The hills are alive…

September 19th, 2005 by Merrilee

Indoor plumbing. Co-ed housing arrangements. Vending machines. Internet access. Music downloading and file swapping. What are considered the “basics” for American college undergrads are being redefined yet again. On Thursday, the University of California, California State University, and North Carolina University systems announced deals with Napster. This brings over 40 schools into a club that already included the likes of Penn State, USC, and Cornell University. As cited in a recent article from the Chronicle of Higher Education , College administrators may be motivated by the recent Grokster decision, or may simply be trying to keep up with redefined norms for freshman Joneses.

Other more scholarly efforts are also going forward, such as the Database of Recorded American Music. DRAM sets out to establish a “core” of American music for teaching and study along the JSTOR model. DRAM is being shepherded along by New York University and New World Records, and tested by Columbia, Dartmouth, and Indiana Universities this year.

Since I don’t have access to DRAM or to Napster, I looked around for some free (and legal!) access to online music. As an OS X user, I first turned to iTunes. Apart from some podcasts, I didn’t find very much. Part of the problem that the iTunes music store is, well, a store, and does not have an easy way to specify that you are looking for free material. Next, I tried Yahoo’s Creative Commons search. Although this led me to a number of interesting sites, there was not a good way to limit my result to page that contained content with a Creative Commons license and a specific format (like mp3).

The best collection of free music I found was the Live Music Archive at the Internet Archive. This is a collection of “trade-friendly” recordings from live concerts. Along with a huge collection of the usual Grateful Dead material, I found a quite a few happy surprises, such as Will Bernard (from Motherbug and other efforts – I listened to his November 2001 concert at the Boom Boom Room in San Francisco). Unlike many other interesting free download or streaming audio sites, the Internet Archive has enough content to keep me coming back for a long time

I wonder how this near-universal access to music online might shape teaching and learning. Will there be attempts to “federate” services like DRAM with services like Napster, mixing the popular with the scholarly? Campus collections? What about the offline music offerings on college campuses, inventoried in the OPAC or union catalogs? Creative Commons material on the web? Amazon offerings?

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