Peter Latona transcriptions
  • Does anyone here know if Peter Latona's settings of the antiphons used in the April 16, 2008 Vespers Service at the National Shrine Crypt Church have been transcribed and/or published on the web?

    They are:
    The night will be clear as day
    I know my sheep and mine know me
    His glory covers the heavens and his praise fills the earth

  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,486
    Don't forget the Magnificat antiphon, too.
  • I've started transcribing them myself since it seems they are not otherwise available. I only have cakewalk for notation - can I post a screen image of my transcription here for review? Would PNG or GIF format be appropriate?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,486
    Hmm. Don't you think you should get permission before transcribing?

    Why not just ask him. (After Christmas, obviously.)
  • i've never ever heard of asking permission to transcribe music, only to publish your transcription. I don't have any contact info for him either . . .
  • Dr. Peter Latona
    Director of Music
    Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
    400 Michigan Avenue, N.E.
    Washington, DC 20017-1566

    (202) 526-8300

    This information is all easily accessible on the Shrine website [].

    For future reference, transcribing the work of a living composer without his permission is a breach of copyright laws, and a moral offense as well. (And that remains my position, all contrary opinions expressed in these forums and elsewhere notwithstanding.)
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    yes, why not write him and ask if you can use them or study them? And if he makes you pay, at least it will go straight to him with no middle man.
  • Yes, that sounds like the right idea.

    I am thinking more about this idea that copying sounds created by living composers to manuscript is a moral offense. When I was a kid I wrote out the trombone solos of Carl Fontana, Bill Watrous, and JJ Johnson, only the latter of which was dead. It had never occurred to me that my action was a moral offense. Johnson was dead, so this was not a moral offense in his case? Years later when I showed my editions to Watrous and Fontana, they were enormously flattered, so I guess the moral law wasn't written on their hearts either!
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Well, the question (which is unanswered and doesn't necessarily need to be answered anyway since it's none of our business) is what Darth Linux wants to do with the transcription. Does he want to study them to understand Latona's technique? I can get behind that, and there's certainly nothing illegal about it (or at least it's unenforceable). If, on the other hand, Darth wants to have his choir perform the antiphons, that's using Latona's work for a purpose other than its intended purpose, which was the papal vespers. That a creator ought to have something used for its intended purpose is... well, a cornerstone of Christian moral theology! That is why in that case I think Darth ought to contact Latona directly and state his intent. Latona is, by all accounts, a generous man and enthusiastic about church music, no? So it's likely that he would be glad to allow the performance, probably even for free. I have had a similar experience where I heard a piece on the radio that I really enjoyed, so I asked the composer for a score so that I could use it when I play. The composer was kind enough to also send a CD of his works and some more pieces he thought I might enjoy!
  • "a creator ought to have something used for its intended purpose" -- might imply that Palestrina should never be performed in a concert setting.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    There are those who would agree with that. As for me, I find it irrelevant since it ignores the larger intent. Pallestrina created works for wide-scale distribution and performance. Latona wrote his work for one event, and that he didn't immediately intend for it to be performed elsewhere is evident from its not being published or otherwise distributed. It strikes me as immoral to violate his intent in this particular case, particularly when the course I outlined would satisfy anyone but an intentional thief.
  • I think the discussion would be much more fruitful without throwing around terms like immoral and the like. Something might be rude, imprudent, nasty -- or perhaps the creator would be flattered and writes music precisely to see it take flight in general use. For my part, I love nothing more than when I see a phrase of mine enter into general use (it happens far too rarely), and it would never occur to me to attack someone for failing to ask my permission or failing to cite me or something. I write in the hope of making a difference, in the hope that phrases, words, ideas take hold and become common property of the cultural landscape through imitation and elaboration. It is like dropping pebbles in a pond and hoping for waves.

    So too did Palestrina borrow from nameless monks, Bach from Buxtehude, Rachmaninoff from Paganini, Mahler from Brahms, Josquin from popular songs, Handel from himself, and so on, and the venue in which they employed the borrowings had nothing to do with the right and wrong of it all. There would be no musical invention in absence of imitation, and whether the person from whom themes are borrowed is living or dead doesn't seem like a clear enough basis to delineate moral from immoral.

    Thank goodness it would never have occurred Guido d'Arrezo to patent his system of musical notation, or scream moral violation at those who used it. Of course there were no such things as patents and copyrights until the late 18th century, and a worldwide system only came into being in the late 19th century. The prior absence of such a system accounts for why Americans fell in love with British literature: absent enforced cross-border monopolies, British writers could see their material circulated widely by competitive firms in this country, landing in every classroom in the country. This is also why so much American folk music continues to be used in secular composition today: it is safe, whereas music of the 20th century flounders in a thicket of restriction. Note too the sad fate of musical composition in Britain after the mid 18th century; the country imposed and enforced a strict policy (though lenient by today's standards), in contrast to Europe, which maintained a laissez-faire IP policy.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    It seems to me that the issue is to what extent music is the property of the composer. The commandment "you shall not steal" requires the idea that someone else owns property to be stolen. But scripture doesn't seem to say what constitutes property. I would advance that one comes to own property through a gift, trade, or wages, or by creating it. In fact, it could be asserted that most any property is initially owned by its creator. Again, note the parallels with God our Creator.

    But what of music? Most property that we would consider is material. Music is reasonably abstract. Yet it can be defined; just as my chair can be defined by its properties, music can be defined by its contents of rhythm, pitch, timbre, and volume. Only a fool would fail to recognize Beethoven's 5th Symphony, or the hymn Veni Creator. We hear the music, or the words, and do not say "that is nothing", but rather we know it is something - something created, in fact! Therefore I submit that music is in fact property of a composer, at least from the moment of its inception.

    Please note that I'm not advocating any ridiculous system of copyrights and outlandish royalties, and I would in fact say that once a composer has died, his music is morally within the public domain (although not necessarily legally!) I'm only explaining my rationale for the idea of music as the property of the composer, upon which this moral argument hinges. Where we go from there as to the justice of certain actions is a whole other 3 or 4 paragraphs!
  • Gavin does raise an interesting side point. What is property? Related: under which conditions can we saw that something is privately owned? If a person writes a tune, there is one certain way that he or she can be sure that it will always remain his or her own property: make it supremely scarce by never playing it or singing it publicly. That way it can never be stolen, never be improperly borrowed or imitated, never be performed in a way that fails to credit or pay its creator. It is the ultimate way to own music: never let anyone hear it or see it. Many composers to this, not usually because they fear tune theft but because they have no means to reach people, no publishers, no venues, or they are uncertain about its quality and feel insecure in releasing a work.

    However, once musical notes configured in a certain order (or words and letters) enter a public space, they are no longer scarce. They can be replicated to an infinite extent and even simultaneously without violating the ability of the original owner to continue to posses that tune or the integrity of the original. The same cannot be said of other forms of property like my car or my coat; if you use it, I can't use it; if you wear it out, the physical property of the thing is degraded. Not so of a Beethoven Symphony (which was never in copyright and yet always properly attributed to him). In what sense can we say that non-scarce things possess the characteristics that we generally assume to be associated with what we call property? The scarce paper on which it is printed is property. The scarce server on which it is hosted is property. But the notes themselves?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    But the issue is morality. The proposed issue is whether it would be "right" for one to copy Latona's composition without permission for the sake of performing it. This is an issue of morality. Theft is an issue of morality. If music is just a set of pressure waves going this way and that, then the money in your wallet is just an arrangement of molecules that happened to transfer from your pocket to mine.

    And I noticed the comments about borrowing in classical composition in your NLM series, and I don't find it relevant. GIA has not sued David Haas for writing music that sounds like Haugen, nor did NALR sue Carey Landry for writing music that sounds like the St. Louis Jesuits. Pretending that force-distributing another living person's music is on the same level as having an artistic influence is silliness. We are talking about a particular proposed act here, not the issue of music in a vacuum. If Darth Linux wants a score so he can study it and imitate the style, I'm all for that. In that case, however, it may be even more beneficial to write him, so as to learn more about his style. We are fortunate to have here the composers Francis Koerber and Bruce Ford, we can do the same thing without going against their wishes.

    I retain my basic premise: if Latona wanted his music distributed and re-performed, he would have published it or carried out the distribution himself. It is our duty as Christians to find out his will regarding his music and respect it, at least while he can clearly express his will.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    For the record, it should be pointed out that Jeff and I are a post off from eachother - my replies are to his posts 2 posts back and vice-versa.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I find the argument regarding scarcity interesting, although not immediately convincing. I will give it some thought.
  • These topics are very difficult. I've been thinking about them for some 10 years, and only seem to be focusing in now. I wouldn't expect anyone to be convinced in any particular direction immediately. The scholarly and popular literature is expanding dramatically, and I find that I have to read these books very slowly to fully understand and apply all the arguments. IP is a very tricky topic in general, and I distrust anyone who claims to have all the answers much less know a priori what is moral and immoral etc.
  • Just one point about the the "silliness" of my having drawn attention to imitation and borrowing in the history of music. Far from being silly, this point gets to the very core of the issue of copyright (and patent) and all IP. It is at its root a prohibition against imitation. That is all.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    To not advance the issue at all, another aspect struck me. Music cannot truly be replicated, and this is a debate that has been going on for some time. When Virgil Fox (or now Cameron Carpenter) played Bach, was it really Bach? One may ask, if the hypothetical transcription and performance took place, is it really the same piece? Is my performance of Durufle's transcription of Tournemire's improvisation on Victimae Paschali really a reproduction of the music? These are difficult questions to address.
  • If I can suggest a book--not directly related to music--to members of this forum. It is called Against Intellectual Monopoly, by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine (Cambridge University Press, 2008). It is among the most intellectually challenging works I've ever encountered in any field. It is this book that has rocked my world and help me gain a greater understanding of the relationship between open and closed sectors of information delivery, and what that implies for development, dissemination, and discovery of new ideas. Their case is relentless and overwhelming. It is this book that made me fully realized that the closed world of the music establishment in the Catholic Church does not have a future in a world of universal information flows, especially in a sector of art that is devoted to universal ideals and organic development within a ritual structure, and that a restoration of the pre-20th century modes of ecclesiastical legal institutions and means of distribution are what are in keeping with modern demands. I'm not entirely sure what this portends precisely, but I'm more firmly convinced that the new methods and strategies of the CMAA are on the right track.
  • just for clarification's sake, I intend to study his style of choral arranging, as demonstrated in his papal vespers antiphons. This is the first example of his work that I've heard and I wanted some insight into his style. I do not intend to perform them or profit from them in any way.

    transcribing music that you like is something I've been taught and encouraged to do since theory classes in college - I've never heard any professor mention that it was "immoral" to transcribe some notes that you've heard in order to study them. Did not Mozart allegedly hear Allegri's "Miserere Mei" one time and then transcribe it? Fact or Fiction, the point is the same. If I hear some music I like, I will want to write it down before I forget it, so I can analyze it to see what attracts me to it. Surely this is not immoral . . .

    As an aside, my wife studied copyright law while pursuing a digitial audio engineering degree, and is pretty confidant that the private study of a piece of music that you transcribe does not infringe on any copyright law because, no public performance is made, and no money is made that should be paid to the composer via the royalty system. I would respectfully disagree with Richard R. that "transcribing the work of a living composer without his permission is a breach of copyright laws".
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,486

    I guess what made me think you'd need permission is not so much that you were going to write them down and study them, but that you were going to upload your notes here. That's what crosses the line into "publishing." Electronic posting is a kind of publishing.

    In grad school one of my professors emailed his notes to us but insisted that we not pass them on to anyone outside the class, because they were going to be copyrighted as part of a book. He gave us his permission to read them, to study them, but not to distribute them.

    All sorts of limited permissions are possible, and none has to be given. I think it's best to just ask.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Well, if Mozart did it, it MUST be moral... No, really I have no issues with that. I think a chat with the composer himself could be more productive, but transcription is a fun and laudable exercise. Transcribe away, although can I ask where one would find a recording?

    For my discourses, I was speaking strictly of the concept of transcribing an unpublished piece of music by a living composer without permission for the purpose of performance.
  • @Kathy - yeah perhaps sharing my notes with others in this venue could be construed as "publishing." e-mail perhaps would be a better venue, the point of which was merely to check my accuracy. I'm kind of new to the whole choral thing, as I've been an instrumentalist all my life, and I sometimes mix up low alto notes with high tenor notes (for example).

    you can hear the anitphons and the rest of the music here

    I load this into WinAmp under "add URL" and it shows up as a video. The first antiphon is at about 18:40
  • Obviously, if the transcription is for personal edification and education, there is nothing wrong with it. But if those transcriptions are intended for performance, that would be wrong. That's the way this has worked for ages. Legally, for sure, but also in the realm of common decency. We're not talking about your local garage band covering a Beatles song at the local high school dance. We're talking about a church using stolen material in its worship. The composer in this case is readily available to give his permission. Why circumvent him? He might be more than happy to let you use his stuff. He might, on the other hand, want to maintain some sort of creative control, until such time as he is ready to publish (in whatever form he chooses) a final version of the piece. At which point, you can buy the necessary copies for your choir to perform it. How is that unreasonable? A buck-eighty a copy?

    Clearly, if my music is not safe from such underhanded reproduction, I will have to practice extreme vigilance in making it available, particularly on the web, and particularly on or near CMAA-related sites.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Richard plainly stated my position. I agree 100%

    My policy on anything I've written is use it and abuse it all you like, just don't write your name on it and then sue me for copying you. Then again, my music is nowhere as good as Latona's.
  • No question that the best strategy for keeping music or text from being "stolen" is to never let anyone see them. That is certain to work every time.
  • @Richard - deep breath my friend, I never ever said I was going to use them in performance - my purpose was score study only. As a music educator myself I constantly deal with the issue of music legality as kids ask me to burn cd's of the music we are rehearsing, or at contest when I have to give judges original conductor scores and not photocopies, etc. My suggestion of posting an image of my transcription was for peer review only, to check my accuracy.

    As an aside, I did email Dr. Latona, and he did send me the music for all four antiphons, gratis. He was very cordial and replied within an hour of my request. It turns out my first transcription was pretty accurate, but the second and third antiphon we're really stumping me, and I gave up trying to transcribe them - that's when I decided just to ask for the score. He had split his choir into SSATBB, and tracking six voices was too much for my green choral ear . . .
  • Terribly relieved to hear it, darth; which you could have saved gavin and me a lot of spleen had you made that clear from the get-go. And I never doubted that my friend, Dr. Latona, would not deny a budding protege.

    Jeffrey, on the other hand, is just being purposefully obtuse. Let him start putting Sacred Music articles online unattributed, or with his name on them, and see how long his writers keep contributing.
  • @Richard - sorry about that. I honestly had no idea that my request would be so misunderstood and spark this topic.
  • It's a good topic and the discussion has been fruitful. I really don't feel the need to point out that I'm in favor of putting author's names on articles. At the same time, authors generally hope that others will read their articles and learn from them, and even adopt their point of view. That's my general impression anyway.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,532
    This is a very interesting thread!

    I have thought long and hard about this subject CONSTANTLY since I was old enough to realize I was "creating intellectual property". (four decades or so?)

    To be truthful, this subject will have to be dumped into the word processor because it is too complicated to compose here, and the constantly changing technology is always throwing us curves.

    But I must at least say this:

    It is my thinking that one does not infringe on any composer's moral rights if one transcribes a work for one's own study. The infringement occurs if one shares a transcription with another, or publishes or performs it beyond oneself. (However, if you performed a transcription of one of my own works in your living room without my knowledge, I would probably be thrilled!)

    When it comes to sacred music, personally, I would disapprove of the performance of any of my own works (intended for the liturgy) to be utilized outside of the Roman Catholic Church unless express permission was granted (for instance, a concert of sacred music). Then again, I do not desire (or 'need') to profit from compositions that are utilized within the RC liturgy. I consider it an honor to be 'performed' in ANY (licit) liturgy. That is why I promote the Gratuitous Performance License (found here:

    And echoing Jeffrey's thoughts, I believe Palestrina (and other composers of sacred music) would have preferred that their works were utilized almost exclusively if not exclusively within the confines of the liturgy of the Church for and by which they were conceived. I believe the same goes for the composers of our benevolent chant.

    For there alone, amidst the tabernacle, honor should alone be given where alone honor is due... and the most splendid of what is beautiful is also then exclusively reserved for the King of Kings in his own abode! And if creation ever hopes to admire the beautiful musical praises of God, then let them come alone to the place where beauty himself truly resides. (This will certainly be true when heaven and hell entertain their final auditions. The heavenly chorus will simply own ALL the music, and the hellish will only know weeping and gnashing of teeth. [Reminds me of the conservatory I attended... sitting through nothing but concerts of avante garde.] And BTW, we all know WHO will own ALL the copyrights when that time comes!)

    Quoniam melior est dies in atriis tuis super milia elegi abiectus esse in domo Dei mei magis quam habitare in tabernaculis impietatis. Psalm 83:13
  • "...Palestrina (and other composers of sacred music) would have preferred that their works were utilized almost exclusively if not exclusively within the confines of the liturgy of the Church for and by which they were conceived. "

    Maybe so, but Palestrina knew nothing about such concert-hall performances (did he?), not to mention the intervening four hundred years of liturgical history. I know Peter Phillips prefers the concert hall as a venue, mostly because it allows the Tallis Scholars to reach a much wider audience, and one that is more educated (or more willing) to receive renaissance polyphony as the magnificent music it is. The dozens of imitators that have appeared since their debut bear witness to how thrilling this music can be in concert (especially for the singers). On the other hand, I wouldn't underestimate the degree to which those concert-hall performances have spurred churchmen to wonder whether we couldn't have this music in church again, after all.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,532

    I am not sure about concert halls, but know that the Oratory was coming into existence for similar reasons of meditation on music and readings, etc, but not apart from sacred space/nature. (Not sure if it was before or after Palestrina). Unfortunately, taking sacred music out of the liturgy (not specifically the church), is like putting animals in zoos. That may sound a bit harsh, but it makes the point. Many more "get the exposure", but at the expense of what values? Our sacred music then becomes an unnatural isolated experience that concentrates soley on the object being observed. (in this case, enjoying the music for its own sake). In my own thinking (which is probably more puritan), the purpose of sacred music is that it is truly sacred only when married to the liturgy. In the concert hall, it then just becomes beauty for beauty's sake.

    This all becomes very philosophical. I believe that if sacred music were kept only in the liturgy, many more people would think twice about being Catholic than just having and enjoying 'Catholic things' removed from the purpose for which they were intended. I feel that our comparmentalization of the sacred from the non-sacred follows a general secular trend of desacralization. We bring the Mass to stadiums, or hotels. We bring the living room to the church (carpet, cushions, and guitars). I can see it both ways, but am tending to be more puritan as I grow older. I want church in church and living room in my living room.

    Just this morning I had a half an hour conversation with one of my choir members who was complaining about not having enough 'new music' in the liturgy since I took up the post. She said 'latin has nothing to do with today's church' (I had the schola sing the Ave Maria today) and 'new music should be more prominent than the old'. Its all part of the same problem. Keeping the sacred in sacred space and keeping the secular and the profane out!

    "Song and music are closely connected with the liturgical action. The criteria for their proper use are the beauty expressive of prayer, the unanimous participation of the assembly, and the sacred character of the celebration." Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶1191, 1997
  • Many many years ago when I was a kid, we would insult one another by yelling, "Copycat! Copycat!" I never knew that they were acting "immoral" by copying one another until I read this discussion.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,532
    immitation of one's work is a compliment... plagerism is stealing.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,486

    I've never thought of the point you are making. Interesting. I guess I've thought, the more venues, the better, for evangelical reasons. In my personal experience, the sacred-out-of-place can be more likely to influence me, simply because it's unexpected. Seeing nuns on an airplane, for example, or hearing a truly theological Christmas carol in the store.

    Obviously this point is debatable: is the important thing that my heart be touched? Or that God be worshipped? These are very distinct matters.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,532

    Yes, it very quickly becomes a philosophical issue to reflect on these realities. Technology has allowed us to "displace" sacred music in the last 100 years. Stereo systems, recordings, etc. Today we can play any music any where--even aboard a cruise ship. We now have the ability to move an 'organ' (although digital) to a place you would not normally expect to hear one.

    Here might be one answer to your question. It is up to God to speak to hearts as he does through all of creation, which can happen in an infinite amount of ways. But it is imperative that he be worshipped and that we not neglect the sacred aspects of the ultimate drama of the Mass.
  • Jeffrey, I didn't know you were a trombone player!
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    IP has a huge value to those who develop it. I manage a training organization for a large computer software company. A number of years ago a group of employees in a country less concerned about IP copyright decided to leave and form their own training company. In the process of doing so they took with them electronic copies of all our training materials. Without having to pay the costs of development, they were able to undercut our prices. In the end several dozen of our employees lost their jobs and it has taken most of a decade to restore our position. So it's clear that IP has value and is worthy of protection.

    What I've not seen emphasized here enough is the one huge difference. In my business it's perfectly okay to compete. We welcome honest competition and are encouraged to do better things because of it. Dishonest competition ... not so much.

    But when it comes to sacred music there is one enormous ... enormous ... difference. We are being told by our Church leadership that these are the only prayers with which we may celebrate the liturgies of our religion in our own language. They are the only way in which we may legitimately speak to our God! But that self same Church has placed the permission to use those words creatively in the hands of people who will profit by them.

    There is no such restriction on using any other text for hymns in the Mass beyond the permission of the local Ordinary or, for that matter, the priest who says Mass. So if the argument is that it is done for quality control, there is a mighty huge loophole in the process. And we have all seen the "quality" we get as a result.

    Ironically, a remedy I see would be a constitutional challenge on the grounds that the government's copyright of liturgical text is a violation of the Establishment clause. In this case they really are stipulating which words are to be used in a sacred religious context; not the place for government to intervene!

    As to the finished musical works, copyright the heck out of them. If I don't want to pay the fee I'll go use somebody else's arrangement. Or don't copyright them and I'll still go use somebody else's if I don't like them.

    But to put obstacles in the way of people who would freely and willingly share their talent for the greater glory of God is quite simply wrong.
  • trombone paid my way through college!
  • Maureen
    Posts: 673
    "No question that the best strategy for keeping music or text from being "stolen" is to never let anyone see them. That is certain to work every time."

    Actually, if you were into certain SCA/medieval recreation groups or hung around certain folkies, you would have encountered the obsessive "oral tradition" people. I'm all for the oral tradition myself, but these folks believe that it's illegitimate to learn or distribute music by any method but oral transmission, done in person. They forbid other people to record their music or transcribe it, but they are perfectly fine with people listening and learning their stuff this way. (Which of course forces you to either sit down with these people for an hour or two while they coach you, or to listen to them sing their big party pieces over and over and over and over.) Some of these folks actually have good enough material or persuasive enough charisma that people actually do their bidding in such matters.
  • Jeffery-
    A trombonist, eh? I knew there was a reason you were so cool!
  • Believe it or not, I played on Sunday! The bass part on an Isaac piece -- actual serious playing as versus the endless jazz I played in college (please don't protest that jazz IS serious). Anyway, it was great: two halves of my life coming together in pre-reformation music at Catholic Mass. cool!