Alexandria: Aphrodite fox trot

The cylinder of Alexandria: Aphrodite fox trot, found in the Belfer Cylinder Archive in Syracuse University, was recorded by the Della Robbia Orchestra. However, the original was recorded by Joseph C. Smith’s Orchestra in New York. This fox trot was one of the tracks from the play Aphrodite: A Romance of Ancient Egypt. The track is composed by Dr. Anselm Goetzl, who was a successful conductor, composer, and producer. He was a versatile artist who worked in orchestras and Broadway. Goetzl was the the lead conductor of the Dippel Light Opera Company and the Metropolitan Orchestra. On the side, he also composed numerous light operas.  His works include the plays The Gold Diggers (1919) and The Rose Girl (1921), and films such as Deliverance (1919). Although he was not American, the majority of his repertoire was done in the United States. Goetzl, born in 1878 was originally from Bohemia. Unfortunately he died young in 1923 from complications following a surgery in Barcelona, Spain.

Aphrodite: A Romance of Ancient Egypt is a play written by Pierre Frondaie and George C. Hazelton, it was based on a book by Pierre Louys called Aphrodite- Ancient Manners. Goetzl along with Henri Fevrier were the composers of the scores for this play. The book was the bestselling erotic novel by Louys; it is a modern Greek tragedy. The book explores the sensual world of courtesans set in ancient Egypt in Alexandria during the Ptolemaic dynasty. Demetrios, a sculptor of the court and the lover of Queen Berenice, falls in love with the powerful and seductive courtesan Chrysis during a festival dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite. Chrysis asks Demetrios to commit three crimes for her to prove his love and to gain her favor. Pierre Louys was known for being a provocative author who specialized in literature on homosexuality. His works were available in his home country, France, but they did not reach other audiences until much later. Aphrodite was published in 1896 and was well received and extremely popular in France but it did not reach other audiences till the turn of the century. The English speaking world was far more conservative until Roaring Twenties arrived.

American playwrights attended the original production in Paris in 1914, they liked it and bought the rights and brought the idea back to America. Of course changes had to be made to accommodate to the American audience. Several changes and new ideas were incorporated into the American production by the adapters Pierre Frondaie and George C. Hazelton. The artistic community was very supportive of the project and the biggest names during that time contributed to pre-production to make sure the play did the original justice. The play was performed at the Century Theater in New York City. It had a successful run from November 1919 to April 1920. The curtains went up on the brink of the Roaring Twenties where Jazz was the craze and flappers roamed the streets redefining womanhood. Due to the subject matter and the nature of the play, it could not have happened any earlier and was released at the right time.

Sources:

“Aphrodite” IBDB Internet Broadway Database. <http://www.ibdb.com/production.php?id=6730&gt;

“Deliverance” TCM Turner Classic Movies. <http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/493468/Deliverance/notes.html&gt;

“The World of Music” Etude Magazine. March 1923. <http://scriabin.com/etude/1923/03/the-world-of-music-march-1923.html&gt;

“Pierre Louys” Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Lou%C3%BFs&gt;

“Anselm Goetzl” Broadway World. <http://broadwayworld.com/bwidb/people/Anselm_Goetzl/&gt;

Frondaie, Pierre & Hazelton, George C. “Aphrodite: A Romance of Ancient Egypt” <http://books.google.com/books?id=3vULAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false&gt;

“Alexandria: Aphrodite fox trot” Syracuse University Digital Library. <http://digilib.syr.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/cylinder&CISOPTR=513&CISOBOX=1&REC=7&gt;

 

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Remix is the future

Our culture today is a remix, nothing is truly original anymore from literature to music to movies, ideas are being reused over and over again, in fact they are so stretched out everything seems repetitive. How often do you see a movie and say, “Wow that was so original I’ve never seen anything like that before?” I imagine it’s probably not too common. It is increasingly hard to come up with solid original ideas because it seems like everything has already been done. So how do we evolve and progress our culture? According to Lawrence Lessig, the answer lies in remix. In his book Remix: Making Art and Commerce in the Hybrid Economy, he argues remix is creative, progressive, and beneficial to culture. Remix is not simply copying something but mixing various previous works of art to create something new. For example, as we saw in the movie RIP: A Remix Manifesto, the artist Girl Talk samples countless songs and mixes them all together to create new songs. The problem with remix is copyright. Lessig argues there should be copyright reform because the government is turning its own citizens into criminals by suing them over downloading and copyright infringement. In Remix, Lessig questions what should be legal and what should be illegal and where that line should be drawn.

Lessig’s presents five changes that should be made to the current copyright laws in America. The first approach is to distinguish professional remix from amateur remix and deregulate the latter. An example of professional creativity would be Girl Talk, people who create mashups for a living and do it professionally. Amateur would be like someone posting fan videos on YouTube for fun. He argues that amateur remix needs to be deregulated through “free use” and that the government should stop applying “fair use” to amateur remix because they are not “copies”. His definition of copies is simply making something more accessible by not changing any of its original content. For example, a copy is when someone puts a song on YouTube so everyone can listen to it or someone uploading a movie on a file share site so anybody can download it. Normally the point of amateur remix is not to make a profit but for sharing and enjoyment so it shouldn’t be charged. I agree that free use should be applied to amateur remix because it’s a noncommercial sector and people aren’t looking to make money out of it. Like Stephanie Lenz, she simply posted a video of her son dancing to Prince’s “Let’s go crazy.” She meant no harm by uploading that video, she just wanted to show her adorable child dancing and having fun. There are many people who do that, take the baby dancing to Beyoncé’s “Single ladies” yet no lawsuit was given to those parents.

The second change he recommends is that the companies should relinquish some of their control over copyright. He claims that corporations are protective of their reputations that’s why they are so concerned with copyright. If somebody decides to take clips from Disney movies and create some sort of propaganda that would tarnish Disney’s name, of course they would be worried. Disney doesn’t want to be associated with or be responsible for anything that is offensive and will hurt its clientele. “This problem comes not, paradoxically, from a lack of control. It comes from too much control. Because the law allows the copyright owner to veto use, the copyright owner must worry about misuse,” Lessig said on page 257. If corporations are more lax about their copyright then that will lead to more creativity. It makes sense what Lessig is saying, by letting go some of their power, they can cut back on unnecessary expenses such as lawyers while at the same time allowing remix and creativity to flourish.

How do you think Warner would feel about this video? Turning Harry Potter from innocent to sex crazed?

Another reason why Lessig believes copyright reform is better is because the current copyright laws are extremely complex and difficult to understand which brings us to his third reform: simplify. If adults can’t understand this literature how does the government think children are going to respond? Lessig suggests that Congress should follow European’s model of copyright laws but doesn’t elaborate on the differences between the two. The copyright laws are long and difficult to read. In our day and age, almost everything is digital and on the Internet. Children will not understand the concept of copyright because everything is available to them through the Internet. My 12-year-old sister has been using a computer since she was about six years old, a few years ago she started converting videos to mp3 even before I knew that existed. Kids growing up in this period expect and want everything; they will not care about copyright.

The fourth change is decriminalizing the copy. According to Lessig, he says the government shouldn’t be worried about the copy, about reproducing the same ideas, but should instead worry about its distribution. For example, instead of being concerned about an artist sampling a beat, the company and artist should be worried about the other artist distributing that song with their beat. So on YouTube, there are many uploads with just music for the sake of sharing songs. This is what the government needs to regulate. I’ve seen on YouTube, the audio being stripped or the video taken down because it violated the copyright, but there is a way around it. If people state in the video’s description that they do not own it or have links to where people can download and buy the song, YouTube will leave it alone. YouTube lets them be because they are helping spread the word about the artists by putting links to Amazon mp3 and iTunes.

His fifth reform is decriminalizing file sharing. We are in the digital age now and there is no going back. Lessig recognizes that there is no way to stop file sharing sites for music and movies so he suggests charging people to join so at least this will generate revenue to compensate the artists and corporations. I think of it like radio airtime. Artists make money by having their songs played on the radio, this should apply to p2p sharing. This format will not criminalize citizens and corporations and artists will be getting paid at the same time. Here’s an interesting article on royalties artists get through airtime.

It’s understandable why the corporations are crying foul because they aren’t receiving royalties through piracy, but honestly all music and film companies are part of a bigger conglomerate so they have other revenues. I agree with most of Lessig’s reforms especially with the third and fifth ones. Remix is the future and instead of fighting against it, the government and corporations should accept it and find ways to make money from it. From charging fees on file sharing sites to receiving a portion of a mashup, the music and film industries will continue to make money. They should learn from the past that innovations help them make money. In a previous post, I commented on the development of VHS, had the Supreme Court deemed it illegal, the film industry would have never make as much money as it does now. The way to end piracy is to reform the copyright acts and simply it so everybody understands it.

Peter Gabriel + Gnarls Barkley = AMAZING

Who’s the bigger freeloader?

Woohoo done with Lessig! I must say though we’ve had some long readings, for the most part Remix was interesting and really opened my eyes to the economies of the Internet. In chapter 8, Lessig’s passage on “free-riding” made an impression on me. Free-riding refers to an equal trade off between a company and the people. It claims that while we, the citizens, gain from companies’ services, they are also gains from us using their services. Lessig gave the examples of Google and YouTube. On page 234, he asks, “Is Google riding on your work for free? Or are you riding on Google‘s work for free?” He asks the same concering YouTube. This took me a quote from chapter 2, “With every click Google gets smarter.” (P. 128). Like Lessig said, when we use Google and click on a link they do get smarter, they now know what we look and what kind of information we’re looking for and what kind of links we like. On YouTube, we can upload a video and share it with the world but we are sharing it through YouTube, in return though we get to view millions of other videos on YouTube. When websites ask us for evaluations on quality and such, that is their way of free-riding us. This way they can figure out how to make the company better and how to improve their services.

Lessig points out a few times in chapter 8 whether people like us, the citizens, should be paid by companies for using our work (clicking links on Google, watching videos on YouTube, etc.)  for free. In my opinion they do by improving and accommodating to our interests. Companies would not exist without a market and consumers, to keep their clientele and to gain new consumers, companies have to keep improving. As they improve, people will use their services. So my question for you guys is, do you think companies should “pay” the people for their work? And in your opinion, do you think one benefits more than the other?

Hollywood vs. Bollywood

So instead of writing about Lessig’s Remix, I decided to apply Harris’ four techniques of rewriting to Hollywood and Bollywood. In chapter two of Harris’ Rewriting, he presents four moves: illustrating, authorizing, extending, and borrowing. Extending is the technique that primarily applies to the film industry where it is common for industries to remake films and borrow ideas from other industries to produce new films. However, how much borrowing and extending is enough to indefinitely distinguish the two versions as their own unique works? Since we have been talking about copyright and intellectual property, don’t you think it’s unfair and not really a remake if the so-called remake is a carbon copy of the original? For example, the Hindi movie Partner, is a direct rip-off of Hitch which starred Will Smith and Kevin James. The plot is the same with the exception of one character trait difference. In Hitch, Will Smith’s love interest, Sara is a single independent woman, but in Partner, she is a single working mother. There are even scenes that are identical. Remember when Kevin James’ character, Albert decides to stop taking Hitch’s advice and tosses aside his inhaler to kiss Allegra? Well that same scene appeared in Partner as well. Or remember the dancing scene when Hitch tries to teach Albert how to dance, surprise surprise it also appeared in Partner. (sorry was only able to find a clip from Hitch)

According to Harris, extending is when one is able to make an idea and concept their own. In the case of Bollywood, changing the language and adding a few dance numbers does not necessarily remix an idea. As much as I love Bollywood films, they don’t make much of an effort to extend the concept by making changes to the plot or really putting their own spin on it. Bollywood has ripped off Hollywood and other sources time and time again, but the American film industry has done little to penalize such obvious plagiarism and stealing of intellectual property. If America is so hellbent on stopping copyright infringement and stealing of ideas, why doesn’t Hollywood go after Bollywood every time they take remake a movie without permission or replicate a scene?

The upside and downside of technology

Unlike pretty much all of America, I opted not to watch the Super Bowl because I want neither team to win (I’m still a bit bitter about the defeat of my Niners). Anyway, in chapter 6 of Lawrence Lessig’s Remix, he discusses the rising popularity of Internet commerce and presented the success stories of three Internet commerce giants: Netflix, Amazon, and Google. A quote in his story of Netflix that struck a cord with me was, “Video sale and rental revenues far surpass what the film industry makes in the theaters. Had the studios won, it’s not clear just how much the platform of success would have spread.” The point Lessig makes time and time again is creativity should not be punished and constrained. Film companies were extremely opposed to the invention of VHS because they thought it would lead to stealing and copyright infringement, which it has but it also helped studios gain a LOT of money. Had VHS and companies like Blockbuster and Netflix not emerged, the film industry would not have grown like it has in the recent decades. The film industry has profited in millions and perhaps billions through VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray, and rental revenues. After seeing all those profits, do you think film companies were complaining? I think VHS, DVD, and other technologies have expanded the industry and made it more popular and accessible. Think about it, we now have more options and ways to watch movies don’t we? The old fashion way of going to the theaters is still available and now if you’re feeling lazy you can rent a movie and stay at home or you can even stream a film on your computers thanks to Netflix and Hulu.

It is true, our society is increasingly reliant on the Internet but I know people are nostalgic and still love to go to the movies. I have a subscription with Netflix and I love it, but I also enjoy going to the movies too. My questions to you guys are do you every now and then go to watch a movie in the theaters? Do you have a Netflix subscription and do you like it? Also, in your opinion, do you see companies like Netflix as harmful to society (by making us puppets to the Internet) or do you see it as convenient and useful?