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Summer 2002
Who owns the music?
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UCLA is in the forefront of addressing the complex issues with which all archives are now grappling. Last winter, the Ethnomusicology Department's conference on "The Role of the University Sound Archive in the Twenty-First Century" drew scholars from around the world.

Seeger, who spent six years as director of the ethnomusicology archive at Indiana University and 12 years as director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings at the Smithsonian Institute before coming to UCLA in 2000, has written extensively about these issues, and he serves as a member of the International Council for Traditional Music's Committee on Musical Copyright.

Copyright law alone, he says, won't solve the problem. In some respects, in fact, new laws could make things more difficult for musicians and researchers alike.

Because "most musicians take musical ideas and transform them," Seeger says, "there is a distinct possibility that more laws will further inhibit live, creative performances and restrict the exchange of musical ideas."

The African-American tradition, for example, places great emphasis on improvisation, notes Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje M.A. '72, Ph.D. '78, director of the Ethnomusicology Archive. DjeDje is an authority in both African and African-American music, the result of a personal journey that first saw her preparing to become a classical concert pianist and then led her back to her roots in her hometown of Jesup, Georgia, where she studied the gospel and spiritual music she grew up with. In that culture, she explains, performers start with a basic body of material — "music that was created, say, during the slave era, spirituals like 'Go Down Moses.' From there, each performer goes on to tell his own story, his own version of 'Go Down Moses.' It becomes a new song each time someone creates it."

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