A Musical Web
Beethoven's Internet-Like Concept Took 194 Years to Manifest Itself
A 31-year-old musician conceptualized an innovative concept that would change the music world forever. He said, "There ought to be but one large art warehouse in the world, to which the artist could carry his art-works and from which he could carry away whatever he needed." The year was 1801, the man was Ludwig van Beethoven and his concept was finally realized in 1995 with the public acceptance of the Internet.
As a violinist and violin teacher I know exactly how frustrated dear Ludwig felt. Before the Internet I too was frustrated with the limited learning resources available to my students and me. Sheet music and books were expensive, any obscure information was near impossible to unearth and researching meant hours probing through dusty outdated library books. Most difficult, however, was living in rural BC with no connection to other violinists, big city music groups or current ideas floating around the global music scene.
Apparently other musicians felt the same way and used the Internet as a tool to overcome these and many other obstacles. Web sites, file transfer systems, message boards and music forums, software and other technologies improved communication between musicians, thus creating an advanced global music community.
To start I used online encyclopedias for research projects and concert program notes, but soon learned to use other tools. I learned to use the web to locate song lyrics and quotations, such as the one by Beethoven. If the words or lyrics aren't in English I use an online tool that automatically translates them for me!
The availability of music on the internet is stunning! You can download any song your heart desires in MP3 format within seconds. This area of the internet has become controversial as the record companies want us to pay for the music and "peer to peer" protocol violates copyright laws. Don't want to ripp off the artists and break the law? For only $1 per tune you can legally download all the music you like from sites like "puretracks."
As for sheet music, thousands of sites offer a similar pay-and-use system where you can download a wide range of titles. Can't find the sheet music you're looking for? Search for MIDI files (music reproduced digitally) then input them into a music notation application (computer program for writing music) that automatically turns it into sheet music.
Using my "Noteworthy Composer" program, available on the Internet for $39 US, I can create a song, edit it to suit the player's skill level, add a harmony, include the lyrics and have it printed within 10 minutes. The best part, other than the cost, is the editability. I can make any changes to the music I want, such as changing the key, with ease. No more writing the music out by hand either. Beethoven would have appreciated that.
One of my favourite things to do online is to download professional quality images of violins, musicians and composers for my newsletters and publications. Using such photos improves the projects I work on and is far cheaper than hiring a graphic artist. The search for good photos has been made easier with the invention of image searches, which scour millions of web pages and catalogue the images. During a recent image search I was completely stunned to find photos of myself playing violin!
As a teacher I am always furthering my education and training. I use the Internet as a source for enhancing my violin technique and knowledge and for sharing ideas with other musicians. If I can't find what I'm looking for I can post the query on a "bulletin board" for another musician to answer. Recently I saw comments on such a site by the Kamloops Symphony Conductor, Bruce Dunn, regarding Saint Saens' 3rd Symphony. I was surprised to "bump into" someone I know on a worldwide system with millions of users. Small world.
The 'net has become the world's largest shopping centre with millions of dollars working through the system each day. I enjoy using the internet to research instruments, accessories and music books and keep up on what products are available for myself and my shop, www.fiddleheads.ca. Gone are the days of being convinced by a sales rep that his product is the best. I can check musician's forums and read feedback on any of the products I am considering before I buy. I am also able to shop and sell online using tools such as Ebay and E-commerce solutions and can attract buyers from around the world rather than being limited to a local market.
Beethoven once said, "Music is the soil in that the spirit lives, thinks and invents." It's been over 200 years since dear Ludwig invented his "art warehouse" and musicians are finally reaping the benefits of such a music exchange. For me the creation of the Internet has enhanced and improved the way I enjoy music. More importantly it has helped me feel like a part of a wonderfully vast music community: a community visualized by Beethoven himself.