My wife, my daughter (the young drummer) and I recently went to the St. Louis stop on the Steve Gadd drum clinic tour (details here). Gadd, perhaps the most respected drummer in the music business today, played drums and answered lots of questions.
Of special interest to me were his comments about the culture of drumming and creativity. He explained how he used to play records at slow speeds to learn how drummers played on certain tracks. He talked about all the drummers he had learned from, drummers he borrowed ideas from and how drummershave always shared ideas and techniques and learned from each other.
He stressed the notion of a great continuing conversation between drummers and that the learning of drumming was transferred by drummers talking to each other and sharing what they knew.
He painted a picture of an exciting, creative space where drum ideas were put out into the world at large and used and modified by other drummers to create an evolving, vibrant music.
He pointed to a number of his tracks that were subtle variations on other drum tracks and how ideas were incorporated into some of the most famous drum tracks in popular music.
When people talk these days about the remix culture, I see the world of drumming that Gadd described. With a culture of sharing, music and art grows, evolves, honors the past and creates the future. And thats how its been for thousands of years.
Today, we look at intellectual property rights, digital rights management, ownership and control with a such a fierce determination and a fixation on property that I worry about whether well be left owning bundles of more and more elaborate IP rights to less and less interesting works and leave a legacy of art and culture that is much poorer than when it was turned over to us so that we could leave our own mark on human culture.
Laws have consequences, often unintended ones. Lets be very careful out there. Marty points to efforts to control and exploit for financial gain the ownership of weather data. Maybe its important. Maybe its very important. But I cant say that its not important. Try explaining to your children how someone can own the weather information.
In fact, theres an important kind of creativity based on reorganizing, recasting and repositioning existing ideas and materials in new and unexpected ways that let us see new connections and see with new eyes. Are we now in danger of legislating and litigating this type of human creativity out of existence?
What is the value of your song if youve made it so only a few can hear it? I cant dance to a copy of your copyright registration form.
Monetarily, it might be greater, at least by record company calculations, but the musicians Ive known want as many people as possible to hear his or her song. Its about hit records and hearing your song played and enjoyed by people.
Lets not forget that there is a lot at stake in almost every intellectual property legal issue we face today. I hope we are not creating a world where my daughter cant learn Steve Gadds drum techniques or play his tracks and try to evolve them into her own without having lawyers negotiate for her rights to do so.
Note: This post was inspired by my first listen to Bruce Springsteens new Devils and Dust CD.