Thursday, July 07, 2005

Paying the piper

The question as to what is a reasonable reward for those involved in the creation of music is a fascinating one. I have been reading Fiona Maddock's excellent life of Hildegard of Bingen , and it offers an interesting perspective on the reward for intellectual property creation, which may also just be relevant to the Sawking versus Hyperion court case.

In 1983 Hyperion recorded a collection of sequences and hymns by Hildegard titled A Feather on the Breath of God. The music was edited and directed by Christopher Page, and sung by Gothic Voices (which included Andrew Parrott and Emma Kirkby). The sound engineer on the recording said at the end of the session, 'Lovely music, shame no one will buy it." To remind you just how lovely the music is here is a five minute Real Audio sample linked from Hyperion's web site.

The book says Christopher Page was paid the princely sum of £45 (80 US dollars) for the recording.

A Feather on the Breath of God went on to win a Gramophone Award, became a Classic CD Magazine 'Top 100 CD of all time', and was the Guardian 'Choral record of the year'. It kickstarted the whole Hildegard and chant industry, sold half a million copies, and presumably made a shed load of money for Hyperion. Twenty two years later it is still in the catalogue at full price.

Now I have a great admiration for Hyperion. And I know that for every Feather on the Breath of God there are many, many similar recordings whose sales don't even register on the Richter scale. But it does make you think doesn't it?

If you enjoyed this post take an overgrown path to Hyperion Records face 'catastrophic' damages bill

2 comments:

Tim Rutherford-Johnson said...

Purely for interest's sake, there's another level of intellectual property rewards for this record: Feather on the Breath of God became heavily sampled by electronica artists throughout the 90s (most famously, Orbital), for which I can't imagine anyone paid Hyperion (or Page, for that matter...)

Unknown said...

What fascinates me most of this recording is the lack of vibrato in the singer's voices. Is it due to the time period of the works?