New Compulsory License & The USPTO Green Paper Roundtable at Vanderbilt Law School – May 21, 2014



A friend suggested I write a short account of the events at the Copyright Green Paper Roundtable Workshop sponsored by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force held at the Vanderbilt University Law School on May 21, 2014.  It was my privilege to serve on the three (3) roundtables that day:

Statutory Damages

The First Sale Doctrine in the Digital Environment

The Legal Framework for the Creation of Remixes

Each of the panels was followed by contribution from observers at the event and online.

Many of the panelists seemed to agree that the statutory damages for copyright infringement are too high.  The $150,000 per willful infringement screams of excess.  When penalties for copyright infringement are higher and more severe than what seem to be more serious crimes – domestic violence, abandoning a family, abuse and cruelty to animals to name a few – the public loses support and respect for copyright law.

Many of us agree that a small claims copyright court could be an improvement over the present expensive and time-protracted federal court situation.  If copyright infringement actions didn’t take so long, they wouldn’t cost so much and those who wish relief from the court would be more likely to pursue actions if the cost and time period was not as extensive.  (I’ve been in several cases that took more than 6 years – I am in Year 9 of one now.)

One songwriter expressed a strong desire to sue individuals who have downloaded his songs.  That, rather than the plight of those who are accused of infringing the copyright of an individual song by means of a new composition, was of more concern to one person on one panel.


 Compulsory License to

Sample Master Recordings

An idea I brought up seemed to get a lot of attention.  It’s an idea I developed back in 2001 and first spoke about in 2002 at the first-ever Pop Conference at the Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle.  I thought that a Compulsory License to Sample Master Recordings was a very good idea.  And because back in those quaint antiquated early days of the 21st century it was becoming obvious that the public was technologically empowered to become more than simple, passive consumers of music and could with great ease, modify any music, video or work of authorship that was floating around the Internet.  And it seemed that nearly all music and video from everywhere and anytime was becoming available.

A Compulsory License to Sample Master Recordings is a long overdue and obvious idea.  A fair, respectful and business-happy aspect of this license would be that a recording MUST be at least ten (10) years old.  That way, the original recording has had ample time to be sold in its original form, followed by the inevitable decline/stop sales of the original recording.  A new version will draw attention to the original version, the public benefits from having more art (or more recordings if we do not want to be complimentary) and options, and money will be generated from the rebirth of a 10 year old recording.

Why is this particular compulsory license a good idea?

1.  People are going to re-author/mess with existing music anyway.  Sometimes for fun, sometimes for ridicule (parody), sometimes to make fun of something else (satire), sometimes to escape boredom, something to do while the flight is on its final approach to landing, sometimes to do something that will keep them off the streets and out of gangs, etc.

2.  It is impossible in a free society to stop people from expressing themselves by re-expressing ideas as well as specific expression that surrounds us.  Computers, one of the most ubiquitous and simple-to-use instruments of expression, come in all sizes and shapes, but regardless their speed and size are designed to copy.  Computers make copying expression – whether it is one’s own or someone else’s expression – perfectly simple.

3.  Sampling is an old and venerable practice that dates back centuries and is common in many cultures, styles and genres of music from many locations globally.  Of course I am using the term “sampling” to include non-electronic/non-silicon based means to use preexisting expression that one did not author but wishes to re-alter and include in new expression. If Palestrina, Josquin, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Berlioz and others had had electricity, I believe they would have used it and associated technologies much as they used the best technologies of their times to compose.  If they could have sampled, they would have sampled.  Instead they simply copied, stole, ripped off, borrowed, quoted, paraphrased, paid respect and reverence to and venerated other composers who were their antecedents as well as contemporaries.  And always without consultation of preeminent forensic musicologists and attorneys.

4.  If this kind of creative or unauthorized behavior in the 21st century cannot be stopped, it could be monetized and legalized.  The creators of the new work could be required/mandated to pay for each version of the new work that is sold, just as the enormous BIG U. S. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT law mandates that when a songwriter has had her song recorded, anyone is free to record that same song provided the songwriter is paid.  If FAMOUS SONGWRITER’s EGO is so large that s/he only wants her/his version to exist, then s/he better have been born outside the United States in a country that shows more respect for the songwriter and will not anyone else record her/his song, if s/he so desires.  The United States of America would rather offend the songwriter and modify one of the exclusive rights given than deprive the American public of numerous (dozens/hundreds/thousands) versions of her song.  (Actually, there is an already hard-to-believe-and-rarely-used provision in the Copyright Law of the United States that is meant to assure that any re-recording of  an author’s work is to be done nicely and not change the “fundamental character” of the original work.)

Taking away a right from creators, like I am proposing above, is nothing new.  Our Big Federal Government takes away our rights as authors/creators.  It even does so in the Copyright Law of The United States.   Section 106 gives 6 exclusive rights but then Sections 107 and others modify some of those rights so as to benefit society.


I’ve heard complaints from smart, well-intentioned songwriters and lawyers who bemoan the fact that this recorded music needs to be PROTECTED.  That the artist did not intend for this kind of expression.  But….

We do not have control of ideas and expression once they are released.  Editorial writers get slammed, authors get lampooned, musicians, actors, politicians, sports stars and celebrities get parodied, slammed and lampooned, etc.  This is what happens and fortunately in a free society, this can’t be stopped.  Far more often, however, writers get praised, elevated and worshipped as they are hailed as gifted, fearless, passionate, a singular voice for their generation,  etc.

A very good thing for these artists who are being parodied, slammed, belitted, etc. is that they already have the right to have their best version of their song/film published to the world (or where they want) with the support and backing of the very large United States federal government.  The artist has already released her/his best version and that version will live on no mater what subsequent versions are released.  Original artists are even free to re-record their song so as to acquire another copyright and/or re-imagine their new version.  Igor Stravinsky did this to take advantage of publishing and financial benefits that would stem from such actions.  And so too did The Beatles, The Beach Boys and all of those who re-release new versions of songs/compositions/works of authorship, greatest hits compilations and more.

I will delve into the specifics of my proposal for a Compulsory License to Sample Master Recording in another post but for now the appeal of hiking at Radnor Lake in Nashville, Tennessee (3 or 4 miles from my home) beckons.  Loudly.

Happy Sunday, June 1, 2014


Tracing The Origins Of Blues Songs: Culture Or Copying?


Music of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, Carl Perkins, Albert King and The Beatles 

Many songs’ origins can be traced to earlier sources and often specific authorship, or authorship as a mighty fortress that had to exert its mighty power, was a foreign concept.  Ideas and the expressions of ideas are often regarded as benevolent entities and means by which a society builds its culture.  Members of a society share what is performed, heard, seen, filmed, photographed, painted, sculpted, danced, acted, woven, cooked, eaten and more.

It can be illuminating to examine how certain songs have come into existence.  How important was authorship?  Were several responsible for the creation of a song?  Did parts of the song come together at different times and places?


Albert King “Searching For A Woman” (1961) referenced Carl Perkins “Matchbox” (1956)

Albert King’s Searching For A Woman  (1961) –  At 0.28 – 0.48 of this recording, one hears:

“sometimes I wonder would a matchbox hold my clothes, yeah sometimes I wonder would a matchbox hold my clothes, I don’t have so many but I’ve got so far to go.”  

Albert King is not the author of that lyric as it had been heard prior to “Searching For A Woman.”  King simply interpolated it/referenced it from a prior source.  Or was it from more than one prior source?

Carl Perkins’ Matchbox  (1956) – At 0.05 – 0.20 of this recording, one hears:

“well I’m sitting here wondering would a matchbox hold my clothes, yeah I’m sitting here wondering would a matchbox hold my clothes, I ain’t got no matches but I got a long way to go.”

Carl Perkins’ Matchbox  (1956) was a big hit in the 1950’s.

The Beatles released their version of Matchbox in 1964, reviving Perkins’ popular song.  The Beatles loved Carl Perkins and recorded three (3) of his songs.  (Notice that Ringo’s vocal is double-tracked in Matchbox and typical for Beatles’ cover recordings, they stay as true to the original as possible.)

Continuing with MATCHBOX…

Carl Perkins “Matchbox” (1956) referenced Leadbelly “Packin’ Trunk” (1935)

Carl Perkins’ Matchbox  (1956) – At 0.05 – 0.20 of this recording, one hears:

“well I’m sitting here wondering would a matchbox hold my clothes, yeah I’m sitting here wondering would a matchbox hold my clothes, I ain’t got no matches but I got a long way to go.”

Leadbelly’s Packin’ Trunk  (1935) – at 0.45-1.05 of this recording one hears:

“I’m sitting down here wondering would a matchbox hold my clothes, I’m sitting down here wondering would a matchbox hold my clothes, I’m sitting down here wondering would a matchbox hold my clothes”

Leadbelly “Packin’ Trunk” (1935) referenced Blind Lemon Jefferson “Match Box Blues” (1927)

Leadbelly’s Packin’ Trunk  (1935) – at 0.45 – 1.05 of this recording one hears:

“I’m sitting down here wondering would a matchbox hold my clothes, I’m sitting down here wondering would a matchbox hold my clothes, I’m sitting down here wondering would a matchbox hold my clothes”

Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Match Box Blues  (1927) – at 0.38 – 1.04 of this recording, one hears:

“sitting here wondering would a matchbox hold my clothes, I’m sitting here wondering would a matchbox hold my clothes, I ain’t got so many matches but I’ve got so far to go” 

Is Blind Lemon Jefferson the source of this lyric about a person owning so little that all of his clothes could fit into a matchbox?


Do lyrics and/or music of any of these songs REFERENCE any other song(s)?

Do lyrics and/or music of any of these songs COPY any other song(s)?

Do lyrics and/or music of any of these songs STEAL FROM any other song(s)?

Do lyrics and/or music of any of these songs INFRINGE any other song(s)?

Are musical traditions, for example in any of the songs above, at odds with copyright law?

Assuming that any of these instances above involves the TAKING of someone’s intellectual property, isn’t it only taking a “little bit” and how important can a little bit be?

Should musical tradition(s) trump copyright law?

Should copyright law trump musical tradition(s)?

If Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Match Box Blues  (1927) is under copyright, would one or more of those who followed him have infringed his copyright?

If Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Match Box Blues  (1927) is NOT under copyright and in the public domain, would copyright vest in Leadbelly’s Packin’ Trunk  (1935)?

And how does one answer any/all of the questions above if the country of origin of the manufacture and distribution of specific recordings are OUTSIDE of the United States of America?







The Beatles – 21 Songs For 7 Reasons


Beatles 50th Anniversaries to the End of Beatles 50th Anniversaries

21 Songs For 7 Reasons

How good is your memory?  If you have heard this before, you surely don’t remember the words or when you heard them:


the headache remedy with the special combination of ingredients to relieve pain, to relax tension, soothe irritability”Anacin, and by


makers of light, fluffy Pillsbury refrigerated biscuits and a complete line of fresh dough foods in the dairy case.”

These are the first in a large batch of annoying commercials that ran at the beginning of The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday, February 9, 1964 just before the public would get to see the world’s most in-demand musical performers, The Beatles.

I’ve been loving the first of many future Beatles 50th anniversaries – their inspiring, shocking and life-altering first Ed Sullivan Show appearance, in black and white.  Color film was not needed – what people were about to see and hear was provocative, exciting, inspirational and transcendent  enough. 


Beatles 50th Anniversaries

In 2014, “it was 50 years ago today” refers to the 50th anniversary of

The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love, “I Saw Her Standing There” and the other initial wave of Beatles’ hits, and

A Hard Day’s Night film (“I fought the war for your sort. — I bet you’re sorry you won.”)  

In 2015, “it was 50 years ago today” will refer to the 50th anniversary of the

Help! film (“so the police are extended giving the famous protection for which we are justly proud in this country, for a finger, eh”) and

Rubber Soul (“and when I awoke I was alone this bird had flown. So, I lit a fire isn’t it good Norwegian wood?”).

In 2016, “it was 50 years ago today” will refer to the 50th anniversary of

Revolver (“I know what it’s like to be dead, I know what it’s like to be sad and she’s making me feel like I’ve never been born”)

their final tour and final scheduled concert on August 29, 1966 at Candlestick Park, San Francisco.

In 2017, “it was 50 years ago today” will refer to the 50th anniversary of the release of

Sgt. Pepper (“and the bag across her shoulder made her look a little like a military man”) and

Magical Mystery Tour (“corporation t-shirt stupid bloody Tuesday, Man you’ve been a naughty boy you’ve let your face grow long”).

In 2018, “it was 50 years ago today” will refer to the 50th anniversary of the

Yellow Submarine film (“if you are listening to this song you may think the chords are going wrong, but they’re not.  We just wrote it like that”) and

The Beatles, better known as The White Album  (“you were only waiting for this moment to be free”).

In 2019, “it was 50 years ago today” will refer to the 50th anniversary of

Abbey Road (“you only give me your funny paper”).


END of

Beatles 50th Anniversaries

In 2020, “it was 50 years ago today,” will refer to the 50th anniversary of

Let It Be (“phase one in which Doris gets her oats”), the breakup of The Beatles, the release of

Paul McCartney’s first solo album, McCartney (“I used to ride on my fast city line singing songs that I thought were mine alone, alone”), the release of

George Harrison’s first solo album, a gigantic triple album, All Things Must Pass  (“watch out now, take care, beware of greedy leaders, they take you where you should not go while weeping atlas cedars they just want to grow, grow, grow”) and the release of

John Lennon’s first solo album, Plastic Ono Band (“I don’t believe in Elvis, I don’t believe in Zimmerman, I don’t believe in Beatles…I was the walrus but now I’m John, and so dear friends you’ll just have to carry on, the dream is over”).


To continue from my past two (2) posts about The Beatles….  I left off with a collection of songs that I felt would work well for these groups and/or ideas:


aging adults



politically motivated

cry in your beer

The groups/purposes I want to highlight today are:



lovers of love songs

community activists




To continue from the last post – humanists will still want to save the world with “All You Need Is Love,” “Let It Be,” and “The Word,” optimists will be optimistic with “Good Day Sunshine,” “It’s Getting Better,”  and “Here Comes The Sun,” lovers of love songs will sing “If I Fell,”  “And I Love Her,” and “I Will,”  community activists will be inspired by “With A Little Help From My Friends,”  “We Can Work it Out,” and “All Together Now,”  weddings will still feature “Something,” “In My Life,”  and “When I’m Sixty-Four,”  divorcees will be haunted by “Carry That Weight,”  I’m A Loser,” and “Hello Goodbye,” and critics will still argue over the meanings of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “I Am The Walrus.”


songs for humanists

All You Need Is Love

Let It Be

The Word

songs for optimists

Good Day Sunshine

It’s Getting Better

Here Comes The Sun

songs for lovers of love songs

If I Fell

And I Love Her

I Will

songs for community activists

With A Little Help From My Friends

We Can Work it Out

All Together Now

songs for weddings


In My Life

When I’m Sixty-Four

songs for divorcees

Carry That Weight

 I’m A Loser

Hello Goodbye

songs for ponderers

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Strawberry Fields Forever

I Am The Walrus


Their final words on their final album* were meant to inspire:  “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”


* (By “final album,” I am referring to the last/final album The Beatles recorded – Abbey Road.  The final Beatles album to be released was Let It Be.)


Why Would An Artist Re-Record Portions Of Her/His Own Music?


A conversation was begun on Facebook among my friends recently.  It does not seem to still be on Facebook but as I recall, the question was posed  – why do artists re-record music?  Another friend wanted to know my take on this question.  I found it to be something which I had not given much thought but was fascinated as to the reasons why one re-records a work.

This questions brings up many more questions.  Why ask about “re-recording” and not “re-composing?”  Is one much different from the other?  Is there a continuum between re-recording being closely related or not at all related to re-composing?  I want to delve more into “why does someone re-record,” than “why does someone re-compose,” but the two are usually in play simultaneously.

As a composer, I have occasionally revisited works I have written.  Sometimes I want a listener to be able to perceive that a “new” musical idea or entire work is the re-creating of an earlier musical idea or complete work of mine – other times, I have wanted to “hide” the source, i.e., to make any connection un-preceivable.  I hope to give examples of this later and in fun detail.

I want to briefly explore the different means, causes and reasons why music is re-recorded.  As always, I welcome readers’ input.  So far, I have been able to identify more than one dozen reasons to re-record music.  This might be tantamount to saying, “more than one dozen categories of re-recorded music.”  I’m not ready to shout out, “Here is the definitive list of how, why, what, where and when music is re-recorded.”  For now, this is just a beginning and an interesting pursuit into an area of creativity and originality.


A common reason to re-record music is because a composer/songwriter wants to quote music s/he created earlier and place it in new music.  The composer/songwriter wants to re-purpose one of his/her earlier musical expressions from an earlier composition/song.  It can be more than the creator/artist having run short of ideas to express.  It can be that re-recording the music and placing it in a new context can give new meaning to the earlier expression, and that expression can function as part of a new “work of authorship,” to quote the phrase found in the Copyright Law of the United States of America.

The first examples that came to my mind in pop music were Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Carry On with its substantive quote of Buffalo Springfield’s Questions.  I was a huge fan of Buffalo Springfield and its principal members – Stephen Stills, Neil Young, and Richie Furay, as well as their projects after Buffalo Springfield broke up –

Stephen Stills formed Crosby, Stills & Nash;

Neil Young was a solo artist, then member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young until he resumed his solo career;

Richie Furay formed Poco.

(Young aperiodically returns to Crosby, Stills & Nash in a fashion less predictable than the return of cicadas.)

“Questions” is a Stephen Stills composition on Side 2 of Buffalo Springfield’s 3rd and final album, Last Time Around (1968).  Notice that Neil Young is placed on the right side of the “cracked” album cover looking to the right, while the rest of the band is together on the left side looking in the same direction (left).  This seems to be an unsubtle depiction of Neil Young as the member most likely responsible for breaking up Buffalo Springfield.

From 0.26-1.13 of  QuestionsStephen Stills sings:

“With the questions of a thousand dreams, what you do and what you see, come on lover talk to me, when I was on my own chasing you down, what was it made you run trying to get around, the questions of a thousand dreams what you do and what you see, come on lover talk to me”

And at 1.45-2.16, the song’s final phrases are sung:

“Now that we’ve found each other, where do we go now, I’d like to know what you’re thinking, answer me slowly now, the questions of a thousand dreams what you do and what you see, come on lover talk to me, yeah!”

Stills would use these lyrics but with different music two years later in Carry On, the first song on Déjà Vu (1970), the first Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album (this was the second album featuring CS & N – this time Neil Young was added to the group).

From 2.58-3.13 of Carry OnStephen Stills sings:

“Are the questions of a thousand dreams, what you do and what you see, lover can you talk to me?”

And at 3.27-3.57, the song’s final phrases are sung:

“Girl when I was on my own chasing you down, what was it made you run trying your best just to get around the questions of a thousand dreams, what you do and what you see, lover can you talk to me?”

There is strong similarity between the two as the lyrics have been, for the most part, copied and re-recorded.  The differences between the music of both songs are significant.

I don’t know why significant sections of  Questions were reused.  I just loved the fact that when I bought Déjà Vu on that cold, snowy night, and began to play side 1 on my parents’ stereo, stumbling upon this very familiar Stephen Stills song within a new Stephen Stills song was really exciting.  I felt I was on to a cool secret.  Next, I told my parents of my excitement and started to call friends to tell them as well.  And I called them that winter night using a rotary dial telephone on our kitchen wall.  I wasn’t old enough to have my driver’s license so I couldn’t bring the album to their house.  They’d have to buy their own or wait to see me on the weekend or call local radio stations and beg.  Ah, those old days.  🙂


In the next few weeks, I want to explore other artists who have re-recorded (and re-composed) portions of their own songs.  For this, I emphasize re-recording portions of songs/compositions as opposed to re-recording the entire work or song.  Artists I’ll explore who have re-recorded sections of their earlier works will include The Beach Boys – some of their unreleased songs as well.

Wish Lantern on Love Circle, Newtown & Sandy Hook, Merry Christmas, Kill City Space Ship & Invasions are Not Just For Aliens Anymore


Wish Lantern on Love Circle, Newtown & Sandy Hook, Kill City Space Ship

and Invasions are Not Just For Aliens Anymore

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

I got impulsive and chose to come to Nashville for Christmas.  It is my first Christmas ever in Nashville.  All of the others were in Massachusetts.  It’s great to be back here with friends although it’s not like Christmases I’ve known.

I had a surprising and enriching Christmas Eve last night with close friends and then went out to The Stone Fox in Nashville.  At 3 AM or so, we went to the beautiful hilltop with a great view – Love Circle in Nashville  – to light off a wish lantern.

I left Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester MA at 2 PM (it was a late decision, obviously) on Saturday and drove southwest on Rt. 128, past two malls in Peabody MA.  Rt. 128 had traffic backups for miles in both because of Christmas shoppers and the entire state was too crowded.  I had to even avoid the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) because of congestion.  I reached Pizzeria Uno near the Connecticut-Massachusetts border in Sturbridge MA by 5 PM – nightmarish driving conditions for a traffic-phobe like I.

I then drove to a friend’s house in New Jersey, but first with a stop in Newtown and Sandy Hook, CT.  Newtown CT has always been one of my favorite little towns.  I’ve driven through it hundreds of times in the past 30 years as it is a picture postcard perfect little town – hilly, tranquil, scenic, and light years removed from the noise of any metro area.  This is a somewhat accurate representation of Newtown and western CT.  The only way to make it more Newtown-ish would be to make the commercial’s accompanying music more like Charles Ives “Concord Sonata – Mvt. III “The Alcotts” (even if the Concord Sonata is about Concord, Massachusetts).  Newtown is away from I-84 and a great alternative to interstate driving for a few miles.  But two nights ago was much different.  It is now crowded with media and attention.  I can’t describe how it felt  –  very sad. It would be hard to explain all of the feelings I had, and would take too many words.  A cliche comes to mind  –  make sure you appreciate what you have and let the people you love know that you love them.  That works especially well at Christmas time too.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

I was honored to have music and video composed to honor my 40th blog post.  Quite unexpected but really cool.  It is the work of Kill City Spaceship and is entitled Mike’s Fortieth Blog.  This music was composed based on the great E G# C F# A opening chord of the Beatles’ song, “All I’ve Got To Do.”   Kill City Spaceship informed me that the music composed to honor my blog post was based on that E 11 #5 chord and its four (4) inversions.  Composing a work based on a musical motif, which involves compositional technique and development, is too often unknown to the general public, and foreign to the world of pop songwriting.  But just as musical styles can overlap, so too shouldn’t theories of music and composition. More on those rich subjects later…

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Merry Christmas, love, peace and joy to everyone!

Best Chord Ever – Part 1 – The Beatles “All I’ve Got To Do”

I have revised this post by adding many more links to recordings found on YouTube (the Beatles’ “personal pronouns period” songs), definitions from and Wikipedia, and links to if one is interested in purchasing The Beatles’ With The Beatles or Weather Report’s  I Sing The Body Electric.

This is the rainy Tuesday morning (December 18, 2012) in Gloucester after the New York Jets self-destructed on national television last night.  It is also the 40th blog post at  One way to celebrate would be to show a video someone made of me composing at the piano.  There will be a video below that will emphasize what I want to discuss today.  The  best chord ever.  At least for today, this is the best chord ever.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I love chords.  I’ve often composed at a piano by playing one chord, isolating it and thinking about where the sounding pitches want to go next, and then maybe writing the new chord that resolves the pitches from the first chord.  The first chord was a commanding boss that demanded to have its way.  The second chord, in the scenario I am describing, is a slave – it has no choice but to be and do as the first chord demands.

Or repeating or rearticulating my first chord.  Maybe the first chord wants to just linger and eventually fade away.  If it was really good, maybe it’s time to repeat it.  Or maybe it’s time for a series of chords led by this great chord.  The intervals in the chord can be unfolded and turned into melody, and maybe this melody will be harmonized by this chord or subsequent transpositions of this chord.  This type of composing can lead to countless areas and new musical expression.

In this post, I’m considering a chord one only hears in one context  –  in one particular song.  Without this chord, the song wouldn’t be as good.  But this great chord doesn’t fit in its context.

Listen to the first sounds, i.e., the first chord, in this Beatles song:

Beatles – All I’ve Got To Do

The chord has no business being here.  Or in any pop song.  Could this chord be heard in jazz?  I don’t think Ornette Coleman would use this chord.  I don’t think Thelonious Monk would have either.  Cecil Taylor?  Maybe Cecil Taylor would use it.  Early Weather Report?  Yes, maybe.   I could imagine this chord/hear this chord in Vertical Invader from side 2, song 1 of Weather Report’s second album, I Sing The Body Electric.   The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Eminem and Kanye – nope, they wouldn’t use it.  The Beatles used it.  Once and only once.  The chord is used only at the opening.  Never again in any Beatles song.  Not in outtakes, bootlegs.  Nowhere.  Damn.  Or as Miles Davis would have said, “DAY-UHM.”

So, here is one of the best chords ever.  You hear it arpeggiated at the opening.

It is solo guitar  –

no singing

no bass

no drums

no keyboards

Only guitar playing this mystical chord:

Beatles – All I’ve Got To Do

The chord consists of these five (5) notes:

 E  G#  C  F#  A

The Beatles used this most advanced, dissonant and mystical chord only once and only here on their second album.  This was during their personal pronoun period.  The early Beatles’ song titles were filled with personal pronouns –

From Me To You

She Loves Me

And I Love Her

Love Me Do

All My Loving

Please Please Me

P. S. I Love You, etc.

Their lyrics too were very simple.  So, why with all of this simplicity and direct boy-girl expression, did they use this complex  chord?  The chord does not reappear in All I’ve Got To Do, the With The Beatles album, or any subsequent Beatles song or album.

Does this chord appear anywhere else, i.e., in any songs?  I’ve never done a search for it.  I think I would be searching for a very long time for this chord.

My point of this post  –  this is a GREAT CHORD.  It’s so striking and unusual.  It adds a lot to this song even if it is only used once – actually, once in the Beatles’ lifetimes.  As a little kid when I first heard All I’ve Got To Do, I thought the chord was scary.  As I got older it became mysterious, or in Boston speak, wicked cool.  What do you think of this chord?

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Don’t read this section  –  (jump down to the final sentence).  It is the most music theory I’ve delved into yet in these forty (40) blog posts.

I made sure to avoid naming this chord.  This chord can have a few names  –  it can be…

E 11 #5  (pronounced “E eleven sharp five”) – this is probably the most acceptable name of names.  (To be literally correct, the pitch “C” should be re-spelled as a B#, pronounced B sharp, but most non-Western Classical musicians would rather see, hear, think and speak “C” than “B#.”)

F# min 9 b5 in 3rd inversion (pronounced F sharp minor nine flat five in third inversion) – a very foolish name but accurate description.

An F# min 9 b5 in 3rd inversion would also be an F# half diminished 7 with an added Major 9, again in 3rd inversion.  Again, a foolish name but accurate description.

This chord  is also the verticalization of the upper tetrachord of the A melodic minor ascending scale functioning as a dominant in A minor with the added 3rd from its resolution to an A minor chord.  Blah blah.

In pitch-class set theory, the chord is the pitch class set, 0 2 4 5 8.  Its most compact arrangement is:  E F# G# A C, which really spells out the upper tetrachord of the A melodic minor scale with an an added natural 3 of the A minor scale.  (I hope you didn’t read this section.)

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I want to explore other “best chords ever” in the future.  Do you have any best chords ever/favorite chords?

Uncopyrightable introductions – Part 2, William Shatner obliquely, Martha Stewart to me


I found a way to incorporate William Shatner into this post.  You’ll see.  Keep readin’ and a-clickin’.  I really like it.  It’s way off the subject but it brings us to a better place.

I also NEEDED to link to Martha Stewart for reasons that will be obvious.

Yesterday’s post stemmed from a discussion of song introductions and to what extent they might be copyrightable.  And that discussion stemmed from my post the day before in which I claimed that the intro to the following commercial  –

Sandals – Do It All Again

had copied the intro to the Beatles’ song  –

The Beatles – Getting Better

I should add that I feel that consciously, carefully and deliberately copied the intro to Beatles’ Getting Better. did not accidentally derive this introduction, or independently create their introduction.  Some composer labored over this.

The only reader to comment on this felt that copying of the Beatles was NOT an example of copyright infringement.  I agreed with him.  I posed many questions pertaining to this  –  few were answered.  As Martha Stewart would likely say to me, “it’s a good thing,” as that means I can either

A.  answer them now

B.  answer them later at  or in an article, book or app

C.  answer them later at a conference, law school or university

D.  answer them later under oath at a deposition

E.  answer them at a restaurant/bar

F.  let someone else answer them

G.  not answer them

I’ll likely opt for option B, or B and F.

I am trying to establish that one can copy INTENTIONALLY without infringing copyright. copied The Beatles and it was not copyright infringement.  I think a statement like “one can copy INTENTIONALLY without infringing copyright” could be controversial.

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And now to continue from yesterday’s topic  –  song introductions that are likely NOT copyrightable.  Here are a few new songs.  You’ll notice that these are Neil Young-loaded.  That’s simply due to where I was looking/listening  –  it is not scientific or anti-Canadian:

Frank Black  –  Tossed

Caetano Veloso  –  Jasper

Neil Young  –  The Old Laughing Lady

Neil Young  –  The Last Trip To Tulsa

Neil Young  –  Mr. Soul

Neil Young  –  Bringin’ Down Dinner

Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

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The seven (7) songs from yesterday:

(Again, these are intros that are NOT very copyrightable.)

The Doors  –  Back Door Man

Isaac Hayes  –  By The Time I Get To Phoenix

 Frank Black  –  Hang On To Your Ego

Katy Perry  –  Circle The Drain

Neil Young  –  Without Rings

Pixies  –  Bone Machine

White Zombie  –  Thunder Kiss ’65 

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At some point soon, I really want to explore the opposite  –  COPYRIGHTABLE introductions – highly copyrightable introductions.  I’ll tease by offering a highly highly highly copyrightable introduction.  It’s by The Beatles, a band that formed in Liverpool in the 1950’s.  This was early Beatles  –  pre-Ed Sullivan Beatles  – showing off.  One of the things I think they’re saying is:

“We’re darn good.  We can play well.  Can you play this much this fast?”

Here is their earliest Highly COPYRIGHTABLE intro:

Beatles  –  Like Dreamers Do

Love Street, A Century of Women on Top, TimeHop, Mikasa

I had a great time at Prof. Maggie Lange’s class yesterday and want to thank Maggie and her students at Berklee.  I’ve already been emailed and thanked by a few of them.  I’m quite humbled as I suspect I benefitted more from interactions with them.  Their questions were extremely insightful and their enthusiasm the entire two hours inspired me.

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I just became a TimeHop person.  It’s an app that will recapture what you did, photos you took, Facebook and Twitter posts, Foursquare checks-in, etc. on this day one, two or three years ago.  Wicked cool!  It confirms what a great and blessed life I lead, and the wonderful times I’ve had with my Mom and friends.

Three years ago today I wrote –

“With today’s copyright laws, most great composers – Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Stravinsky, Ives, etc. – would be as criminal as Girl Talk, Negativland, the Evolution Control Committee or anyone who finds creative preexisting elements and uses them.”

I still agree.  I’m even more fervent about that.

Two years ago today I began the day at Smith College.  (I always loved Smith College and especially their centenary t-shirts – A Century of Women On Top,” Beavis & Butthead implications intended on my part.) I had spoken at the Independent Music Conference and also became Mayor of the Hampshire Council of Governments, a rare and fantastic fusion of idealism, hippiedom and government.  (It is odd to read those three nouns in one sentence.  That is my description only.  Even though I was the Foursquare Mayor, please don’t discredit them!)

Later that morning I drove to see my Mom who was living in Marlborough, Massachusetts.  I had a coo-woo with her and she had her “Dewars on the rocks with a lemon twist” using the Mikasa crystal martini glasses I bought for her.  And I discovered that day that the Mikasa glasses sounded a sonically gorgeous “A 440when struck.

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I wanted to post one (1) song today.  I wanted it to have the word, “love,” in its title and be a song I own and love.  I seached for “Love” (searching for love in the exact right place) in my iTunes and found 2,860 songs.  If played back-to-back, they would last 7 days.  Wow – 7 days of peace and love!  Sounds great!  These songs with the word, “LOVE,” in their title take up 16.88 Gb of my iMac.  If only NASA could have had 16.88 Gb for Apollo 13.

The “LOVE” song that hit me just right is….

L O V E    S T R E E T    

by    The Doors

And because Jim Morrison was the lyricist (I think?), the lyrics were original, atypical and memorable.  Phrases such as –

“lazy diamonds, studded flunkies”  – this was how I learned the word, “flunky.”  I asked my parents what a “flunky” was.  They laughed, explained it to me, and then used that word to encourage me as a student for the next few years!

In terms of music theory/composition/structure, “Love Street” is an excellent song to study:

A minor, G Major, G minor, F Major

which is then transposed to

B minor, A Major, A minor, G Major

which then leads it perfectly back to the first four chords beginning on A minor.  (G minor to F Major is essentially a transposition of A minor to G Major.)

When I first heard Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay,” I caught the fact that both songs work on the same idea of transposing a simple motive (in Dylan:  A Major, C# minor becomes G Major, B minor – walking down the guitar neck), in both cases, a series of simple Major and minor chords.  Enough music theory.  There’s a beautiful beach outside waiting for me!

I hope your pre-Thanksgiving Day is going well.  Don’t shop but if you have to, Market Basket is great and run so smoothly!  I was in and out of the store very quickly.  I expect the food shopping/hunting/digging on Wingaersheek Beach to be typically simple and direct today.

How NOT To Write Great Music – Part 2

Before I delve into How NOT To Write A Hit Song – Part 2, I wonder – did you notice that today’s photo above is as colorful as yesterday’s photo?  That was intentional.  I wish I could tell you that there’s a profound reason behind my selection of colors and shapes.  I can’t but I think the bright rainbow colors unite the sustained theme of how NOT to write a hit song.

Now, let’s describe more ways  –  specific music compositional ideas  –  to finish the hit song (great musical composition) I began to describe yesterday.

How NOT To Write A Hit Song  –  Part 2

Let’s repeat from yesterday:

1.  make it 7 minutes long

2.  use 5 different singers

3.  make sure that no singing is heard for the first 2 minutes of the song

4.  make sure the bass  guitar only plays 3 different pitches (for all 7 minutes)

5.  make sure that the entire bass guitar melody is 6 notes long

6.  make sure that this 6-note bass guitar melody is played once and then repeated 51 times

NOW, here are the final five (5) steps:

7.  make sure that there are no chords (and, therefore, no chord changes) in the entire song

8.  make sure that the principal solo instrument in the song is an instrument that is not a preferred one – it should be an instrument that the audience for this song does not especially like.

9.  make sure that this song has appeal to U. S. and international audiences

10.  make sure that the subject matter of the lyrics is about a person who has no redeeming qualities

11.  make sure that this is not a love song

To repeat and expand from yesterday’s post…

Do you think the above eleven (11) constructs/stipulations are good advice for a songwriter?  For a composer?  (What’s the difference between a songwriter and a composer?  This is a question to be explored in future posts.)

Could you write a a great piece of music following these eleven (11) points?

If you wrote a song that followed these exact eleven (11) stipulations, would you be infringing copyrightThat is a complex question and one that could lead to debate, certainty, uncertainty, anxiety, anger or confusion.  Of that, I am certain.  If you’d like, please start off that discussion below.  I promise I can add to whatever discussion begins.  🙂

Do you know of anyone who has set out to write a song/musical composition, in such a foolish manner as mentioned above?


From the above description, can you name the famous popular song that fits the eleven (11) points above?  I will post the answer next week, if you don’t post it first.  Please post away!


Have a great weekend and great weekend music – start with this song:

It’s Friday, Thank God it’s Friday.  Did you just get paid?