IMSLP: Its Story and all its Uses
Composer, arranger and editor Carl Simpson is the owner of Serenissima Music, LLC., a classical music publishing company, and one of the founders of the International Score Music Library Project/ Project Petrucci, an internet repository of music.
Presently the Chief Operations Officer of IMSLP, Carl has been involved from the beginning with the enormous database of works that has literally changed the music industry worldwide, making print scores of works that are no longer protected by copyright accessible to all. How did IMSLP come to exist? Why are they threatened with lawsuits so often? And how can we use it as a tool beyond looking up individual pieces? Can you really see Bach’s own handwriting, and what is that clef? Lastly, why does Mr. Simpson only come out of the dark recesses of his office occasionally? Is it true his wife lures him out with Kung Pao Chicken and anything chocolate?
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Carl Simpson studied theory and composition under Dr. James Woodard at Southern Illinois University, where he graduated cum laude in 1979.
Leonard Slatkin recorded one of Simpson’s “Promenade” sections of his “Pictures at an Exhibition” arrangement on the Naxos label. Some of his arrangements of Bartok, Grainger, Tchaikovsky and Debussy have also been recorded.
As an editor, he has prepared many works, including Tobias Picker’s opera, Thérèse Raquin which was commissioned by a consortium of companies, including The Dallas Opera, San Diego Opera, and the Opéra de Montréal.
An exacting musicologist, he has re-constructed operas and ballets from original manuscripts scattered around the globe. These works often fell victim to the egos of divas and prima ballerinas, such as Anna Sobeshchanskaya, in the original production of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” Disliking a pas de six in the original version, she had Marius Petipa, choreographer of the St Petersburg Imperial Theater create a pas de deux instead, which he set to music by Ludwig Minkus, enraging Tchaikovsky.
In a similar fashion, conductors and musicians have frequently altered major works to suit their situations, creating conflicting scores. Simpson delights in researching the performance history of these works and ferreting out their many variations, using original sources to re-create the composer’s original intentions, as well as the most valid variations. His editions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s three biggest successes, “The Mikado,” “Pirates of Penzance,” and “HMS Pinafore” have delighted the audiences of major opera companies, including the Opera Theater of St. Louis, The Dallas opera, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. His fluency in Russian has also aided his research and restoration of various Russian ballets, including the aforementioned “Swan Lake.”
As a composer, Mr. Simpson is published by Kalmus, TRN, and Dover. Mr. Simpson was previously chief music editor for MMB Music, Inc., where he also served as director of thePerformance and Copyright departments, making him ideally suited to the many facets of IMSLP management.
Carl lives in Edwardsville, IL with his wife Lois, the chocolate temptress. He is proud of his lifetime of service to exceptional felines, currently serving as footman to the benevolent monarch der Prinz Maximus von Katzenhoff.