Wednesday, 17 May 2017

BLOG TOUR: "The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction" by Neil Gaiman

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction
by Neil Gaiman
William Morrow Paperbacks
Paperback, 544 Pages

Predominantly entertaining and profoundly inspiring. Most priceless of all, Gaiman wows with his unorthodox perspectives rendered in lyrical and masterful writing one would come to expect from an accomplished author. This book is a hodgepodge of writings, speeches, book introductions and more as penned by Gaiman within the span of his extensive professional career, with subject matters centered around literature, fiction, literary genres, and the creative arts. 

Literature lovers familiar with Gaiman and his work might most enjoy this book. Aspiring writers and readers who love or enjoy writing, and reading, would also appreciate Gaiman’s uniquely invaluable perspectives on the craft of writing, other details related to his writing career, and the occasional philosophical rumination and probe into this medium only the way a skilled practitioner could. Certain Gaiman fans might possibly even be familiar with a sizable amount of his work included in this collection, but this book surely potentially remains a tantalizing item on a wish list. 

Whilst a writerly audience in their element in the fiction universe would find themselves most at ease reading this book, those personally unacquainted with Gaiman’s works however might find writings referencing his prior works less compelling due to the general lack of context provided for the additional commentary. Nevertheless, Gaiman’s writings will indiscriminately transport fiction and nonfiction lovers and readers alike into the magnificent professional world of fiction and fiction writers. It was astonishing for me, particularly with my scant knowledge of the fiction markets of any country, to learn for example, that dedicated professional settings exist where academics could congregate and “talk wisely and intelligently about Snow White, and Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood.” 

This book could be a timely breath of fresh air for busy professionals in diverse fields seeking a quality read to wind down from everyday work, or simply to take pleasure in devouring the beautifully composed writing. Diehard nonfiction readers could even challenge themselves to step out of their comfort zones by assigning themselves the possibly daunting task of perusing this book. I personally swear by nonfiction books and have not read a single fiction title or book about fiction for at least five years. This book was however a welcome challenge that I envision would influence my reading choices in time to come; I certainly made a mental note to myself to peruse at least one fiction book this summer. 

I treasure most the astute, intriguing and even unusual comments Gaiman made in his writings. Whilst Gaiman freely admitted that it was of his personal subjective opinion that “books have genders,” it does not take away from the profoundness of that perspective. Another fascinating though rather peculiar notion was that Gaiman apparently attributes a sentient quality to works of his own conception—regarding his novel American Gods, Gaiman curiously said, “Not, I should say, that I had much say in what American Gods was going to be. It had its own opinions.” 

The reader might even perceive Gaiman’s offerings of thought-provoking and unconventional perspectives to be one of his greatest strengths. It was astounding for me to read such assessments by Gaiman including that “the best thing about comics may well be that it is a gutter medium,” or that “the reasons why Dracula lives on, why it succeeds as art, why it lends itself to annotation and to elaboration” could be “because of its weaknesses as a novel.” Other times Gaiman would make bold proclamations and then follow up with satisfactory explication, such as for the following statement, “The power of comics is simply this: that it is a democracy; the most level of playing fields.”

The reader could be assured that this book contains well-reasoned writerly discoveries and reflections, along with informed opinions about various facets of literature. It might be novel but unsurprising to some that Gaiman perceives his readers as “collaborators” to his writings, and others might be pleased that he endorses “fury” and “anger” as a reasonable psychological foundation to and emotional driver of a writer’s work. A profound statement mentioned several times in the book that I absolutely loved was “You never learn how to write a novel,” “You just learn how to write the novel that you’re writing.”

While many Gaiman speeches given at literary award ceremonies, literary industry conventions, symposiums, seminars and other events do not originally address the majority of potential readers of this book, the content of the transcriptions remain highly meaningful, inspirational and encouraging to the reader. A persistent idea repeated in the book was to “make good art” no matter one’s life circumstances. For fellow artists or even readers in STEM fields, certain sentiments will still resonate—“Trust your obsessions,” “go where your obsessions take you,” and “there are other people around who can do the mediocre, meat-and-potatoes work that anybody can do. So let them do that.” For struggling writers, to read Gaiman’s invigorating words reconnecting one with the artist within the self might just be the panacea to woes from professional setbacks. 

The reader might want to consider accompanying his or her reading of this book with active recording of splendidly crafted sentences that resonate with the self. I absolutely loved Gaiman’s use of musical references as he pondered the tastes of “a great malt whisky”—“It plays a chromatic scale of flavor in your mouth, leaving you with an odd sequence of aftertastes.” As a recent graduate of Berklee College of Music and with no affinity for food and beverages, I certainly appreciate the visual imagery as I imagine the flavors of the malt whisky in question materialize in delightful and escalating degrees. 

It was also strangely comforting to hear Gaiman’s honest assessment as a distinguished practitioner in the literary industry that he would consider “the Eisner Awards, like all awards, [to be] flawed.” This book was certainly not entirely solemnly contemplative, as several instances in the book stood out as being genuinely and shrewdly hilarious; Gaiman’s comment about having been “chronologically challenged” was astoundingly endearing, and in my opinion, perfectly crafted and positioned for comedic effect. 

My reading experience of this book was however not wholly pleasurable and satisfying. Certain pieces of writing felt rather dry and tedious, and prompted me to skip ahead. It would have been illuminating should the author write about other authors in ways that reference and contextualize details in terms of the specific author’s professional literary career and identity. In certain writings about authors Gaiman personally knew, the impression given was that the content would mostly interest and be appreciated by people who are actually individually acquainted with the author in question. 

The piece “Reflections: On Diana Wynne Jones” for example was clearly a glorious tribute by Gaiman to one of his favorite authors. The nature of the content however was such that the reader who might not have any personal connection with Jones could have potentially found it dull. Details related to literary lessons Gaiman might have learned from specific accomplished authors are undoubtedly fascinating, mundane details and unremarkable narrative embellishments however on for example, daily happenings in a certain author’s relationships divorced from the craft of writing seemed at worst irrelevant for the general reader. 

Fortunately with Gaiman’s informed remark about self-censorship in this book—that “kids censor their own reading, and dullness is the ultimate deterrent”—, he would have utterly understood if any of his readers, including me, for one reason or another might find certain writings of his dull. On the other hand, it might have been a blessing that I was to write a review for this book. Without this commitment, I would have quickly and effortlessly deserted this book for another the instance I found some earlier portions of this book unappealing, and therefore would also have missed the precious gems in subsequent pages of the book. 

One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned from reading this book was that I might have conscientiously engaged in the activity of writing almost throughout my entire life as part of my formal education or otherwise, Gaiman’s appraisals however on the craft of writing and the extensive domain of writing remarkably made me feel as if I’ve never actually really known anything about writing. 

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours for this review.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Sapphire Ng | Boston Women’s Parkour Workshop, by Parkour Generations Americas (1/2)

Writer: Sapphire Ng

Saturday, May 6th 2017, 9am-1pm
Location: Josiah Quincy School
Lead Coach: Natalia Boltukhova
Coach: Isabel Andrews

This was an incredible experience. This well-designed 4-hour women’s parkour workshop might just be the ideal avenue for my very first experience with parkour. In hindsight, it might have been a little too ambitious for me to attempt parkour for the very first time in a rather intense 4-hour workshop session, but it turned out to be the perfect experience for me, and at the right time in my life.

It was of remarkable significance to me that parkour instructors of the female gender will conduct this workshop that will introduce me to, and leave me with first impressions of this enthralling sport. Both instructors were very professional and friendly, and exceptionally encouraging and helpful to me.

I absolutely loved this session, and even more so because I was actively seeking a challenge. This workshop was physically demanding, and I got what I sought, possibly even beyond what I expected or imagined. There were 3 other students who attended this workshop, all of whom had prior experience in parkour. I was delighted to learn that one of them, Mara, is a mother who decided to pick up parkour after watching her own children do parkour. I myself might be graduating from music school this Summer and heading to law school in the Fall, but parkour sure sounds like the right sport for me at this point in my life.

I shall recount the activities of the workshop chronologically, and as accurately as my memory would allow. One exercise in particular during the warm-up session stood out—we had to “walk” with our hands in a circle in the standard plank and reverse plank position, with our feet remaining at the same spot throughout as a pivot point. We “walked” around ⅓ of the circle in a standard plank position, flipped over and then walked another ⅓ of the circle in reverse plank position, and then completed the last ⅓ of the circle in the standard plank position. A takeaway was that I ought to give my palms—yes, palms—more, and even regular, workouts in the outdoors and in natural terrain in order to build up tolerance toward the rough textures and grounds that will be inevitably encountered in the actual practice of parkour.

As a beginner, I have much to work on for the quadrupedal movement and its coordination. Doing the movement backwards on flat ground was enough to command my utmost focus. On the other hand, I was familiar with the front kicks, back kicks and fan kicks—movements that are rather routine in dance training—that we did for the warm-up. We were given 3 waiting positions that we should assume as we wait for others to finish a particular drill—one can choose to “wait” in the standard plank position, the basic squat position, or hold the v-sit starting position.

We were then led to do basic drills incorporating some man-made obstacles present on location, starting with jumps over the concrete benches. From my point of view as a newbie, the outdoor space of the Josiah Quincy School certainly looked like it was designed for the sport of parkour. For the jumps, we were supposed to make 2 jumps at each of the 3 benches, the first jump from the left side of the bench to the right side, and vice versa for the second jump. The instructors demonstrated that we would place one hand on each side of the benches to assist the jump, to launch one leg up into the air first with the other leg closely following, and to have one leg landing after the other. The basic idea is to not land on both legs at the same time.

The instructors gave a really useful tip that helped to bridge the movement especially for someone such as me attempting to jump over benches for the very first time. One can try first to lightly touch and bounce off with both feet on the surface of the bench itself as an intermediary and additional movement before landing on either side of the bench, eliminating the movement thereafter once one might feel confident enough to do the jump. I was also really happy that I successfully attempted the quadrupedal movement along the length of the narrow top surface of a wall for the very first time, even though the effort required extra reassurance from my instructors that I will not fall off the wall.

We were still at the preamble of our workshop when I encountered my first physical hurdle. I learned that a sizable number of squats ought to be incorporated into my regular workout routine should I want to establish a solid foundation for parkour. My thigh muscles increasingly ceased to respond as we had to do an incremental number of squats for each step we jumped onto as we descended 2 flights of stairs. I struggled especially with balancing as we immediately ascended another 2 flights of stairs where we were supposed to land on the steps only on the balls of our feet, and lowering our heels at each step. I finally made it but felt like I was passing out; I certainly should have had breakfast before the workshop.

The final exercise we did before our first 5-min water break proved to be a rather daunting physical challenge for me as well. Immediately following jumps over 3 benches, we had to go into a cat hang position on an adjacent wall (a railing is present at the top of the wall which we can hold onto with our arms, and our feet should be firmly planted on the wall.) That is certainly not all, we had to do a cat hang shimmy—a move that requires a tremendous amount of arm strength—and shimmy along the entire length of the wall in the cat hang position. I could barely move myself along the wall in the position, not to mention that I could also barely maintain the cat hang position by itself. It was nevertheless an exciting experience of firsts where I was discovering the various possibilities that my body could be trained to attain.

Next was a really fun session conducted by Natalia. Moving us over to a different section of the outdoor area with broad steps, Natalia asked us for the 3 physicalities of parkour. They are jumping, climbing and running, and we are to build on our parkour vocabulary targeting these 3 categories of physicalities.

Our first drill was related to jumping. Natalia had each of us stand on any of the brightly-colored geometric shapes painted on the ground parallel to the broad steps, marking the starting point of our jumps. We then had to jump and land on the balls of our feet on the first broad step. As it was my first time, Natalia allowed me to start closer to the step, and I chose to position myself at around ¾ of the original distance. I was pretty certain that for the first jump I made and landed on the edge of the first step, I wobbled almost comically and even melodramatically trying to balance and steady myself. With further advice to lean forward, to stabilize myself in a squat, with my gaze at eye-level, and with my feet not too far apart, I was certainly sensing progress. We could choose to work with running and then jumping onto the step, or to simply jump from a stationary position. One thing we were reminded to work on is precision in landing.

In a perfect reminder that creativity can come in all shapes and sizes, and be applied in almost any context that warrants it, Natalia had us conduct an exercise in creative thinking—to think of anything remotely creative that could be used to embellish our jumps and landings. For example, we could choose to land facing sideways on the step, to land on 1 leg, to land after an 180 degree turn, and more. We were even encouraged to observe others and pick up any movements that we could personally use.

In a continuation of the creative process, we were asked to come up with a way to get from the lowest step of the concrete block we were working at to that of another adjacent block. I ran up several steps and clumsily—but absolutely having fun—tried to enact an elegant drop using the railing at the top of the first concrete block before jumping onto the next block.

Our next activity was to climb railings, and we were first individually tasked to find 3 different ways of climbing or moving across the railings and then making our way back to where we started. Following this individual experimentation, we were put into 2 groups—I was paired with a girl named Emelie, and the other group consisted of 2 other students, Mara and Angelina along with one of our instructors, Isabel. Within our groups, we had to teach each other or one another a move we just did. Emelie smoothly swung herself onto the railings, one leg immediately following the other, and swiftly landed in a sitting position on the 3rd railing from the ground (which is above our hip level). I tried but struggled with this move, realizing that I probably lacked the arm and upper body strength to fling myself up onto the railing in this fashion.

Our 2 groups were then gathered together, and we had to teach the other group our sequence. I announced that the other group would first show us their move, and Isabel promptly went into a kind of upside-down ninja position that looked almost impossible to me. Facing the railing, I was to lift my body up and then tilt my body downwards on the other side of the railing so that my legs would be dangling high up in the air, and then to have my body further tilted into the space between the railings to lower my legs thereafter. To make everything more exciting and even higher stakes, the rain was pouring heavily, everyone was soaked to the bone, our instructor was cautioning us that the railings could get slippery, and still we were attempting “stunts” integrating the rounded and smooth railings.

Shortly after I learned the most basic vault in parkour, the safety vault, and I attempted part of it to get across from the outside of the railing to the inside. It was slightly scary at first especially in the pouring rain, balancing at the top of the 4-rung railing (which was in turn situated at the top of the concrete block of around 5 to 6 steps) with my right leg on the highest rung and left hand grabbing the railing to the left of my body, as I attempted to move my left leg to the front from behind the railing in order to jump off to the ground. Another quick tip I learned was that by crisscrossing our arms and grabbing the top rung of the railing around 2 to 3 fists apart, right palm to the left facing upwards and left palm to the right facing downwards, we could smoothly move or pull ourselves into the space of the railing between the highest and the second highest rung. What follows next would be left to creativity.

The final part of this sequence involved scaling a wall that appeared almost double my height. Feverishly excited, I ran head-on toward the wall thinking I could execute a wall run and climb up the wall to a cat hang position. Hahaha I mostly didn’t have the right technique for a wall run and when I did manage to place my hands on the top of the wall, my arms could barely support my body weight for even 1 second. At this point Natalia would remind me that I could use the railing next to the wall to assist in the climb, no wall run necessary. It is certainly my goal to be able to eventually ditch the need for the railing or any other form of support in the scaling of a high wall. But of course, that might just be everyone else’s goal too.

As of now, I inevitably needed the help of the adjacent railing to get to the top of the wall. Once up there, I had to shift my body to the other side of the wall, laid my tummy on the top surface of the wall, and then jumped. The impact of the landing felt surprisingly immense despite the seemingly short distance of the drop (there was less height at the other side of the wall due to steps leading up to the wall), and I distinctly remember telling myself that it felt as though my entire body weight was crushing down on my legs. Natalia responded to my concerns by pointing out that I should work on my landing, to focus on landing on the balls of my feet with control in my knees, and especially to avoid landing on the heels or on the entire feet. This advice though simple was actually rather difficult for me to execute as I scaled the wall and jumped from it multiple more times. The mere act of jumping from the wall, having the courage to jump off the wall, and actually landing on my feet was enough of a challenge for me.

On another note, Natalia also mentioned that I should lean slightly forward in the jump from the wall to avoid falling backwards upon landing on the ground to prevent hurting my wrists or even forearms as my arms reach out instinctively to break the fall. With repeated attempts at this activity, we were encouraged to actively focus on polishing up our movements for flow and even to incorporate any additional creative ideas we might want to do as we reach the top of the wall.

These separate drills were then combined into a single sequence. Starting with the jumps from the steps of the first concrete block to those of the second concrete block, we would then make our way up the rest of the steps to reach the railing, complete several maneuvers at the railing and then scale the adjacent wall and jump off the wall. It was incredibly fun, and even more so when the 6 of us did our last run-through of the entire sequence all at the same time; the need to accommodate more than one person at any one time at any of the “activity stations” implied the need for improvisation and even the possibility for interaction.

To be continued…

Thursday, 4 May 2017

BLOG TOUR: "How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up" by Emilie Wapnick

Book Review by Sapphire Ng 

How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up
by Emilie Wapnick
Hardcover, 240 Pages

A simple but profound book. Remarkably empowering and uplifting to the multipotentialite reader, this book creatively puts into context the seemingly unorthodox phenomenon of multipotentiality. Brimming with abounding positivity and channeling a hearteningly fertile approach to life, this is a valuable self-help book capable of affecting the reader on a deeper emotional, psychological, and even spiritual level. 

This book is almost life-changing for multipotentialites previously unaware of their unique identity as such. The author’s lucid verbalization of the subtleties of the multipotentialite identity is liberating. This book helped me considerably in reconciling with various facets of my multipotentialite personality that I've only previously perceived as disparate, unrelated to a greater picture, or even confusing at times. 

Having never personally nor formally identified as a multipotentialite, I found it almost redeeming to see various aspects of myself described within the pages of this book in a way that synergistically make sense as a whole. I would daresay that this book has helped ease, even if only slightly, a bugging discomfort I’ve been feeling with regards to pinpointing my true purpose in life. With the author rather cohesively and coherently laying out various complementary pieces to the multipotentialite puzzle in an easy-to-read manner, this might just be one of the most important books that a multipotentialite could read in his or her lifetime. 

The multipotentialite reader would naturally benefit most from perusing this book by engaging in self-reflection at fitting moments. A predominant strength of this book appears to lie in its rather creative, well-crafted, and even fun exercises that guide the reader on the journey of self-discovery. Having tried several exercises in the book, I daresay that my newfound self-awareness have begun to effect, even if to a rather microscopic extent, my decisions in everyday life. On one occasion, I caught myself actively adding more variety into my daily activities, a privilege that I’ve mostly denied myself in the past for one reason or another. 

Arguably the most refreshing content in the book pertains to the four multipotentialite work models as concocted by the author, namely the Group Hug work model, the Slash work model, the Einstein work model, and the Phoenix work model. I personally related most to the Slash approach—also called a “portfolio career”—and thus also found it most captivating. It was mind-blowing and even transformative to realize that a lingering sentiment I have had pertaining to my general hesitation in pursuing any of my beloved passions full-time could actually be construed as an absolutely valid viewpoint and even a viable way of life. I never could have imagined that the idea of “feel[ing] trapped by the very idea of committing to [a passion] full-time” could be perceived as reasonable or even sane, especially in today’s society. 

The Slash approach exercise “Make A List of Possible Slashes/Revenue Streams” was particularly fun and more so due to its unconventionality. It certainly amazed me that the author would suggest the possibility for Slash careerists to run multiple businesses, a suggestion that more likely than not could be deemed as idealistic in contrast to mainstream advice. The author’s willingness alone to voice such a perspective certainly made an impact on me; I distinctly felt the horizons of my world expanding, alongside the dissolution of certain psychological barriers. It was yet another bonus that my association with the multipotentialite identity has brought along for me a renewed understanding of my seemingly perplexing chronic run-ins with boredom that has only been intensifying. 

The author certainly did a satisfactory job expounding on the other three multipotentialite work models. For the Group Hug approach, it was most astounding to be acquainted with the notion of discovering multifaceted niches and specialties within broad disciplines. It was also a joy to read certain segments of writing that potentially reflect the creativity of multipotentialites and of like-minded individuals. It was inspiriting that the author followed the exercise “Pair Together Your Subgroups and Individual Interests” of the Group Hug approach with the remark—if even just to “see what kind of ingenious/hilarious career ideas you can come up with.” 

I particularly loved the notion of “Dedicated Tinkering Time” as introduced in the book. I could certainly foresee myself putting this idea into practice in the near future to grant myself guiltless freedom to explore what I’ve always wanted to explore, and as an almost necessary neutralizing force to my predominating results-oriented instinct.

This book is undoubtedly inspiring at times. At other times however the book presented content almost painfully bland and generic. Certain advice supplied in the book at worst seemed like plain regurgitation of common sense items easily and freely accessible on the internet. In Chapter 7 about the Phoenix approach for example, considerable space was dedicated to regrettably banal “strategies” to help the reader “break into a new field.” The generic accompanying descriptions to absolutely predictable strategies, such as to “reach out to your existing network,” “expand your network,” “volunteer,” or “get some training” seemed almost redundant. It certainly does not help that the book features a retail price of USD24.99. 

Whilst generic, it is undeniable that there certainly is value in advice such as “be humble and be open to learning. Show your enthusiasm,” “the best you can do is listen to your heart and be brave,” “get an accountability buddy” or “take a break.” However it becomes potentially problematic when such general advice is present in sizable amounts in the book, possibly even giving the impression of redundancy surpassing the stimulating parts of the book. Some readers might thus find the cost of the book unwarranted. It is of course entirely possible as well that others might find such advice to be more of icing on the cake, and thus inconsequential to the overall value of the book. That aside, this book remains a promising guide to fellow multipotentialites. 

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours for this review.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Sapphire Ng | Law - IMP Lecture, at InHolland University of Applied Sciences, Haarlem [International Music Licensing]

Writer: Sapphire Ng

Berklee College of Music “International Music Licensing” April 13-22 2017 course trip to Amsterdam/Haarlem, Netherlands + Educational exchange in InHolland University of Applied Sciences, Haarlem.

Law - IMP Lecture at InHolland University of Applied Sciences, Haarlem
Lecturer: Guus Bleijerveld
[April 18th 2017, Tuesday - Classroom N1-06 ]

The lecturer Guus is a rather dynamic character. He was humorous at times and certainly brought life into the classroom. I absolutely enjoyed his lecture, both because of the refreshingly and intellectually stimulating content presented and also due to the positive energy of the man who delivered it. Guus notably began the session by curiously introducing himself as one who could fluidly be seen as either “a lawyer who plays guitar” or “a musician who happened to have studied law.”

Almost always inevitable to any preliminary law class related to the music industry would be the discussion of a necessary evil, the subject matter of copyright. Guus cited on his presentation slides part of Article 10 of the Dutch Copyright Act of 1912. The first item says for example that “books, pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals and all other writings” would be protected under Art. 10 of the copyright act. Anyone interested in getting hold of a copy of the Dutch Copyright Act for personal study can easily conduct an online search for it.

Guus got the class going by first mentioning, if even seemingly disparate, points of divergence or even potential similarities between the Dutch and US copyright law, including as well details of standard music industry deals that might differ in the Dutch system as compared to the American system. Guus mentioned that the Dutch copyright law distinctly refers to “sound recordings copyright” instead as “neighboring rights.”

Interestingly, and in striking difference from the US, Guus mentioned that two different and separate rights for lyrics and composition exist in the Netherlands. He expanded on the idea by mentioning that in the Netherlands, one can apparently rather “easily” obtain the rights to the lyrics of a song, which one can then proceed to “put another composition over the lyrics.”

I found the differences in publishing deal splits between that of the Netherlands and the US to be especially fascinating. Guus declared that standard publishing deals in the Netherlands are split 3-ways, specifically ⅓ for composition, ⅓ for lyrics, and the final ⅓ for the publisher which stands in direct contrast to the typical 2-way split in US publishing deals. I certainly appreciate that Guus seemed generally well-prepared in communicating differences between the Dutch and US system, as he continued to rattle off another point of differentiation. He noted that Dutch copyright law does not include distribution rights, which clearly juxtaposes that of US copyright law which includes distribution rights.

As a lead-in to the matter of streaming, Guus posed such a question to the class, “Do you need reproduction rights to stream music on Spotify?” He followed the question with clarifying comments such as that Spotify would require the rights to put a copy of any song on their server, and the circumstance implies the need for “temporary reproduction on the internet.”

Guus proceeded to draw the class’s attention to the splits on stream and downloads in the Netherlands. He said that the split on stream is 75/25, with the 75% for communication to the public, and the remaining 25% to the reproduction. The split for download is noted to be the exact opposite at 25/75, with 25% for communication to the public, and the other 75% to the reproduction. Distinctly refreshing is Guus’s regular use of the phrase “communication to the public” that is otherwise not used under the US system. Paragraph 4 of the Dutch Copyright Act which encompasses Article 12 and 12a notably deals with the concept of “communication to the public,” a unique phrase that the Dutch copyright law employs to convey the notion of “the communication to the public of a literary, scientific or artistic work.”1

In noting certain parallels between the Dutch and the US copyright law, Guus mentioned in passing that the Netherlands similarly has moral rights, which is addressed in Article 25 of the Dutch Copyright Act. As for the American fair use concept, it is also somewhat reflected in the limitations laid down by the Dutch Copyright Act. When it comes to the “object of protection” of the “performance of a song on commercially released phonogram” in the Netherlands, Guus elaborated the encompassing rights of reproduction, distribution, and communication to the public, but noted the lack of moral rights however for the phonogram producer.

It was exciting when the discussion then shifted into the realm of Dutch collecting societies, especially so because an earlier assignment in my International Music Licensing course in Berklee involved researching the entities of collecting societies in countries of your choice. I conducted research on the collecting societies of Iceland and of Malaysia. Listening to presentations by fellow classmates on collecting societies of countries as diverse as Japan, France, Canada, Sweden, Australia, South Africa and more further intensified my interest in the domain.

It was thus almost naturally fascinating when Guus started to talk about local Dutch collecting societies. He first mentioned BUMA and STEMRA—BUMA is said to be a collecting society which deals with communication to the public for a world repertoire where one does not necessarily have to be a member; and STEMRA on the other hand pertained to reproduction and mechanicals. I conducted a little further research and learned that the two collecting societies are distinctly separate bodies under the operation of the single company BUMA/STEMRA2. The BUMA Association is otherwise known as “Vereniging Buma” in Dutch, and the STEMRA Foundation as “Stichting Stemra.”2 Guus then mentioned “stichting thuiskopie” which directly translates into “foundation homecopy,” and noted that homecopying is “a big thing” in the Netherlands. Further information and even related documents on Dutch homecopying are available on this website

Guus subsequently mentioned the collecting societies SENA and NORMA as well, highlighting that SENA deals with communication to the public of “commercially released phonograms,” whilst NORMA covered other forms of exploitations including homecopying levy, public lending rights, and background music (in response to Guus’s mention of “background music” within the Dutch context, the accompanying Berklee professor on this trip, Andrea Johnson chimed in that it is in turn referred to as “wired music” in the US, relating to for example music played in elevators), with the clear exclusion of commercially released phonograms.

Guus further indicated that SENA is the “most important for the music industry,” and it does not deal with reproduction, nor with audiovisual works. Under the Dutch collections system therefore, venues that play recorded music will be required to pay the collecting societies SENA and BUMA. These two collecting societies will in turn collect the money and subsequently pay them out to rights owners—BUMA to authors, and SENA to musicians.

Next, Guus directed the class’s attention onto neighboring rights, by opening with the idea that whilst “labels have neighboring rights, publishers have copying rights.” He noted that neighboring rights used to be called “master rights,” a term that he considers to be a rather inaccurate reflection of its substance and function, as “master rights” apparently involve not only the masters, but also rights for performing artists. Guus proceeded to provide elaboration on the concept of neighboring rights—it is “the rights of the performers of a piece of art,” and a neighboring rights owner is “a performer who is performing another piece of art.” Four parties were said to be involved in the scope of neighboring rights, namely the performing artist, phonogram producer, film producer and broadcaster. As an illustrative example, Guus mentioned that in the event a Dutch actor acts in a movie broadcasted in the US, the artist will then collect related income as what is called neighboring rights.

Guus then crossed the threshold into an even more intriguing realm. He remarkably deemed the European music industry to be somewhat “discriminating.” He clarified his sentiment by noting that Dutch musicians for example are treated rather differently from French musicians. It was certainly new and even surprising for me to learn that the song of a Dutch artist who sings in French is said to have much more promising prospects—in the sense of for example, greater radio airplay—compared to the same artist who might choose to sing in Dutch. Guus mused that maybe the French language does lend more appeal to French songs.

Another astonishing discovery I made in the lecture was that apparently there is no way in the Netherlands for one to detect if someone illegally downloaded music online. It was also interesting to learn that it was only rather recently, merely “around 2 to 3 years ago,” that it only became illegal to download others’ music online in the Netherlands; it was considered legal to do so just not long ago.

I also especially enjoyed the discussion on public lending rights. It was almost my very first exposure to the concept of public lending rights, and I was therefore exceptionally intrigued. This right is said to apply in the case of for example, library lending where rights owners will presumably be paid whenever a CD or DVD is loaned to the public. Libraries in the Netherlands were said to be able to buy a CD or DVD at the wholesale price, or at a 50% reduction in commercial price of the product. It was absolutely intellectually fascinating for me to learn that in the Netherlands, with the application of the public lending rights, members of the public who rent a CD from the library is allowed to download the contents of the CD into a personal laptop as long as the library dutifully pays rights owners every time the CD is borrowed. To put this into perspective, Guus noted that lending is thus “an exception” under the Dutch Copyright Act; lending is treated differently from illegal downloading, or even streaming.

It was also stimulating when Guus mentioned the concept of “tying,” along with its Dutch equivalent known as “koppelverkoop,” which otherwise directly translates as “couplings.” “Tying” in the context of music industry deals was accessibly explained as the obligation to sign the next deal as mandated by the signing of the first deal. Guus made sure to repeat and emphasize that despite such a practice of “tying” or “koppelverkoop” to be “almost normal” in the Dutch music industry, it is unmistakably “illegal.” I’ve found a rather wonderful primer to the concept of “tying” and “tying arrangements” on the American Bar Association website:

Additionally, Guus also noted that despite the illegality of the inclusion of the language “for all the existing and future repertoire” in Dutch music industry contracts, such language continue to appear within contract clauses. On another interesting note, Guus also mentioned in passing that apparently the notion of “monopoly” exists in the Netherlands’ copyright scene that thus differs from the US. I would surely have loved if Guus actually further fleshed out this assertion.

During the lecture, despite Guus’s rather fleeting mention without further specificities of a lawsuit pertaining to digital lending rights in the Netherlands, I distinctly felt invigorated after to conduct further independent research on the lawsuit in question and even on the wider, and potentially formidable, repertoire of Dutch lawsuits in general, whether related to the Dutch music industry or otherwise.

I certainly couldn’t help it as well that even with Guus’s another cursory mention of “a little differen[ce]” in music consumption trends in Germany and UK in contrast to the rest of Europe—that people in the UK “still buy music”—I again instinctively registered another item onto my to-do list, specifically to conduct research on the music markets of various European countries and if I’m able to, even establish notable differences between them. With Guus’s mention of the UK copyright law, I realize that I just might download a copy of the UK’s Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 19883 as well, and do some advance reading to the best of my abilities prior to the start of my law studies in the UK in less than 6 months’ time.

I would venture to say that Guus’s radiating humility makes him even more appealing as a lecturer. I found it incredibly hilarious that in the mentioning of the phrase “equitable remuneration” in class, Guus candidly said that he needed to practice pronouncing it the way Berklee students or professors would need to practice the pronunciation of a single vowel or consonant sound in Dutch. The class, at least the Berklee students and not necessarily including the Dutch students, also instantly roared in laughter when Guus confidently told the class that he is also unable to pronounce the English word “reciprocity." I guess I could empathize with Guus as I personally struggled especially trying to pronounce with integrity the second half of the Dutch word “aardig.” “Aardig” means “nice” in English, and I learned from one of my Dutch hosts how to say “You are nice” in Dutch. The struggle is indeed real hahaha.

This is undisputably one of my most favorite lectures that I’ve attended in this exchange with InHolland University of Applied Sciences in Haarlem. This lecture itself is almost somewhat of a representation of the harmonious synchronicity of hearty cultural and intellectual educational exchange that embodies the trip as a whole.


1Copyright Law 1912, Auteurswet 1912 (1912). Print.

2"BUMA/STEMRA." Collecting Societies Handbook. Baker & McKenzie and the World Intellectual Property Organization, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.

3Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (1988). Print.