|(Radio Digest from 1931 with Lily Pons on cover)|
"Forgotten Voices" is based on the idea of using voices from old radio broadcasts of the 1930s as the foundation for new music I create. I don't sing, so I think this is a fun way to get some human voices into my pieces without worrying too much about infringing on copyrights (see my BOTB post with The Verve for good reasons why it's best to avoid sampling material with protected copyrights).
In searching for some vocal material to use for a song, I came across a recording that just said it was from a radio broadcast of a piece called "The Bell Song" aria from sometime in the 1930s. I loved the haunting voice and started to build a tune around some samples from it. I chopped and rearranged, adjusted timing, added MIDI drums, some keyboards, bass, some bell sounds, and nine or ten guitar tracks (rhythm, fills, and leads).
This piece took a long time to make, but I like how it turned out. Take a listen and then I'll talk a little more about the source vocal samples (HERE's the link ot it at SoundCloud if the embedded player below doesn't work):
Thanks for listening! I really appreciate that, and I hope you enjoyed what I did with this.
But, as I mentioned above about those vocal samples from the radio:
Lakme" written by Leo Delibes in 1882. It was performed many times during the 1920s to 1940s by the famous opera singer Lily Pons. It became her "featured piece" and was strongly associated with her. She even did it in a 1935 movie starring Lily Pons and Henry Fonda called "I Dream Too Much".
And I'm pretty sure that's Lily Pons singing in the samples I've used in my re-imagined "The Bell Song".
Which this brings up the questions:
Is a "famous" singer doing a well-known aria really a "forgotten voice?" Also, one of the points of using old radio "forgotten voices" is to avoid infringing on copyrights -- so how loose of footing am I on here?
Well, I think the first question may be valid, but it's still been around 80 years or so since the samples I used were originally recorded, and Lily's been deceased since 1976. And I think there's likely a good percentage of people who've never heard of her. So I'll give this question a, "not preferred, but acceptable" answer. While I really enjoyed making this, in general I'd much rather use truly unknown or "forgotten" voices.
As to the copyright: That is definitely a valid question. But after some thought and research, here's what I think.
-- With recordings, there are actually two areas of copyright. The written song itself and the recording of a particular performance (that's why the Verve had to settle out of court twice). Here, the actual song was written in 1882 and I'm pretty certain it's now in the public domain. I doubt if the estate of Leo Delibes has any qualms about me using samples of the aria from his opera.
RKO Pictures could still own the copyright or it has passed through a legitimate and legal chain of ownership since. But after listening, I'm pretty sure the samples I've used are NOT from that soundtrack. Plus, there are also tons of other versions of Lily Pons doing this aria out there on the Internet, and to my ears, it doesn't sound like I've used any of the ones that I found on YouTube. Like I said, it was her "signature piece" and was performed many, many times by her. So I'm acting in good faith that the version I've used was recorded specifically for a radio broadcast and that the origin has been lost through the years.
-- However, just because I don't know exactly where a recording of a radio program comes from it does not technically remove me from any legal obligations to the true copyright holder. But that's a risk with the whole "Forgotten Voices" concept -- In all of these songs, the original source recordings and copyrights are potentially lost through the years, and so I'm doing my best to not intentionally infringe on anyone known (or likely to even still care).
-- Finally, I'm also clearly not trying to profit from anyone's work because I'm not -- you know -- making ANY profit. I'm sharing these freely and not charging a thing. This points to the "intent" of using these samples. What I'm doing may not cleanly fall under the "Fair Use," guidelines, but I'm at least definitely trying to minimize damages to any potential copyright holders who may still be out there somewhere.
So that covers my legal thoughts -- but what about my recording itself?
Well as always -- I really hope you enjoyed it, and I'm happy to hear any feedback you might care to offer.
Thanks again for listening!