classical

CC Talks With: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Cameron Parkins, July 29th, 2009

Opened to the public in 1903, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a world-class museum that houses more than 5,000 art objects, including works by Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Degas, and Sargent. It is also known for its phenomenal music program, lectures, and symposia, as well as the museum’s nationally recognized Artist-in-Residence and educational programs.

Online, it is well-known as the producer and distributor of The Concert, a classical music podcast that features unreleased live performances by master musicians and talented young artists, recorded at the museum’s Sunday Concert Series. The podcast is free, distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works license (Music Sharing), and widely popular. The Concert was one of the first classical music collections to be shared under a CC license, and the ISGM was one of the first art museums to actively distribute digital content under a CC license.

We’ve talked about The Concert before, but wanted to learn more about the series and the decision to use CC licenses for the project. We recently caught up with Director Anne Hawley and Curator of Music Scott Nickrenz, who were able to provide a lot of great information about the series and how CC licenses have played a role in its success.


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Those in the CC community best know of the ISGM as a result of your highly successful The Concert podcast. What was the inspiration for the podcast series? Why did you choose to release it under a CC license?

Anne Hawley: We launched The Concert – the museum’s first podcast – in September 2006, as a way to continue the museum’s long history of supporting artists and creative artistic thinking. During Isabella Gardner’s lifetime, the museum flowed with artistic activity: John Singer Sargent painted, Nellie Melba sang, and Ruth St. Denis performed the cobra dance within these walls. Isabella Gardner was a committed patron of artists and musicians and the museum has always followed her lead. The podcast is the latest example of this; it’s a modern way to bring the museum’s wealth of programming to a wider audience, promote the exceptional work of the musicians who perform here, and ultimately expand the reach of classical music.

Music has always been an important part of the Gardner. When the museum opened on New Years Night 1903, attendees enjoyed a performance of Bach, Mozart, Chausson, and Schumann by members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra—“a concert of rare enjoyment” according to one guest. During Gardner’s lifetime, the museum hosted visits and performances by well-known musicians and rising stars including composers Gustav Mahler and Vincent d’Indy, pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski, and cellist Pablo Casals, and memorable concerts including the 1903 premiere of Loeffler’s Pagan Poem, composed and performed in honor of Isabella Gardner’s birthday. Four years later, the work had its “official” premiere at the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Today, the Gardner’s music series is the oldest of its kind in the country, with weekly concerts and special programs that enrich and draw musical connections to the museum’s special exhibitions and permanent collection, while continuing Isabella Gardner’s legacy as a music lover and patron of the arts.
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Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s “The Concert” Podcast Reaches Over 1 Million Downloads

Cameron Parkins, October 1st, 2008

“The Concert” is a classical music podcast produced by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum which is released under our Music Sharing license. Here is what we had to say back in 2006 when the podcast first launched:

The podcast features unreleased live performances by master musicians and talented young artists recorded from the museum’s Sunday Concert Series. “The Concert” includes music by Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, and Chopin for solo piano, orchestra, string quartet, and voice. A new podcast will be posted on the 1st and 15th of every month; users can subscribe to receive free, automatic updates delivered directly to their computers or mp3 players. With “The Concert,” the Gardner Museum becomes the first art museum to encourage sharing and free distribution of its online programming by using a Creative Commons license.

“The Concert” is now on episode 54 and has reached over 1 million downloads, bringing classical chamber music to people across the globe in an unprecedented fashion. While the content of the podcast – lush arrangements of beautiful compositions recorded by experts – is at the heart of why “The Concert” has done so well, the Music Sharing license employed by ISGM has made that content more immediately sharable, stripping away legal hurdles that might inhibit casual listeners while protecting ISGM’s commercial rights.

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