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Music Media

iTunes Uncovers Musical Hoax 311

Posted by kdawson
from the man-who-mistook-his-wife-for-a-Hatto dept.
holy_calamity writes "The reliance by iTunes on the CDDB has burst open a musical fraud in the usually staid world of classical piano. Albums by the much vaunted British pianist Joyce Hatto, who died in June 2006, are identified by the iTunes player as belonging to other performers. A more scientific analysis by an audio remastering firm has found that none of Hatto's works appear to be hers. Her husband, who produced all her albums, says he 'cannot explain' the similarities."
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iTunes Uncovers Musical Hoax

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:01PM (#18086428)
    That is the sound of the world's smallest violin playing.
  • by ehaggis (879721) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:05PM (#18086482) Homepage Journal
    ...Hayden other recordings. I say, Bach to the source to find out what is going on! I won't be Chopin at I-Tunes anymore.
  • live performances? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:07PM (#18086516) Homepage
    I can see the CDs being rips, but didn't she play publicly? Be kinda hard to fake that :)

    As for the husband, either he recorded her playing in a studio, or he didn't. I don't see how you can mistake that and claim "I dunno how this happened."

    Basically he's been busted and he's lying to save his ass.

    Tom

  • Bill says (Score:2, Funny)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)
    I guess that wasn't a Hatto(ri) Hanzo piece after all!
  • Why iTunes? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by govtpiggy (978532) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:08PM (#18086532)
    This isn't specific to iTunes at all. There are lots of players and applications that take advantage of CDDB. The first impression you get from the article is that Apple somehow managed to catch a fraud, while that isn't the truth at all.
    • Re:Why iTunes? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hijacked Public (999535) * on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:31PM (#18086880)
      The impression I took from the article is that there was strong suspicion that her CDs were fakes but no one could determine exactly which recordings from other artists had been used. iTunes, by way of CDDB, pointed the guy from Gramophone in the right direction.


      So no, not iTunes directly, but since it is the Windows of music management applications it was in the right place at the right time. Also recall that these are music people and we are geeks. We may know all about CDDB and music players and which bit of software performs which task, but most normals don't know or care. Even if you try to explain it to them they will stare off in the distance, blankly, wishing they were listening to a modified version of Nojima being passed off as Hatto playing Liszt.

  • by danpsmith (922127) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:09PM (#18086552)
    ...that there would be a Milli Vanilli [wikipedia.org] in the classical world.
  • and I've never heard of her... but then again, there are a ton of pianists out there.

    Sounds like her husband was no stranger to Pro Tools...

    No matter how well known a classical musician is, there will not be 1/40th the amount of recording sales that your average pop "artist" generates on a given album. Remember Milli Vanilli?
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:14PM (#18086632) Homepage Journal
    I love when things like this come out after the guilty party has passed on. Holding up a scam with your very last breath takes dedication, and the mental image of Ms Hatto laughing pleasantly and flipping sweary fingwer gestures from the great beyond comforts me immensely.
    • by jfengel (409917)
      Ms. Hatto is croaked, but her husband (who produced the recordings) is still alive and may be in deep, deep trouble.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        That's what he gets for marrying a dead lady!
  • Come on now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bullfish (858648) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:18PM (#18086676)
    Stealing from the dead is a very old tradition. As is having them cast votes, collect pensions et al... No respect for the old ways anymore...
    • by iabervon (1971)
      The living stealing from the dead is very traditional. But it's just not right for the dead to steal from the living.
  • by pherthyl (445706) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:22PM (#18086746)
    So if her recordings were so masterful, and they were identical to other recordings, then why didn't the critics recognize the similarity for so long?

    This confirms my belief that music critics are mostly full of shit. If those recordings were so good, then the artists she copied from were obviously superb. However, one was apparently a very obscure Japanese pianist, so his brilliance wasn't recognized, and since no-one noticed the copy for so long, the others can't have been very prominent either.
    • Umm . . . from wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] it sounds like she gained prominence mainly since her mastery of classical seemed to cover such a wide range.

      So, to answer your question, I would guess that the original performers did all have brilliant performances, but none gained prominence - sort of like one shot wonders in the classical world. I wouldn't expect anyone to have memorized them, even if they were great performances . . .
    • by nahdude812 (88157) * on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:34PM (#18086942) Homepage
      According to the article it's because they made subtle variations to the pieces, including changing the tempo by less than 1% (so they wouldn't sync up), changing the balance (so the center was different), and changing the equalizer (so it sounded like a different piano).

      These are people playing the same music, there are only so many things you can do to detect fakes, and I also doubt that anyone was looking for them before now. It'd be like detecting a brightness, contrast, color adjusted, and cropped version of a photo from thousands of photos against the same scene when you had no expectation that there even was a dupe.
      • by gardyloo (512791) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:49PM (#18087168)
        [...]when you had no expectation that there even was a dupe.

                This is slashdot. We're trained to be alert to those all the time.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Trailer Trash (60756)

        According to the article it's because they made subtle variations to the pieces, including changing the tempo by less than 1% (so they wouldn't sync up), changing the balance (so the center was different), and changing the equalizer (so it sounded like a different piano).

        At some point, it would be easier to just play the piano.

    • by ff123 (514860) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:38PM (#18087010) Homepage
      So if her recordings were so masterful, and they were identical to other recordings, then why didn't the critics recognize the similarity for so long?

      This confirms my belief that music critics are mostly full of shit. If those recordings were so good, then the artists she copied from were obviously superb. However, one was apparently a very obscure Japanese pianist, so his brilliance wasn't recognized, and since no-one noticed the copy for so long, the others can't have been very prominent either.


      Well, in the case of Minoru Nojima (the "very obscure Japanese pianist,") any critics would not have been wrong in recognizing that the playing was obviously superb, even if they couldn't discern who the actual pianist was. "Nojima Plays Liszt" is a wonderful CD, with a combination of both masterful playing and excellent sound quality. Too bad Nojima is as obscure as he is to the general public -- he just hasn't recorded much. But that just makes it all the more special to me that I got to see him play in a small junior college auditorium just minutes from my house!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by superpenguin (595439)

      I'll preface this by saying I'm a music grad student, so I'm more than a little conversant with the world of classical music, although I'm a string player, not a pianist.

      One of my profs in undergrad (who was a pianist) told me once that good pianists are a dime a dozen. And they're all making recordings. The Pristine Classical website has quite a few possible/probable rip-offs listed, and in most cases they are pianists I've never heard of (of course, I wasn't familiar with Joyce Hatto either). This is

  • Metamusic (Score:5, Funny)

    by mattpointblank (936343) <mattpointblank@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:24PM (#18086768) Homepage
    "iTunes Uncovers Musical Hoax"

    It's become self-aware!!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:26PM (#18086796)
    Frankly, I blame the RIAA for going after her remixes. Talk about a vendetta. A proper Slashdot comment would rattle on about how these poor folks are suing a dead woman.

    Really, the two of them were the biggest fans of the artists whose work they fair-used. They did this as an homage. Yeah. That's the ticket.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kadin2048 (468275)
      Really, the two of them were the biggest fans of the artists whose work they fair-used. They did this as an homage. Yeah. That's the ticket.

      If only they had stuck to Open Source Classical Music.

  • by rivaldufus (634820) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:30PM (#18086872)
    is simplified by the fact that it's solo piano. Unlike solo string works, intonation is not a distinguishing characteristic for solo piano. And anyway, the musical content is the same for the pieces.

    Also, there must be thousands of recordings of the transcendental etudes (I have several in my cd case, alone) spanning probably 100 years or so. Classical musicians often listen to recordings of the piece they're working on to get ideas on interpretation.

    Imagine if you had thousands of bands playing the same song, and using the same instrumentation - I'm willing to bet I could copy one of the renditions... change the mp3 info, and no one would notice the duplicate. It's not that amazing of a story, really. I suspect her husband told her that he would touch up her recordings to make them sound better. I doubt she wanted this, but who knows? Anyway, it sounds like a few minutes work on pro tools or some other DAW. Heck, Audacity would suffice for this sort of thing, I would imagine.

  • Best "dept." ever.

    Also, the story is pretty funny.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:45PM (#18087118)
    Posting anonymously because I already moderated before I thought about this some more:

    from the newscientist article: "To identify albums it calculates a 'discid' from the duration of the tracks and then connects to the Compact Disc Database online."

    From the scientific analysis: "for ten of the twelve tracks on this CD." "Simon recording has been time-shrunk by 0.02%" and "Nojima time-stretched by 0.975%"

    Ok, seems to me that the discid is calculated using ALL of the tracks, and yet not all of the tracks were from the same source - So how did the exact CD she ripped from get ID'd?

    Also, the time-stretching should have effected the durations, and generated different IDs. For example, the track she supposedly stole from Nojima: the duration of her track was 3'33", meaning that with 0.975% time-stretching the original must have been 3'38". Assuming digital hashing is involved in creating the discid, this should be more than enough of a difference to create a substantially different id.

    I'm not saying that iTunes didn't uncover the difference, and I'm not claiming she didn't fake it, but... I seriously doubt that all the information here about how discid's are calculated/obtained is 100% correct. Anyone know more info about how this works, or how iTunes could still have uncovered the fraud?

    • by friedmud (512466) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @04:40PM (#18088052)
      I completely agree.

      What I believe happened is that someone already figured this out and changed the artist and song titles _for that cd_ in cddb. Then this person comes along and pops in the cd and it pulls down the scandalous info and they think they're onto something....

      There is no way iTunes is actually doing song fingerprinting to figure out what the songs are. I mean, maybe, but I really doubt it.

      If you go read the Wikipedia article on the pianist it says that this was all figured out by a couple of groups at universities. So I think the timeline goes like this:

      1. Someone thinks it is a fake.
      2. University group studies it and finds it is a fake.
      3. CDDB gets updated so the correct musicians names are attached to the work.
      4. Person comes along and pops in a CD and "finds" a scandal...

      Friedmud
  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:46PM (#18087138) Homepage
    As she appears to have copied and sold music without the proper licenses, the RIAA will be hunting here down. Merely being Dead will not stop the RIAA from making your existence a living hell.
  • but I would have liked to see waveforms of a third performer playing the same piece, just to see what the natural range of variation in classical music is.
  • I am wandering how many "stolen" novels/poems/essays will be uncovered once the Google Library is completed, and who will appear on the blacklist...
  • Free CDDB (Score:5, Informative)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @04:03PM (#18087380) Homepage Journal
    The CDDB was coded as a free repository of CD metadata. Collected by thousands of people around the Net on a worldwide, ongoing basis, by giving away the client SW which many programmers embedded into PC/Mac music players. So millions of people were prompted every time they put in an unknown CD to spend a few seconds typing in artist and song names. In exchange (though no input was required), they got most of their CDs labeled without any effort, after the CDDB was filled.

    This kind of read/write database population collaboration is now well known, both in blogs and in more sophisticated databases like Wikipedia. But in the late 1990s it was revolutionary.

    Then the CDDB server owners sold out to Gracenote. Gracenote required a login to access the data, which login they supplied only to licensed users. Gracenote first tried to sell CD players integrated with the CDDB, but then found more success in licensing access to iTunes and other online music distributors.

    But neither Gracenote nor the CDDB programmers had produced the profitable data. The people who had were locked out. So some new programmers made a new version with the identical API and DB structure, the FreeDB [freedb.org], then datamined the CDDB to populate it. The FreeDB and its contents are GPL, so they cannot be "taken proprietary" (stolen) again. The data is free again, as is the life of this pioneering colalborative project.

    If you are generating music metadata, consider submitting it to the FreeDB [freedb.org]. And try to use the FreeDB, rather than the privateer CDDB, to support you applications. And send money to the FreeDB operators whenever you can, especially if you use it.
  • by joe_n_bloe (244407) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @04:14PM (#18087564) Homepage
    Not much chance getting away with calling a Glenn Gould recording your own.
  • Streaming interview : Mark Lawson interviews a journalist from Gramaphone magazine (one of Joyce Hatto's champions) and talks about the issue in general, with semi-amusing lack of tech-spertise. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/networks/radio4/aod .shtml?radio4/frontrow_mon# [bbc.co.uk]
  • I have, twice, seen CD's of entirely my own work, match the checksums of others when queried via CDDB.
    • That's a different process. The old method used for matching CDs involved a hash based on the number and length of tracks, collisions happened. I beleieve that what iTunes, etc. are using is the Gracenote audio fingerprinting service which is a different way of determining the song and not a simple hash.
  • Internet phenomenon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DF5JT (589002) <slashdot@bloatware.de> on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @04:50PM (#18088174) Homepage
    The whole Hatto hoax is an internet phenomenon, specifically a usenet phenomenon. Hadn't there been two shills on the group, playing good cop, bad cop and drawing other bystanders into the game, this would not have happened.

    Before those Hatto recordings were on the radar of the professional reviewing magazines in the UK, the entire promotion for these CDs was done on rec.music.classical recordings by the two shills and on the website of a CD retailer with a close affiliation to the record producers. People were praising the CDs into the sky and the exclusive retailer is a regular on the newsgroup, too.

    This thing had SCAM written all over it, but overcoming groupthink in the presence of two shills is difficult. Godwin's law,you know.

    It's hilarious to see the two shills in action: The one is a loud, foulmouthed ex-classical-music-producer from Canada and the other one an English gentleman with impeccable style, manners and a deep love for classical music. What they staged was drama on a very high level, flaming residents into the ground at the slightest hint of a suspicion as to the authenticity of the recordings. Anything from Jew to Nazi was good enough to be hurled at the detractors of the holy trinity of Hatto, Barrington-Coup and Music.

    They almost murdered me when I told the group that the whole thing was a total fake, based on all the oddities that I named.

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