross
Time: December 14, 2006, 8:59 pm

I can’t comment on the legal issues, but I would like to make it clear that I am not receiving any money from this auction, nor is The Stranger. The proceeds from the auction go to an organization called Northwest Harvest, which feeds the hungry in Washington State. The Stranger has auctioned pre-programmed iPods for several years, and I assume that if anyone had a legal problem with the procedure it would have come up by now. The quoted paragraph should be read as being “indie” and sardonic.

Comment from david toub
Time: December 14, 2006, 9:51 pm

Personally, while the law is indeed clear on this, big deal. The law isn’t always right.

But I digress. Regarding his nano, I’d be more interested in what’s on it.

NP: Feldman, SQ #1 (and MF was right; it is a “fucking masterpiece”

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: December 14, 2006, 10:07 pm

Alex wrote: The quoted paragraph should be read as being “indie” and sardonic.

The Stranger through-and-through…

David T. wrote:Regarding his nano, I’d be more interested in what’s on it.

It’s your personal tour of the 20th century, David! Knowing everything on the playlist would be like peeking in your present before Christmas, and you’d never want to be known as one of those bad kids… Better to just bid away and be pleasantly surprised.

Comment from Alex Ross
Time: December 14, 2006, 10:14 pm

Well, when the RIAA bangs on my door and carries me away, please send me some nice (fair use) Morton Feldman in prison.

The first playlist is a sort of grand tour of the 20th century from Salome onward. The second playlist is called Silence and it has the Stravinsky Pater Noster, Honegger’s Psaume de Penitence from Roi David, Frank Martin’s Angus Dei, “Madame Press Died…,” the usual. The third playlist is Lorraine Hunt Lieberson’s greatest hits. The fourth playlist is, um, hm, a pop singer.

Comment from david toub
Time: December 14, 2006, 10:30 pm

Hey Alex, I’d be delighted to send you all 3+ gigs of my Feldman collection, gratis, for your prison cell. It would take up a fair portion of your nano, I’m sure. 8-)

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: December 15, 2006, 1:42 am

Somewhat apropos of real and percieved copyright “morality” issues, Charles T. Downey at the ionarts blog:

offers some furrowed brow over the Mozarteum’s free offering of the complete scores of Wolfgang A. online:

Are the rights of the editors being protected under such an arrangement? Newspapers have reported that the International Mozart Foundation paid Bärenreiter-Verlag the sum of 302,000 € ($397,000) for the digital publication rights. To whom will that money go?

But then continues (bold print mine):

Since I have not edited any of the volumes in the NMA, I am ecstatically downloading everything I can manage, although the site is overrun with requests.

But prudently finishes with the high-road again:

However, if that were my work — not only the carefully checked scores but the extensive critical notes — available to the whole world for free instead of buying it in legitimate book form, I would probably be upset.

Comment from Alex Ross
Time: December 15, 2006, 2:25 am

Could someone please post something new to Sequenza21 so this isn’t at the top of the page? Some suggested topics: 1) Integral serialism is cool again. 2) The only twentieth-century composer who is destined to last is Mompou. 3) So, what _really_ happened between Boulez and Cage?

Comment from Galen H. Brown
Time: December 15, 2006, 3:32 pm

Sequenza21: All Alex Ross All The Time

The day integral serialism is cool again is the day I throw in the towel and start writing easy-listening music. What’s that? Minimalism _is_ easy listening music? Oh. . .

Comment from David Toub
Time: December 15, 2006, 4:44 pm

Galen, I used to write 12-tone music and have been very down-and-dirty with the scores of Schoenberg and his progeny. But if I could put my massive ignorance out there right now: what exactly is “integral serialism?” I mean, integration is right out of calculus, and we all know what serialism is. But does IS refer to methods of finding the areas under curves using all 12 tones? 8-)

Seriously, I have no clue what this means…my ignorance!

Comment from Galen H. Brown
Time: December 15, 2006, 6:54 pm

“Integral Serialism” is the one where you serialize elements of the piece other than pitch — note length, dynamics, etc. Also known as “Total Serialism” or “post-Webern Serialism.” Some people like to use just “Serialism” to denote this version, and call the version where only the pitches are serialised as “12-Tone” or “dodecaphonic.”

I think “Integral” in this case comes not from calculus but from the idea that you are “integrating” different serialized aspects into one piece.

Comment from chris sahar
Time: December 17, 2006, 3:18 pm

Got to look into the Ross playlist — sounds fun. I hope he focuses more on Les Noces than Rite of Spring. Both are great but the former I think is greater for its economy of means and revealing the “seamier” aspects of the marriage institution.

As for the young composer genius. I think it is great and wish him great success. Yet, I HATE the name genius. Talent, yes. But look at the socioeconomic circumstances and background and determination of the kid! I will give the Washington Post kudos for reporting the amount of time he spends on composition and the excellent work ethic being instilled. I just think it perpetuates the American Idolization of musicians for the sake of commercial profitability (and in general Western society’s fetish with “genius” overall).

What would happen if creating music were considered a gift inherent in all of us and as worthy to develop as physical strength, intellectual rigor and emotional maturity? This inherent, universal trait of Westerners has been progressively blunted ever since the suppression of various regional chants at the turn of the last millenium.


BTW, I will admit to being envious of genius composers. I also love chant and feel that the Church has done some good in spite of its great flaws.