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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

Music, Technology, and Copyright

Instructor(s): Ben Givan, Music

Big music corporations are sending mixed messages. One company tells kids to go ahead and “rip, mix, burn” while the industry’s trade group sues twelve-year olds for downloading songs from the internet. What’s a first-year Skidmore student to do? This course takes a historical perspective on some critical questions facing today’s music industry. What is a musical work? How have reproduction and distribution technologies such as music notation, sound recording, and the internet altered the work-concept and the roles of composers and performers? How, in grappling with these questions, should intellectual property laws best preserve the rights of music producers and consumers? The course will compare concepts of the art work in oral cultures—using examples like Homeric epic poetry, Gregorian chant, and contemporary hip-hop—with philosophical theories based on literate Western culture. Classic writings by Walter Benjamin and Marshall McLuhan will suggest some ways of understanding how sound recording and the internet have changed how people compose, perform, and listen to music. Students in this seminar will explore historical, ethical and legal perspectives on critical questions involving the conflict between musical ownership and creative freedom.

Course Offered