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These articles were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 14,
1999. All rights reserved. U.S. 1 had two cover stories for this issue.
For the story SHARKS OF SUMMER go to
Digital Audio on the Net — Truth & Consequences
by Douglas Dixon
The growth of the Internet has created both wonderful
new opportunities for people to share their work with a much wider
audience around the world, and frightening changes that threaten to
destroy existing businesses. Both of these forces are at work with
the distribution of music over the Internet: powerful audio compression
technology makes it easy to publish and download music anywhere in
the world, and at the same time widespread distribution of "free"
music threatens to put the record companies out of business.
"Like everything else on the Internet," says Paul Lansky,
chairman of the Department of Music and professor of music composition
at Princeton University, "it’s totally chaotic, and very exciting."
Lansky has been teaching at Princeton for 30 years. As a composer
of digital music, he has seen the development of digital audio technology
from a lone pursuit that required huge expensive machines to a commonplace
activity that today’s kids take for granted when they play a music
CD on their PC. As a published artist, Lansky also uses the Internet
to post information about the solo CDs of his work, and even to provide
sample clips for downloading. The Internet greatly increases the community
of people interested in his work. "I have contact with more people,"
he says, "significantly more." A recent work, "Dancetracks,"
with Steve Mackey, is downloaded around 300 times a week.
The Department of Music at Princeton also has been moving rapidly
to take advantage of Internet audio technologies to share information
and distribute faculty and student work to a much wider audience.
The department’s Web page not only provides the expected information
about the department, its staff, courses, and activities, but also
provides links to special collections of music information hosted
Princeton’s Gregorian Chant Home Page, for example, was developed
to support advanced research on Gregorian chant, particularly for
the graduate seminar "Problems in Early Christian Music" taught
Developed by Peter Jeffery, professor of musicology, it contains links
to Princeton course materials, as well as other chant research and
related sites. This popular site has won several "Web site of
the week" and "way cool site" awards, and was selected
as a resource for Discovery Channel School’s Great Books Program.
It attracts researchers interested in post-doctoral fellowships in
this area, and receives around 10,000 visitors a month.
For the more technically inclined, the Princeton music Web site contains
"lots of materials for students looking to study music," says
Lansky, "as well as links to on-line applications." The site
includes extensive material from current and recent Princeton courses,
and the Princeton Sound Kitchen, a collection of "home-made"
music software developed at Princeton that has been made publicly
available at no cost.
Beyond providing information, the Web also provides
the opportunity to distribute recorded music directly to users around
the world. In 1995-’96, Princeton published two CDs of music by Princeton
composers, which were made available for $5 to cover shipping and
handling. In December, 1998, Princeton held its first Princeton Sound
Kitchen Internet Radio Show, which broadcast music performances directly
over the Internet. No fuss, no muss, no shipping and handling, just
your music distributed directly to anywhere in the world. Princeton
has since held two more Radio Shows, in February and May.
The power of Internet distribution permits you to both broadcast live
performances, and to archive them so other visitors can listen to
them later. Princeton uses the RealAudio format from RealNetworks
Inc. for compressing and transmitting audio sequences. Using the RealPlayer
software at your computer, you can receive "streaming" audio
or video material over the Internet, and hear (or see) it in real
time as it is received, instead of waiting to download a file before
you can play it. "RealAudio has been very encouraging for
us," says Lansky, "they keep our audio files on their site."
The Web pages for each Radio Show also provides links to each of the
five or six pieces that were performed during each hour-long show.
These are stored in RealAudio format, and also in the new MP3
format. MP3 is an abbreviation for MPEG audio, level 3, developed
by the Motion Picture Experts Group as part of a series of international
standards for video and audio compression, which are used on PCs (sometimes),
and in consumer products such as high-definition TV (HDTV).
The magic of the MP3 audio compression format is that it cuts down
the amount of data by a factor of 10, and yet still sounds quite good.
The compression algorithm takes into account knowledge about how the
human auditory system actually works, and removes sound information
that is less audible to the human ear. Music is stored on an audio
CD in uncompressed format, and can be copied to your PC in Microsoft
Windows Wave format. In uncompressed form, a stereo music clip requires
10 megabytes of data per minute, or 40 MB for a four-minute song,
which means you can fit a maximum of 16 songs on a 650 MB audio CD
disc. But with MP3 compression, songs only require 1 MB per minute,
or around 4 MB for a typical song (or even less if you give up a little
more quality by applying more compression).
At these sizes, it’s not difficult to copy and store music as digital
files. You can extract your favorite songs from CDs and burn a single
CD-ROM with 160 songs. Or you can download them to the new Diamond
Multimedia Rio MP3 Player, a small portable personal music player
which is like a Walkman, but with no moving parts, just computer memory
to store and play back your song collection. For around $200, you
can store 64 MB of songs, or up to 60 minutes of digital-quality music
and up to 12 hours of voice quality audio.
But, worst of all for the record companies, at these sizes it’s also
quite reasonable to post and download songs right over the Internet.
You can download a high quality four-minute song in around 20 minutes
over a good 50K modem connection, for just the cost of the phone call.
As a result, MP3 has taken the Internet by storm in the past year,
and kicked up a lot of fuss from the record companies as artists started
posting their own clips, and others posted bootleg copies of popular
tracks from new CDs. New sites like MP3.com have sprung up to offer
independent musicians the opportunity to bring their music before
a broad audience, and even established artists have begun posting
samples. MP3.com claims to have tens of thousands of clips available,
and has 200,000 visits a day.
The recording industry’s initial response to this threat has been
to go to court, but with mixed success. The Recording Industry Association
of America (RIAA) sued Diamond Multimedia over the Rio MP3 Player,
but lost the decision in federal court last month. MP3.com has also
been threatened with legal action, but the recording industry is now
turning to industry groups such as the Secure Digital Music Initiative
to work out joint standards for selling and transmitting digital audio.
ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers,
also recently announced a licensing agreement with MP3.com, providing
royalties for downloaded music.
Even with all this turmoil, Lansky is "not pessimistic" about
the recording industry. "People will want their own music,"
he argues. "They like to have the CD box." Lansky has chosen
not to distribute his work through these mega Web sites. "I want
them all in one place, so I have control over them and can change
them." He was disappointed in an earlier experience with one of
the sites, which posted some "terrible" CD sound samples in
mono, giving an experience "like listening with one ear to AM
radio." At his own site, he can provide the larger context of
his work, so "people can know what I do," and he can provide
links to "CD liner notes, articles, and software".
Lansky’s interest in music began at an early age. He
attended the High School of Music and Art and Queens College in New
York. He was headed towards a career as a French horn player, but
in his early 20s he decided that "I was as good as I was going
to get." Luckily, he had broader interests; his father was in
the recording industry, as manager for Capital Records in New York
City, so Lansky was able to visit and famous musicians like Count
Basie. As a result, he became interested in "the whole process
of recording," and particularly composition, which brought him
to Princeton as a graduate student in 1966.
Lansky became interested in digital music almost as soon as he came
to Princeton. The late 1960s were pioneering days, when they used
the one computer on the Princeton campus to generate digital music,
and then had to drive up to Bell Labs to hear the results, which were
"usually awful." By 1973 they had their own equipment, but
the process was still a struggle as they had to write tapes and carry
them over to a separate machine. By the early 1980s, he was working
full time on digital music, and has devoted most of his time to it.
Digital music is interesting to Lansky because you can "look inside"
music, you can "take microscopes to sound." His interest is
in "using sounds in musical ways," and "finding ways to
get computers to help tell us musically interesting things about the
world around us." His recent compositions have involved exploring
music derived from recorded sounds, finding music in the ebb and flow
of the sounds around us.
Lansky’s "Conversation Pieces" (Bridge Records, 1998) contains
"musical journeys in the company of familiar friends," building
on the sounds of a casual conversation or even the resonance of a
single piano note. In "Folk Images" (Bridge Records, 1995),
he works from familiar folk songs to develop his own personal perspective
about what he loves best about folk music. Earlier, in "Homebrew"
(Bridge Records, 1992), he works with the "mundane, everyday noises
of daily life," to make "the ordinary seem extraordinary,
the unmusical, musical." He found "implicit music in the `worldnoise’
around us," including night traffic, reading to children, and
The exciting aspect of digital music for Lansky is the control he
has over the whole process: "It can be manipulated without degree,
transferred, copied, edited." Digital music composition is "more
powerful and interesting," with the equivalent of "lots of
small wheels and buttons" for controlling the process in fine
detail. In addition, with digital audio, there is no inherent loss
as happens when transferring an analog tape to an LP record, in which
every step introduces noise and more degradation. Instead, "everyone
gets my original sound."
Lansky enjoys the feedback from maintaining his Web page. He "got
in very early, five or six years ago." He admits his pages are
"sloppy," done by hand, but he likes the sloppy look: "It’s
the feeling of a workshop, not a lawyer’s waiting room." He includes
links to CD stores selling his work, and posts clips of his pieces
and "teasers" of his new work to solicit responses. He also
checks the access logs to find out from where the pages are being
Links to the Princeton pages show up in unlikely places, particularly
when the links are generated by automated Internet search robots.
Recently, the search engines found the "Princeton" name and
indexed their pages under the artist formerly known as Prince. Lansky’s
"Fantasies and Tableaux" (CRI, 1994), based on a poem by Thomas
Campion, was indexed under "erotic fantasies."
"It’s a zoo," says Lansky, with "lots of activity."
The Internet provides a "good way for students to get their work
out there." With digital audio, the "spirit of the Internet"
is alive and well.
of Musical Studies, 609-258-4241, fax 609-258-6793. Http://music.princeton.edu/
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Even as a composer at Princeton University tries to
leverage technology to make his music available to the widest possible
audience, a programmer for a Japanese firm is laboring on the opposite
side of the fence — to protect music from being digitally copied.
Walter J. Boyles used to belong to a wholly owned startup of Mitsubishi
Electronic America. Now that company has spun back into the Japanese
firm, is headquartered in Cypress, California, and is known as the
Mitsubishi Electronics America-Electronics Devices Group (MELA-EDG).
"We have a large group in Japan with some well-known people working
there," says Boyles, naming Mitsuru Matsui, the inventor of linear
cryptoanalysis and major techniques for breaking cryptomatic codes,
known as public key cryptography. He has a one-person office on Princeton-Hightstown
A native of Long Island, where his father was an attorney, Boyles
majored in electrical engineering at State University of New York
at Stony Brook, Class of 1981. He was brought on board to work with
security and encryption, then did a stint selling chips, but now works
on electronic copy protection on the Internet and elsewhere. "That’s
video and music, and we’re moving to electronic books. Anything that
is electronic is easy to copy — that’s the problem," says
Boyles, whose R&D efforts have resulted in some patent filings.
"Artists are trying to bypass the record companies and sell music
directly over the Internet. The new world of digital content will
be tough on existing industries if steps aren’t taken," says Boyles.
He names the CD player as "one of the great coups of all times.
You can put your CD in a player, rip tracks off of it, and post them
on the web. You have a channel of music distribution that is not paid
for. There is no way to secure something already out there in digital
form that has the decoder; the decoder is the CD player."
The "Secure Digital Music Initiative" was a cross company
effort funded by the record industry to combat such copying, he explains.
"When they formed SDMI in fall ’98, the statistic was that 90
percent of the MP3 files on the Internet were downloaded without royalties.
Whether it’s movies or print, people are concerned about royalty-free
copy. At SDMI (http://www.sdmi.org) they are striving diligently
to develop an alternative to mp3 that has a level of security to it."
Opposing the record companies, he notes, is the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, which does not want restrictions imposed on new content,
which it equates to free speech and free expression. "The music
and film industry would like to see royalties protected, but the appliance
industry would like to sell more players," summarizes Boyles.
"I don’t know what is going to happen."
— Barbara Fox
Group (MELA-EDG), 379 Princeton-Hightstown Road, Building 3, Suite
11, Cranbury 08512. Walter J. Boyles, business development manager.
609-426-0095; fax, 609-426-0183.
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