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Goldberg Variations: “Free For Everyone, Forever”

The Open Goldberg Variations Project plans to "Set Bach Free", with a new recording and score created specifically for the public domain.

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Photo: Open Goldberg Variations Project

Pianist Kimiko Ishizaka will make a free, professional recording Bach's Goldberg Variations as part of the project.

To most record company executives, the thought of producing an album without copyright protection sounds like a whimsical joke.

The Open Goldberg Variations Project sees it differently.

Funded purely by donations, the project is creating a brand-new studio recording and typeset score of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations that will be placed directly into the public domain, free for anyone to view, share, and perform–even commercially.

On Wednesday, the project reached its goal of $15,000 in pledges. The mere 20 days it took to reach this goal is turning heads—and for good reason, says co-founder Robert Douglass. “This level of interest and support signals a new era in funding for classical music projects. People are increasingly aware of issues around copyright and licensing, and this shows they’re eager to expand the body of works in the public domain.”

Bach’s prodigious set of variations was first published in 1741, yet public domain versions of the piece—both on recording and in print—are surprisingly scarce. Thanks to the new project, hunting down the work will no longer be a chore. MP3s, PDFs and interactive MuseScore files will be available all over the web, including at project partner site IMSLP. Before its release, the score will even go under public review, ensuring the new edition will benefit from the most recent scholarly insight.

Award-winning pianist Kimiko Ishizaka volunteered to record the piece for free, with no claim to the rights of the recording, purely out of her “love for Bach.” The recording will be done in a top-level German studio, followed with professional editing and post-processing.

Watch for the new recording and score, available sometime in the first quarter of 2012.

Read more at the project’s Kickstarter page.

Sam Callahan

Sam Callahan graduated from IU in 2013 with degrees in Trumpet Performance and Economics. He is now a student at Harvard Law School.

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