So I wrote this song, sort of. Maybe you’ll like it.

YouTube version
Sheet Music
Reference files at Archive.org

After about 6 years of covering pop songs in my a cappella groups, I really wanted to sing some original music. In part, I was motivated by the US’s aggressively restrictive copyright regime, which always prevented us from freely sharing recordings of our own performances.

I tried to write a song from scratch for a while, but it wasn’t working out, mostly because I don’t have anything interesting to say. Then I struck upon the idea of using the text of an old out-of-copyright poem (which, because of the US’s effectively perpetual copyright, has to be very old indeed). I started browsing through the poetry section of WikiSource, until I stumbled across this brilliant 1895 poem by Langdon Smith. The choice was clear.

I drew up a thoroughly derivative 4-part a cappella arrangement in MuseScore, and VoiceLab indulged me by adding it to the repertoire. We’ve sung it twice so far, but the first time we didn’t have a good recording, and then this time I had to solve this audio-video alignment problem… but now it’s here.

The recordings and sheet music are all CC0 dedicated to the public domain. I would appreciate attribution as the arranger, but I find threats of legal action to be just as distasteful as plagiarism. I wouldn’t want to do anything to discourage people from adopting and adapting the music as they see fit. Maybe someone will make a recording with a soloist who can really sing!

3 thoughts on “Evolution”

  1. There are a lot of people singing and I can’t be sure that all had their consent to it being dedicated through CC0, so I’m asking you, was it ok for them for it to be dedicated to the public domain under CC0 1.0 Universal or did you not ask them?

    Great piece! It also introduces me more to the A cappella style of music. (now that I look at Wikipedia this piece of yours may help the ‘A cappella’ article so people can listen to how A cappella may sound)

    1. It’s a fair point … although if the other singers also have a copyright interest, then what about our friend operating the camera? What about the University itself? The greatest danger of intellectual property law is often its uncertainty.

      In fact, I did clear this release with other members of the group, so there’s no real concern there. I’m also the President of Harvard VoiceLab (the performing group in the video), which I believe empowers me to make licensing decisions on behalf of the group.

  2. “The greatest danger of intellectual property law is often its uncertainty.”
    Yes. I asked out of my enthusiasm for the work. I love to find works released to the public domain using legal tools such as CC0 1.0 Universal(which is the only one I recommend that works worldwide). I feel donating a work to the public domain is a great contribution to humanity in general regardless of how popular the work of art is.

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