Monday, September 8, 2008

Musical Piracy - 1770s Style

In 1770 the then 14-year old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart came to Rome from Salzburg with his father during Holy Week. He attended concerts of the Sistine Chapel Choir, whose signature masterpiece was Allegri's Miserere, sung only on three days during Holy week, a piece so sublime and coveted with its soaring voices that the Holy See forbade publishing the music, lest it fall into hands other than those of the Sistine Choir. Mozart heard it once, maybe twice, went back to his hotel room and wrote it down from memory.

Word got out that the music was now available and the guards of the Holy See showed up in Mozart's hotel room demanding to know how he had gotten hold of the music. When he told them, the guards didn't believe him, so he sat down and wrote out the first twelve measures again from memory. They finally believed him. The secret was out. And so began one of the earliest chapters of musical piracy.

What once required a 1000-year genius can now be done by anyone. This is how technology becomes the great leveler.

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