Final Thoughts.

We made it to the end of the project, and ended up with not one, but two versions of Pachelbel’s Canon.  You can listen to them below.  The reason for two I will also explain below, but it does involve the three distinct areas I wanted to explore in this project. Those were: ‘Originality’, as what part of this project could be considered original. ‘Ownership’, as in who owns any of the various parts of what I created and how much. Finally, ‘Moral Right’, which deals with the intention of the work.

Final Audio

This version is using my recreation using the original Mac Start Up Chime voicing.

This version is using my recreation using the corrected Mac Start Up Chime voicing.

Originality

I think an important aspect of originality that is often overlooked in regards to this project is how originality is viewed. In general, society tends to view originality in terms of wholeness. Rarely does society regard incremental originality with the same vigor. So even thought this piece as a whole may lack complete originality, can parts of it be considered original? If so, how does one quantify that incremental originality? This is compounded by the fact that many tend to associate new and original with better even though that is not necessarily a true statement. For example, remember Coca-Cola’s attempt to introduce ‘New Coke’ in 1985. Despite the newness, the majority did not receive the product as better than the original. Compare this to the incremental improvement of the Aunt Jemima icon in 1989. Although the pancake mix products remained the same, the public embraced the new look of their icon as original and better, because it attempted to break racial stereotypes.

Obviously the music itself is not original, but are the sounds I used original? For the Intel Bong, although the sound existed unto itself, it did not exist as a sample instrument that I needed for the Melody tracks. I don’t know if anyone else has thought of turning the Intel Bong into a sample instrument, but if no one has, then by definition would not that act be original? So if that act is original, how derivative is it from the original tone? As I noted when I was making the sample bank, most people I tested by playing them the sound did not identify the bong sound until I played it in conjunction with the Intel jingle melody.

In regards to the Mac Start Up Chime, I did attempt to recreate the sound from the ground up. However, I was intending to create something that was identical to the original. So even though my process of creating the sound was unique, the resulting sound was not. In the eyes of the law, sound-a-likes have existed in a strange middle ground with regards to copyright. For a significant amount of time, sound-a-like productions were considered derivative but still original productions. However, this significantly changed with the Midler v. Ford Motor Co. The case Bette Midler brought against the Ford Motor Company examined the question of whether a distinguished feature can be protected as intellectual property. The case itself involved a series of commercials that Ford produced in which the background music featured a female singer imitating Ms. Midler’s sound and style. Eventually, the case fell in Ms. Midler’s favor; that distinguishing features are protected. So then, if I did not create a new sound, what are the defining features of the Mac Start Up Chime?

Ownership

If something is going to be defined as original, then it needs to be quantified in some form to declare ownership. As I discovered, the Apple’s Trademark for Mac Start Up Chime is incorrect. I cannot say if this error would be great enough to invalidate the trademark should it be pressed in court [although my friend Chadd pointed out that if one had enough time, money, and was bored enough they could probably have a fun time with that]. However, even if it was enough to cause a loss of Trademark ownership for Apple, Apple still would not lose Ownership of the Chime itself. My guess is that the Chime as an audio production [similar to audio found on a record or compact disc] and covered by the copyrights and EULA’s intrinsic to using the OS X operating system, and there is extensive documentation of the use of the Chime in the marketplace. As for the Intel Bong, it is probably clear that is the Intel sound. Still, for the Alto line, in which I use the vocoder with the Intel Bong, one has to ask if they still retain those distinctive features of that sound even though I am applying them onto another sound. Would a Bette Midler case for ownership apply in this case?

Of course, ownership in the above cases applies to the outcome of previous endeavors. In regards to this project, as the creative entity, I did do the work to piece everything together, and I own the raw project files needed to create everything. However, would Intel’s or Apple’s ownership of the assets I used in the project entitle them to claim ownership over the larger work? This is a question that is often at the core of many copyright disputes. An infamous case of something like this happening is the story of The Verve’s song “Bittersweet Symphony”. Although Bittersweet Symphony is considered an original work by most of the public, it ended up being attributed to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards because of a audio sample used in the song from a derivative piece of work.

The only counter to the above point is the fact I specifically choose a song that is in the public domain to present the juxtaposition. How could one exert possession over something that belongs to the public? The problem still remains that one needs a quantifiable way to measure the amount of possession of ownership. But is there even a legitimate way to do that?

Take the recent copyright case between Robin Thicke/Pharrell Williams and the estate of Marvin Gaye. Joe Bennett examines extensively and quantifiably how ‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘Got To Give It Up’ are not the same song. Yet, even despite quantifiable reasoning, the verdict still went for the Gaye Estate. This would indicate that the human measures of ownership are more subjective when it comes to audio intellectual property. So even though I claim and agree that parts of this project definitely belong to other parties, is it possible to declare that as a whole, the project belongs to no one? Also who would administrate that which belongs to no one?

Integrity

It is obvious that questioning ownership brings up a lot of questions, but a third area I encountered is that of moral rights of the piece of music. Typically, one would think that ‘moral rights’ would refer to the appropriateness of creating a work of art or not. However, in the art world ‘moral rights’ refer to the use and presentation of a work of art in terms of an artist intent. In the case of the project, it was a personal dilemma involving the integrity of the final product. An example is that an artist can create a work for hire; therefore ownership would ultimately belong to the hiring entity. However, if the hiring entity chooses to use the work in a venue or presentation that the artist found objectionable to the artist, can they still exert say in how the work is presented? For example, imagine if an artist is hired to paint a large mural. It would be a work for hire. However, if the artist learned the mural was to be hung in an execution chamber, the artist could wield moral rights if the artist held the belief that the death penalty is wrong.

Now, the moral dilemma I encountered in this project was not nearly as controversial. The dilemma I had concerns itself with why there are two final version of the song. If you listen to the first recording, one will notice that the music becomes quite dissonant at times; the second one not so much. The reason the first is dissonant sounding has to do with the Mac Start Up Chime. If you remember from the previous post, the Start Up Chime is not a single note but a Major Chord. Unfortunately, as the chord is transposed during the song, this major chord clashes with the chord progression of Pachelbel’s Canon, which contains two minor chords; the iii and the vi. So when the song is supposed to be in a minor chord, this first transposed version of the bass line actually plays a major chord, and thus is out of tune with whatever is playing within the melody lines. Fortunately, because I chose to recreate the Mac Start Up Chime from the ground up I did have the ability to correct what the computer was playing at those moments. This was actually a simple fix, resulting in the second recording.

The problem arises from my intention with the project. In my head, I wanted to use the Mac and Intel sound in as natural form as I could. However, in programming the music to play a minor chord for the Mac Start Up Chime at times, I effectively change the sound. Yes, the change is minor (no pun intended), but there is a part of me that considers the change enough that it is no longer truly the Mac Start Up Chime. This is because I have made the sound malleable, and the iconic sound is not malleable by virtue of being iconic. So the resulting music is better sonically, but I personally feel like I lost some of what I considered original about the project in the first place. Although, it is true that many would argue counter to that point that by correcting the dissonance, I created something more original; the intention of the project is now subjective. It is not exactly within the realm of what I consider the original idea but derivative. So I am left wondering if I even want to claim any ownership or originality since both end products are not what I envisioned.

After reflection on what was covered in class and this project, I was left with the question of which ethical theory best applies itself to digital audio. In regard to the issues I have wrestled with in this project, I think deontological ethics probably offers the best solution in dealing with intellectual property. The reasoning is that with deontological ethics, all actions must be judged on the intention of the act. To quote Ecclesiastes 1:9:

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

All acts of creativity can be traced to at least having an inspiration in something that has come before. The real question in examining originality and ownership is how does one quantify and measure that? As one can see with this project, although there are strong indicators, there does not seem to be a clear definition. Yet, somehow I think an artist intentions could definitively be seen as a guiding force in measuring.

 

 

About ForeverTangent

Currently a Masters of Computer Science Student at the University of Kentucky.
Previous Masters of Entertainment Technology from Carnegie Mellon.
Before that Graduated from Berklee College of Music.
I have worked for Public Radio and the Video Games industry.
Most of my interests now are UI and Accessibility Issues for Technology.

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