Month: July 2009

With a little Alp from my friends

Today in Intellectual Property news: copyright law invades the domain of Bavarian beer-hall yodeling.

The money-spinning power of “horlla-rü-di-ri, di-ri, di-ri”, the famous chorus of the Kufsteinlied, which is capable of making even the hardiest of lederhosen-clad Germans go weak at the knees, has been keenly felt this week in a Munich courtroom battle over who owns the copyright.

The heirs of Karl Ganzer, the Austrian composer of the 63-year-old beer-hall hit which is said to be Europe’s most-played folk song, were yesterday successful in their attempts to sue the music publisher Egon Frauenberger, who claimed he had written the song’s refrain and therefore had a right to a twelfth of the royalties.

The most famous version of the “Kufsteinlied” was recorded in 1968 by Franzl Lang, the Jodlerkönig. Here he is singing it in 1991. Now I’m thirsty.

In the ballpark

Reading that the Boston Symphony Orchestra management and players have agreed to freeze salaries at their current minimum of $128,180, Thomas Garvey asks—more to the point, asks why my Globe colleague Geoff Edgers isn’t asking, “Why is the BSO so overpaid?” The answer? Because they’re not. Here are the starting salaries for either the last or the coming season for the traditional Big Five, plus San Francisco and Los Angeles:

The BSO is right in the middle of that pack. Garvey unfavorably contrasts that pay with theater pay—for example, the minimum Actor’s Equity salary in Boston is $529/week—but given the scarcity and status of a Big-Five-or-Seven job, the better comparison might be with SAG or AFTRA rates for speaking parts, which actually are higher than the best orchestral positions: $2,634/week vs. $2,495/week for the New York Philharmonic. (And if you think about the BSO as the major leagues of orchestral playing—the starting salary in the NFL is $310,000; the starting salary in Major League Baseball is $390,000.)

Back in 2006, BSO freelancers got the short end of the stick, which was reported with due skepticism; I’m assuming that inequity continues in this extension. But the full-time players are earning pretty much what every other comparable market is paying. Is the Boston Symphony Orchestra a sweet gig? Hell, yeah. But overpaid? Not according to the going rates.

Mixing domains

I was at my in-laws’ for dinner last night, after which we watched some Korean TV, including, mostly because it happened to be on, some competitive ballroom dancing. (The show in question was “Shall We Dance,” on MBC-ESPN.) The dancers—who, according to my translating parents, were all high school kids—were pretty damn good. But what was really fun (as it always is with Korean TV) was the music they were dancing to.

I’ve taken enough dance lessons to expect familiar songs in goofy, step-specific cover versions. But this stuff was going a step further—almost deliberately blurring cultural boundaries, just for fun. The jive numbers, far from the retro swing common in the US, were pretty near hip-hop across the board. (Not surprising.) A tango version of the them from “The Godfather”? Why not? The waltz spun to “Memory” from Cats, shoehorned into three-quarter time; the Viennese waltz then crossed the Alps into Italy, with the Brindisi from La Traviata slowed to a Straussian lilt.

It put me in mind of those culinary categories for which the term “fusion” is a little too facile, the ones where the melting pot has been simmering so long that the stew takes on an identity of its own. (Argentinian-Italian food is a good example, actually.) This sort of thing goes on under the hood of music all the time, of course, but it’s fun to occasionally see the engine on the outside, hot-rod style.