Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ask this librarian: For art and music

I was just trying to be cheeky for the title.

You know, ask a librarian. Asking this particular one (i.e. me) not about music or art but FOR them.

ART and the Art of Asking
A few days ago, a 15 year-old student (he was Singaporean but was studying overseas) asked if I could send him some higher-res images of a series of illustrations I created for the re-opening of Bukit Merah Public Library (it was referred as a Community Library then, when I was still managing it).

Hint: If you want a favourable response from people (from me at least), ask politely. And it helps if you volunteer more information on the Whys and Hows (i.e. be specific).

Which he clearly did.

And later, when I asked for more information about the school event he mentioned, he also added how he intended to protect my intellectual property rights: adding a watermark each image, destroying the printed images, making sure it's not disposed in a public trash bin even, and to delete from his computer.

I wrote back to say he didn’t have to do all that. Mentioned about my adoption of Creative Commons license. He could use the images as he deem fit, as long as he credited them in the way I wanted.

Legend of Bukit Merah Page 04 - MyRightBrain.wordpress.com

As I replied to him, I realised I did not make the higher-res images available online (it was before I discovered Creative Commons).

So here they are, posted at my Flickr account, if any one is interested. Instructions on how to credit them are stated at the individual Flickr post.

And just a few weeks earlier, another student (not a Singaporean, and not in Singapore) emailed to ask if I was willing to help her team with a soundtrack for their film project.

She was a film student working on a film project about Chinese culture and Mahjong. She found my Erhu twilight sample track from ccMixter.org, felt it would be appropriate for her film, but needed someone to create a longer track.

This was more challenging that the art work, 'cos I had to create the track almost from scratch.

I decided to do it because I had the time, and it every musical challenge was a learning experience.

More important, the student was polite in her mails and was clear on what she requested (you spot the pattern here?).

Took about two hours and came up with the following:

It's all CC-BY licensed. Information on how to credit the tracks, here.

Two days ago, she replied.

They didn't use my track. Not that they had to, but of course I'd hoped they would.

She explained that according to their marking criteria, if they used music that wasn't their original composition, they risked getting a zero for parts of their assessment. Meaning, their overall score would not be as high and they wouldn't get top marks.

She also apologised for not using the music, thanked me again, and said they should have reviewed their marking criteria fully before asking me to compose the track.

Far from being upset, I was happy they completed their film. I'd be 'upset' if I didn't hear from her (she could've just kept mum and not tell me).

I was also happy to learn that they eventually managed to find someone to teach them a little about percussion instruments. They used their new-found skills to create the sound effects for their film.

Speaking of which, do check out their film on YouTube:

When I related both cases to a friend, he asked me, "Aren't you worried you're being taken for a ride?"

He felt there was no guarantee that my efforts would result it my works being used. And even if they did credit my work the way I wanted, that may do nothing to publicise my work (the attention was on their own works).

At that time, I just shrugged and said "Maybe" and "Who knows?"

Later on my way home, I reflected on my friend's question and comment. Certainly, those concerns occurred to me. They always did. I tend to expect the worse, in fact.

But I agreed to those requests, knowing full well of possible 'unintended consequences'.

Because I wanted to.

Especially when people asked nicely.

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