I've been a bit slow off the mark with this one. A few days ago Matthew Guerrieri over on Soho the Dog wrote about Rachmaninov's great-great grandson, 'Alexander Temple Wolkonsky Rachmaninoff Wanamaker', and how he wants to alter some of the musical scores to enable the family to retain copyright. More on the subject in the Arizona Daily Star.
There has been an outcry, as you would expect, no-one wants to see changes made to music long after the composer has died.
However, I don't feel it is as straight forward as that, and in fact this kept me awake last night! I left a comment on 'Soho the Dog' and will be interested to see if there is a reaction.
The issues I raised looked at things from a slightly different perspective.
The more I thought about it the more I realised that if a family owned a large property that had been handed down through the generations, or even just the family heirlooms, then they would be furious if suddenly after 'x' number of years it was all taken away and put in the public domain.
However, if they discovered that they could retain that property by adding an extension to the West wing, or making a minor alteration, then you would understand them undertaking the work, hopefully sympathetically, in order to continue the line of inheritance.
The other thing is that for the composer, I do feel that they also would want their descendants to benefit from any success they may have had and continue to have long after their death.
It's basic biology that we want to take care of our blood line after our deaths if that is possible. For a few lucky people that is the case.
There is something quite reassuring that a piece composed now may help future generations of that family even though they won't ever meet.
It should be remembered that the original scores will still be around, and there are numerous recordings of Rachmaninov's works available. That can't be undone.
If, as the great-great grandson is suggesting, a composer is employed to make a few alterations, then we can only hope that they will be minimal.
For lesser known composers, I think they will just be pleased that their music is kept alive.
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