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Thread: Question about Arranging//Transcribing

  1. #1

    Default Question about Arranging//Transcribing

    Here's the story.

    My saxophone ensemble is playing Ronde Des Princesses from the Firebird Suite.
    I have a piano reduction of the rest of The Firebird Suite.

    Can I legally study the piano music and rearrange the parts for my saxophone ensemble to perform it for something like a fundraising dinner?
    Would this be arranging, transcribing, or plagiarism?

    (I have experience with notation software and with arranging stuff to avoid voicing problems...Just want to know how "okay" this is.)

  2. #2
    Distinguished Member, Forum Contributor Merlin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about Arranging//Transcribing

    It depends on where you live. Copyright statutes are different from country to country.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Question about Arranging//Transcribing

    If it helps, I live in the U.S.

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    Default Re: Question about Arranging//Transcribing

    As far as the arrangement is concerned, usually if you can hear it(and write it down), you can play it. Now the performance of it in a public venue may have licencing issues as the previous poster mentioned.

  5. #5
    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about Arranging//Transcribing

    It would only be plagiarism if you pretended to be the composer, which is unlikely. It's orchestration, and possibly arranging.

    I have often arranged copyright material for live performance and recording. I have spoken to the MCPS about doing this kind of thing in the UK, and the gist of the response is "technically, you need permission of the copyright owner", however it's usually impossible to get a reply and in practice people just do it. As long as you don't offer the arrangement for sale. Make sure you all the necessary performance details are logged at the venue. Often the venue owner or promoter will do this, any venue licensed for music should have the forms.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member CooolJazzz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about Arranging//Transcribing

    Am I mistaken...or isn't the Firebird Suite "public domain" at this point? I know the 1919 version would be public domain. The 1945 version may still have a valid copyright.

    As Pete said though...I wouldn't sweat it...especially for the purpose you described.

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    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about Arranging//Transcribing

    Quote Originally Posted by CooolJazzz View Post
    Am I mistaken...or isn't the Firebird Suite "public domain" at this point?
    The copyright in the 1919 recording is probably lapsed, but the important issue for this purpose is not the copyright in the recording, but the copyright in the composition, two different things.

    In the UK I believe it's still in copyright (= 70 years after death of composer), in the US it may be public domain but it's a bit complicated. If the original copyright was renewed.

    However, I never assume anything is public domain without checking first. In the UK it's easy enough to find out from MCPS, in the US you should be able to get the information (ASCAP?)

  8. #8
    Distinguished SOTW Member CooolJazzz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about Arranging//Transcribing

    Pete...The dates I mentioned refer to the composition dates...(I think?). I'm pretty sure the current laws in the US don't cover anything copyrighted before 1923. Changes in the copyright laws allowed for copyrights after that date to be extended for much longer than anything copyrighted prior to 1923. In that regard...it's usually safe to assume (in the US) that if it was written/published/recorded prior 1923...it's now in the public domain.

    Edit: I don't mind being proven wrong if someone knows otherwise...but I've tried to research that particular issue (the 1923 cut-off) quite a bit.

  9. #9
    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about Arranging//Transcribing

    Quote Originally Posted by CooolJazzz View Post
    Pete...The dates I mentioned refer to the composition dates...(I think?).
    Cou;ld it have been composed twice? 1919 and 1945?

    Quote Originally Posted by CooolJazzz View Post
    I'm pretty sure the current laws in the US don't cover anything copyrighted before 1923..
    I think you are probably correct about that

  10. #10
    Distinguished SOTW Member CooolJazzz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about Arranging//Transcribing

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Thomas View Post
    Cou;ld it have been composed twice? 1919 and 1945?
    There are four different "versions" that I know of...from 1910, 1911, 1919, and 1945, respectively. They basically amount to re-orchestrations...two being Ballet Suites and two being Concert Suites. The 1945 version was a Ballet Suite. What I'm not sure about is whether the orchestration was different enough to qualify for an individual copyright of its own.

  11. #11
    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about Arranging//Transcribing

    Quote Originally Posted by CooolJazzz View Post
    There are four different "versions" that I know of...from 1910, 1911, 1919, and 1945, respectively. They basically amount to re-orchestrations...two being Ballet Suites and two being Concert Suites. The 1945 version was a Ballet Suite. What I'm not sure about is whether the orchestration was different enough to qualify for an individual copyright of its own.
    So this is a very good example of why it's good to check on PD rather than assume.

    An interesting story (as a complete sideline) is that in England , Rhapsody in Blue went out of copyright in the mid 80s so there was suddenly a rash of RIBs on TV commercials. People assumed that it was 50 years after George Gerswin's death. But the publishers suddenly claimed that this was a George and Ira gershwin composition (even though it's hard to imagine a lyricists role in an instrumental), and there were several successful actions taken.

    Notwithstanding, UK copyright term was then upped to 70 years, so whatever, it came back out of public domain.

    This is also interesting:

    http://homepages.law.asu.edu/~dkarja...in/PDlist.html

  12. #12
    Distinguished SOTW Member BarrySachs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about Arranging//Transcribing

    It is common practice, regardless of law, for a performer to play any thing they want to. An arrangement, orchestration or transcription can be made for recording or performing purposes without fear of legal reprisals.

    What you cannot do, is sell an arrangement without permission from the copyright holder unless the piece is PD.

    So go ahead and write the chart for your group. No Problem.

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