International Music Score Library Project/Petrucci Music Library

By Mullin, Casey A. | Notes, December 2010 | Go to article overview

International Music Score Library Project/Petrucci Music Library


Mullin, Casey A., Notes


International Music Score Library Project/Petrucci Music Library. Project Petrucci, LLC. http://imslp.org/wik/Main_Page (Accessed May 2010). [Requires a Web browser, Adobe Reader and an Internet connection].

The International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP), alternatively branded the Petrucci Music Library since its relaunch in 2008, is a non-profit project that operates within a simple yet formidable mission, stated prominently on its home page: "to create a virtual library containing all public domain music scores, as well as scores from composers who are willing to share their music with the world without charge." In four short years, it has progressed admirably towards this goal, becoming not only one of the largest free online collections of digitized printed music, but also one of the fastest-growing, adding on average over 2,000 scores per month.

The IMSLP gained notoriety in the music community surrounding its tumultuous early history. Founder Edward W. Guo, then an undergraduate classical composition student at the New England Conservatory of Music, launched the site on 16 February 2006. As it gained popularity, it also caught the attention of a large European publisher, several of whose scores had been mounted on the site. After receiving two cease-and-desist letters from the publisher in 2007, Guo opted to shut down the site; as he stated in an open letter to the community, "the cease and desist letter does not call for a takedown of the entire site, but ... I very unfortunately simply do not have the energy or money necessary to implement the terms ... in any other way." Happily, Guo was eventually able to mitigate the complications of disparate copyright terms (as explained below), and the IMSLP was re-launched on 1 July 2008, featuring a redesigned user interface powered by MediaWiki, the interface familiar to users as that originally developed for use by Wikipedia.

SCOPE OF CONTENT

Housing over 61,000 scores (downloadable as PDF files) as of May 2010, the IMSLP rivals many brick-and-mortar music libraries in coverage. To wit, this figure is displayed prominently on the home page, alongside two other constantly-increasing figures: the number of works represented on the site (currently approaching 25,000) and the number of composers whose works are represented (nearly 3,300). The scope is broad, encompassing Western art music from all periods and in all genres. Understandably, as the bulk of the collection has originated from users' personal collections, the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are the best represented. However, a large contingent of living composers has begun to use IMSLP as a forum for disseminating their works, employing Creative Commons licenses. Such a forum effectively bypasses the commercial publishing apparatus, and uncovers a treasure trove of new music never before gathered in one virtual space. One young composer in particular, Eric Quezada (b. 1995), is surprisingly prolific, having uploaded over 200 works. To be sure, the editorial and vetting mechanisms of traditional publishing are also bypassed in this way; though submissions are monitored closely for adherence to copyright, and/or licensing requirements, no endorsement of musical quality of any particular work is put forth by the hosts of the site. Accordingly, a "discussion" tab on each work page allows members of the site to contribute commentary and analyses of specific works. Unfortunately, I have, observed that tins lab is being used more for discussions of scan quality and the like. Still, the function is there for those who might wish to share their particular ideas on Beethoven's Ninth, or to opine on a composer's latest creation.

The aforementioned copyright disparities create a potentially misleading picture of score availability, as not all works are in the public domain in all geographic areas. Since IMSLP's servers are located in Canada, the baseline requirement for score submission is that the work in question be hi the public domain in Canada, which observes a copyright term of the life of the author plus 50 years. …

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