This is a great discussion! The intelligent input from so many contributors such as Tom Fine, Jon Samuels, Michael Biel and all the others makes excellent cases for both sides of the argument. But one thing is clear - that there is going to be no universally accepted conclusion, hence, all such material must be protected from destruction by its guardians, whether they have any right to the material or not. If I can paraphrase one of the contributors, (I think it was Tom Fine), "What gives you the right to destroy this material?".
The examples of Brahms' destroyed scores and, I believe, Paul Dukas' lost music comes to mind. These men along with several others took definitive steps to insure that their material would never see the light of day and it is gone forever. On the other hand, Sibelius' "Kullervo Symphony" was withdrawn after its first performance, never authorized for further performances as long as he lived, but after his death it was recorded and performed several times - it's a great work, (IMHO), and thank heavens we still have it. But if a researcher were to find, say, J. S. Bach's St. Luke Passion, or St. Mark Passion and there was a note on it from Bach saying "to be destroyed", (or whatever the German equivalent is), would it be morally responsible to follow that order? I don't know of any of Bach's descendants who is still with us today, (although there was one in Alberta several years ago), but I'm sure any musicologist or family member would want that
The case of Sergiu Celibidache was mentioned in a previous posting. His is an interesting situation. Celibidache made it quite clear that he didn't believe in recordings because a recording only carried the sound of an event, not all of the other sensory elements that are part of a performance. His famous analogy was that listening to a recording is like going to bed with a picture of Bridgett Bardot. Well, in my opinion, he was wrong. If anything, it would be like Bridgett Bardot's husband going to bed with such a picture. For Celibidache himself, a musical performance was experienced on many levels; he was famous for his flawless memory and he considered each note in the context of every other note in the piece as it was performed at that time. He was once invited to the control room after a performance where the producer demonstrated that he was able to remove a horn slip and replace it with a previous performance's passage.
Celibidache was outraged; he said that every note of the performance was moulded around every other note, including the mistake. This couldn't be entirely true because you couldn't perform every note before the mistake in anticipation of the mistake. (I'm depending on my memory of what I read many years ago so I may not have every detail correct.) But there are two things which must be mentioned about Celibidache - first of all, while the performance may have been an omni-sensory experience for him, for the vast majority of his audience and all of his on-air listeners, it was only a sonic experience. Whatever emotional stimulus his performances might generate would be generated by hearing the recording, (indeed most if not all of his performances were not broadcast live anyway, at least in North America). The second thing is that after his death, his heirs, the custodians of his recordings, decided to release a significant number of them
commercially - totally against Celibidache's wishes. Were they right to do so? Well I'm certainly glad that they did! Their reasoning was that there were so many bad pirate transfers of his performances out there anyway and if his reputation was to live on, it should do so with the finest transfers possible from original sources. They did not do this for personal gain, I understand that all the profits went to charities.
As has been pointed out in other postings, the artist is not always the best judge of what should be released. I once read a book on Toscanini, evaluating his performances, (I think it was by Marsh), and it is quite clear that the Maestro authorized all of the wrong recordings. The author had access to all of the un-authorized material and almost invariably, every performance he listened to was "superior to commercially released versions". I, of course, have never heard this protected material so I can't agree or disagree.
I have a recording by Dizzy Gillespie which I know is the only copy - I recorded it myself, supposedly for broadcast but, in fact, it was never broadcast. While I could not use it for any personal profit, or make it public in any way, I'm glad I have it and I certainly feel no moral obligation to destroy it, (mind you it's on a long obsolete digital format and may well self destruct at some point anyway).
> From: eugene hayhoe <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Sent: Thursday, May 31, 2012 4:31:32 PM
>Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Unique private recordings
>Some musicians are interested in hearing what they sounded like, simple as that.
>--- On Thu, 5/31/12, Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>From: Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]>
>Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Unique private recordings
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Date: Thursday, May 31, 2012, 1:26 PM
>What a great thread this has been! A fine case study of near absolutes
>attempting to moderate runaway relativities.
>I recall musicians years ago objecting to the release of weaker recordings
>of dead jazz players, many of whom left behind no guardians outside the
>business. It was seen as disrespectful to their memory, but of course to
>know humans is to know that they have flaws and are inconsistent. Much worse
>was the flat out exploitation by the record company, the company being the
>only entity that had control over the material and the ability to profit
>from it. The idea that those left with responsibility for an artist's legacy
>would violate that trust was appalling. Of course, they would conclude, as
>with so much else in the modern world, Trust is just a name on a bank.
>Nowadays, there are other possible outcomes. Hendricks is a good example.
>His family has been able to gather the legal muscle required to control his
>unreleased legacy and the family is benefiting from it to a degree that
>probably would surprise the artist himself. The artistic value of some of
>that recorded legacy can be disputed, maybe, but would Jimmy's ghost prefer
>to retain control or is he happy that his descendents can generate income he
>himself didn't live to bequest?
>Regarding scholarship vs. too much information, it's hard to draw a line.
>Every time I hear Charlie Parker's Loverman of July '46, I feel like a
>voyeur, like nobody needs to hear this, ever. I skip that track. But should
>Dial Mx D1022-A be smashed? Yes - on that day, but now it is history.
>"Louis 'country & western' Armstrong" anyone? I'd be tempted to bulk that
>baby. I learned a lot from reading Terry Teachout's 'Satchmo.' Apparently he
>had tremendous access, and could have larded his book with plenty of
>titillations. Instead, he gave us enough to understand far better the depth
>and humanity of the man, and that's all we really need. Without all the
>material, though, could Teachout have given us such a rich distillation?
>Technology is a double-edged sword. It's not just in recent popular music
>where the pressure to reproduce your record over and over is, for some
>artists, a straightjacket. Has scholarship researched, in the early days of
>recording, musicians' responses to the utterly new idea that the way they
>happened to play on that one recorded occasion could be seen forevermore as
>THE way they played? That reality must have taken a while to work its way
>through the collective mind (I'm thinking mostly of classical artists, where
>the varied interpretation of a codified musical text carried such
>significance). Here was another modern wonder that had pros and cons, and
>unintended consequences. Cellibedeche must not be the only musician who saw
>the trapped-in-amber aspect of recording as a violation of the nature of
>musical expression, though by working for radio orchestras he was under
>microphones constantly. (Might be putting works in his mouth - not a
>Celli-expert.) Most gave in to the competitive pressure and income
>potential, whether they liked it or not, so necessarily took the question of
>control, ultimately, only as far as they could. Recording became another
>hellhound on their career trail.
>Enough philosophy, here's an anecdote. For years, there was an old fellow in
>town who was an inveterate classical bootlegger. He'd go to concerts with
>little mics attached to the corners of his glasses and a Sony D1 in his
>pocket. He also offered his services as a professional recordist. I was
>annoyed on both counts - that he'd do the surreptitious recording AND then
>represent himself as a legitimate service provider to the very musicians he
>was ripping off. (Didn't help that he tried to take clients away from me
>with his little toys.)
>Well, then came the real shock. His activity was an open secret. He was
>known even to management of venues where that activity was specifically
>forbidden, in writing, in every program book. I found this out after a few
>of his projects came to me from musicians, who asked me to improve the
>How naive was I? He was providing a service, welcomed on at least some
>occasions, by generating documents that skirted all the legal mucky-muck.
>Did any of them (players, union, orch. management) care about the other
>aspects - control, legacy, image? Guess not, not enough to make an issue of
>it. (I agree that there is some difference in a moral sense between
>documents of public events and the release of private session or rehearsal
>tapes.) He may not have made any money from the boots. Because of the
>middling quality, the attitude may be that there is no commercial potential
>or likelihood of further distribution. And, anyway, "who cares after I'm
>He has moved away now, presumably into retirement. Will I take up his
>business model? No - it's still totally wrong and I am legit. Besides, I
>can't hold my breath that long.