Classical & New Age Background Music

This page features original compositions that are as well as our own performances of classical music tracks that are in the public domain (as their copyrights have expired) You may use these for free as background music for non-commercial videos and other non-commercial multimedia-projects; simply add the appropriate credit as shown on the download page for each song. You can refer to the Terms of Use for more information.

1. Performances of Classical Works

There are our performances of public domain compositions. 

I Vow to Thee, My Country: Performed and Arranged by Kate Kwok (2:12)

Credits: Piano arrangement and performance by Kate Kwok (2015)
Song composed by Gustav Holst and Sir Cecil Spring Rice (1921)

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Our New Video: Kate’s Piano Cover of Misty Road from Moonlight Drawn by Clouds

We continue our student music series with Kate performing her own arrangement of Misty Road (안갯길) from the original soundtrack of the hit Korean television series Love in the Moonlight (구르미 그린 달빛, which has the literal translation of ‘Moonlight Drawn By Clouds’) The original version is sung by Ben (벤) and can be viewed here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrceHhXYkIA

Note: This song is NOT part of the free background music series as we do not own the copyright to the composition.

Kate is a Form 6 student at SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School. She created the arrangement by ear (i.e., nothing is written down), so sheet music is not available, but we plan on contacting publishers this summer to see of they are interested in releasing a score of her version. She is now preparing to take her public exams, so her music life will be on hold for a few months. However, she plans to record two more arrangements of songs from the same series—Moonlight Drawn by Cloulds—after she finishes her exams.

This is the fourteenth song in our music series featuring students at SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School in Hong Kong. The purpose of this series is allow students to share their love of music while helping them develop their talents as performers and songwriters (and arrangers!). To view the whole series. featuring originals and covers in English, Cantonese and Japanese, you can go to: you can go to: Student Music: Originals and Covers. Kate’s other videos in this series include her arrangements of Feast of Starlight (from the soundtrack to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) and I Vow to Thee My Country and her cover of Taylor Swift’s Breathe.

Credits:
Composition: Misty Road (안갯길) (Love in the Moonlight OST Part 4)
Music composed by Jinyoung (진영) of B1A4
Piano arrangement by Kate Kwok
Piano performance by Kate Kwok
Recording and video by longzijun

Subtitles of the lyrics are available in Korean (Hangul) and English (click on CC below the video to select subtitles or click on the settings/gear icon to choose between English and Korean lyrics). The song is a wistful ode to memories of a former romance. Although the passage of time can dull pain and assuage heartbreak, it will also lead to happier memories starting to blur and then fade away. The misty road of the title serves as a metaphor for this kind of fading memory. In ‘Love in the Moonlight’, the song is associated with the story of the second lead male character, Kim Yoon-sung, who is played by actor, singer and producer Jinyoung, who composed the song.

Regarding this arrangement, I particularly liked the way in with Kate used a variety of techniques in the right-hand part—single-note melodies, octaves, chords and two-note harmonies—to create a variety of different timbres and moods. I am looking forward to hearing her upcoming arrangements.If you like her performance, you can leave a comment on the video to show your support.

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education

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Equinox: New Short Instrumental for Intros, Outros and Credits

Here is a new addition to the Short Instrumentals Collection. These are short pieces suitable for use as intros, outros and credits and can be used for free in non-commercial projects as long as credit is provided (Music by longzijun). You can also use the music for free in monetized YouTube videos (that are otherwise non-commercial in nature).

For more information about the terms and conditions regarding using the music (including terms for commercial use), you can refer to the Terms of Use. The download links are below each video.

Short Instrumental 12: Equinox


Equinox (www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsQG0jITrr0)

I finished this 31-second composition on March 20, which is the day of the Spring equinox (Yay, Spring!); hence the title. This song is mainly built from loops, with the piano part being played on a Korg MicroX.  I started with an acoustic guitar base, but went for a jazzier feel with a hint of reggae.

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New 6 sec. Loopable Music Theme: Dreamy

This is a super short (six seconds) theme that can be used in a very short video or an intro. It can also be seamlessly looped (i.e., played repeatedly) to make a longer piece. The following video (I shot the footage at a beach near my home) shows how it sounds when it is looped.

If you are going to loop it, make sure you use the WAV or AIF formats. If you use MP3 files, they will no longer loop smoothly.

The song is free to use for non-commercial projects as well as for monetized (but otherwise non-commercial) videos on YouTube as long as attribution is provided (“music by longzijun”). You can refer to the more detailed Terms of Use.

Dreamy Loop (www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFdFz6rQkR0)

Here it is as the six-second version:

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Creative Commons Licenses: Advantages and Drawbacks

What are Creative Commons licenses?

Creative Commons is a free licensing system designed to make it easier for creative people to share their work and make it freely available for people to use (creativecommons.org/).

This article examines the benefits, perils and pitfalls of using Creative Commons Licences. If you are doing creative work and want to share your work, you can consider if the Creative Commons license is right for you. There is no need for a formal registration process; you can simply indicate somewhere on or by a specific work that you are publishing it under one of the six licenses:

  • Attribution (CC BY) (The user needs to credit the creator)
  • Attribution Share Alike (CC BY-SA) (The user needs to credit the creator and the the new work, whatever it is, should have the same Creative Commons license.
  • Attribution No Derivatives (CC BY-ND) (The user needs to credit the creator; the user may use, but may not adapt or remix the original work).
  • Attribution Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC)(The user needs to credit the creator; the work may only be used for free for non-commercial purposes; however, the creator, is free to make other arrangements for people who want to use the work commercially)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND)

Why should content creators like artists, musicians, photographers, bloggers consider using them?

You can make your work available to a wider audience. It can help others—like students, charities, amateur filmmakers or simply fellow hobbyists—create their own work.

Creative Commons licences are becoming more popular. Many media sites sharing like YouTube, Vimeo, Wikimedia Commons and Flickr include functions that allows users to post Creative Commons content (with Vimeo, the default sharing setting is a Creative Commons license). This Creative Commons licensing feature is typically found under Advanced Settings or Sharing Options.

These media sharing sites, as well as search engines like Google (in Google’s case, this function is found under Advanced Search), also enable people to search specifically for Creative Commons content, so if you upload your content using such a license, it may bring your work more exposure through such searches. However, Not a lot of people know about these search filters yet, so you are unlikely to see a huge increase in views/traffic.

Search for Creative Commons work using the YouTube search filter
Search for Creative Commons work using YouTube’s search filter

What are the drawbacks of Creative Commons licences?

Although Creative Commons licenses are very useful they can be misused, so content creators and content users need to be careful.

1. If you are a content user, can you guarantee that the content creator had the rights to publish that content under a Creative Commons license?
This may be the fatal flaw of the Creative Commons system; in order for it to work properly, everyone needs to be familiar with concepts like copyright law and public domain. For example, Person A may publish under a Creative Commons license a recording of her saxophone quartet’s version of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Person A may think that this composition is in the public domain, but the quartet was using an arrangement that is protected by copyright as it is a substantial adaptation of the original Beethoven work. Therefore, Person A did not actually have the right to issue the work under a Creative Commons license. Person B then comes across the song and uses it in a video that he uploads to YouTube, and he publishes that video under a Creative Commons license. Then twenty other people make use of that video to create their own videos. The problem is that Person B and the twenty other people are now guilty of copyright infringement and could have their videos taken down. This kind of inadvertent copyright infringement is popping up quite frequently on YouTube’s help discussion forum.

2. They last forever…kind of
For the creator: Once you license your work, or state that you are issuing your work under a Creative Commons license, the license is irrevocable. One day down the line, you might want to make your work ‘less free’. For example, perhaps your photography hobby has now turned into a profession. You would not be able to cancel the Creative Commons licenses you applied to all of your old work.

For the user: Not all creators follow the above rule and people often change or cancel the licenses. For example, on Flickr, a photographer can upload photos with a Creative Commons license and then some time later change the copyright on the photos to ‘All Rights Reserved’. If you really want to be safe, when you download anything listed under Creative Commons and plan to use it in your own work, it would be a good idea to get a screen capture of the webpage and write down the date downloaded, the site URL and the type of license the work was published under. Here’s a case in which YouTuber meloST used the YouTube video editor to create his own videos from CC-licensed YouTube videos. Sometime later, the uploader of one of the videos used removed the CC licensing and then had two of meloST’s videos taken down, earning him two copyright strikes and putting his channel in jeopardy: productforums.google.com/forum/#!msg/youtube/HEMd4WQcTlk/Z4xEqVXDHvgJ

3. Are you sure that you are OK with all possible uses of your work?
Let’s say, for example, you have strong views on a social issue like gay marriage. Would you mind if someone used your photo of two men as an illustration in a popular blog article espousing completely the opposite view and then having your name attached to it. Under the Creative Commons system, you can demand to have your name removed, but would you mind having your work used to support something you are strongly opposed to? The international Creative Commons licenses do include a moral rights clause stating that end users “must not distort, mutilate, modify or take other derogatory action in relation to the Work which would be prejudicial to the Original Author’s honor or reputation.” However, it is difficult to see how this clause could be used by you, the photographer, in the given example, which simply involves opposing points of view. After all, what is considered immoral or reputation-damaging by one person, may not be considered so bad by the community in general. The blog writer may even consider his/her use of your photo to be doing you a favor in terms of your honor and reputation.

4. Is everyone involved in your work OK with all the possible uses?
And what about the two men in the photo? Perhaps it is just a photo of two of your friends taken during a trip to the beach. Suddenly, because of the blog’s popularity, the photo starts appearing in Facebook feeds and before long, your two straight friends have become poster boys for homosexuality. Notwithstanding their own views on gay rights, would they be comfortable with their new role as symbols. A similar thing happened to a Texan teen, whose images, published by a friend on Flickr with a CC BY license, were used in a Virgin Mobile advertising campaign in Australia that presented her in an unflattering light (www.cbsnews.com/2100-205_162-3290986.html). Her family attempted to sue various parties, but was unsuccessful (the main stumbling block was that there was no clear jurisdiction).

5. Creative Commons licenses can easily be abused by scrapers
Scrapers are people who collect, often using automated software, content produced by others and then republish the content with the goal being to drive people to their own website and earn advertising dollars (this is called ‘web scraping’). If all of your photos, videos or blog entries are published under Creative Commons licenses, there is nothing to stop a scraper from downloading and re-uploading ALL your work into what essentially becomes a mirror site. If you find out your Creative Commons licensed work is scraped, there is not much you can do about it, especially if your name is included somewhere on the page. If your work is NOT published under a Creative Commons license, however, you can act to have the copied content removed

6. The licences may be too specific, not specific enough or may clash
Here are some examples:

  1. Can images with a Non-Derivative license be used unaltered to make a video?
  2. What exactly does non-commercial mean? Are monetized YouTube videos commercial? What about a company-produced video that features one of its products but doesn’t actually try to sell the product? Is that still commercial use?
  3. If you create a video that uses an Attribution (BY) Share Alike (SA) image that you found along with music that you received permission to use, should you slap a Share Alike license on your own video? If you don’t, the use of the image infringes the rights of the photographer. If you do, you are infringing on the copyright held by the composer/musician.
  4. Can you upload a video you made that contains music issued under an CC-NC license to YouTube and publish it under YouTube’s Creative Common’s system (CC-BY)?
  5. If I take a photo of graffiti, can I then publish it under a licence allowing for commercial purposes?

I can answer all of the above questions based on my understanding of the related laws: 1) No, they can’t. 2. There are grey areas; Yes, it is;  Yes, it is. 3) You would need to get permission from the musician to do that. 4) No. 5) Most likely no, but it would depend on the extent to which the photo includes things other than the graffiti (the person or organisation that owns the wall the graffiti was painted on owns the copyright to the actual graffiti unless other arrangements were made with the artist).

However, different people might give you completely different answers.

Summary

Content creators need to look carefully at the pitfalls of Creative Commons licenses before deciding whether they are willing to share their work permanently under those terms. Content users need to especially careful when using Creative Commons work. They should only use work from creators they have full confidence in and should keep a clear record of the licenses (e.g, they should take screen shots)  .

My own use of Creative Commons

I rarely use Creative Commons works in my own work. One exception might be to use attributed CC photos in something like class notes.

I used to use it for my music compositions music, but was put off by the permanent nature of the license and by seeing scrapers re-publishing my work. To make my work available for use, I set up my own terms of use with specific terms governing scraping, remixing and altering and an option for people who monetize videos using my music on YouTube.

I currently use it for some photos (CC-BY-NC), but never for photos with people in them. These I publish using the ‘All Rights Reserved’ setting.

I don’t use CC licenses with blog posts. Why give someone the right to republish your work in it’s entirety when it is just as effective for the other person to quote a paragraph and then have a “read the original article link” at the end of the paragraph?

Related Articles

Music: Public Domain, Fair Use, Copyright and YouTube: Guidelines for video-makers
The Illegal Downloading Debate: Is it OK to Download Songs without Paying?


~by longzijun

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Student Video Activities: Fifty People One Question, Language Challenge & Oral Histories

These are learning activities suitable for high school or even tertiary level students. They could be used classes in language, media. film, communication, social students or liberal studies or with student media production teams or campus television stations.

 

1. The Fifty People, One Question Approach

The Fifty People, One Question activity would involve having students work in groups to create a video a based on the Fifty People, One Question series of videos. In these videos, people are interviewed in the street and are asked one question. The original video was shot in New Orleans in 2008 by the creative partnership of Crush and Lovely & Deltree; their question was: “By the end of today, what would you wish to happen?”

The team also asked the same question in New York and Brooklyn and in London asked the question “Where do you you wish to wake up tomorrow?”  The videos are quite popular and have inspired a series of similar videos such as PostSecret’s: What’s your Secret? (The video set in Ottawa, however, isn’t suitable for secondary school classwork, however, as the interviewees are asked what their favourite curse word is.). The Fifty People One Question Team is quite happy for others to use their approach and even the same title as long as credit is given with a link back to their website:
fiftypeopleonequestion.com
The 50 People, One Question approach can also be used as a starting point for students to develop their own formats. A much more visual approach was used by BenHaistFilms, who took the general idea and gave it a new spin by having interviewees write and down and physically show their answers to the question.

In the above video, the 50 People, 1 Question concept served not so much as a model to be copied, but as a starting point and as a source of inspiration.

A group of my own students in Hong Kong adapted the approach (they were the ones who noticed the original series of videos). In addition to the in-the-street-interviews, they also conducted sit-down interviews which allowed the interviewees to really talk a lot more and go into greater depth. In this video, the first part of series of short films entitled Dreamers, the students look at CM (a professional session musician, arranger and producer who also goes by the name of CMgroovy) and Chan Yat-kuen (an artist and retired teacher).They also conducted interviews in the street with passers-by and learned how varied our dreams can be. The video directors decided not to have a long introduction, but to get to the point almost straight away, starting with the interviewees repeating the question (so the viewer knows pretty much what to expect from the very beginning). Here is the main video (the other videos are at the end of the article):

Because the students collected quite a lot of footage, they produced a series of related films: cmestudio.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/dreamers-hk-part-1/

If students are interested in making a Fifty People, One Question video, they can first think of a suitable question. The questions in the orginal videos are quite good as they are a little unusual and would help avoid pre-thought-out ‘canned’ answers.

 

2. Language Challenges and Comparisons

This is a good activity for students to do if they know native speakers of different languages and if they are looking for something with a little more humor. The format is very flexible. In this video, we have native speakers of Italian and Cantonese try out each other’s language:

 

3. The Oral History Approach

The oral history approach was made famous by Studs Terkel, an American historian who interviewed thousands of ordinary people in-depth; he broadcast these interviews over the radio and published them in a collection of books. Often his interviews would have a specific (e.g., Work, Life during the war, etc.). Oral histories help give a voice to people who are often overlooked in textbooks and in media.  A lot of work on oral histories in the US, for example, has focused on Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who participated in the the Braceros Program, in which temporary labourers were imported into America between 1947 and 1964.


A student group producing an oral history video would interview one person or a small group of persons get them to talk as much as possible about their experiences. The focus is usually on the interviewee’s personal experiences and their thoughts and feelings on these experiences rather than their thoughts in more general issues or things they were not directly involved with.  This kind of  project is great in helping young people understand what life was really like during a specific period of time and understand how the world has changed.

Youth oral history projects can also help bring different generations together. Your average teen would rarely if ever have a conversation with an elderly person they weren’t related to. In many of the oral histories I’ve viewed, the interviewees seemed to appreciate the chance to tell their stories to the young interviewers. In the following video, Carey Giudici discusses some of the benefits of cross-generational oral history projects:


Here is an interview that is part of the African American Museum of Iowa’s oral history project, Adult Voices, Children’s Eyes.  In the first part of the interview, two woman recount their bitter experiences with discrimination and segregation and then, in the second part, explain how society has changed for the better, why they think it’s changed and how this change makes them feel.

If students are working on oral history projects, they should think of a question and period of time they would like to focus on (e.g., What was life like for you as a labourer in the Braceros Program?, What was life like for you, as a black person, growing up in America? What was life like for you  in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation?).  Another very important consideration is the scope of the study. How many interviews will each student group conduct? Will the whole class focus on a specific theme or will groups be allowed to choose their own area to focus on?  Will the students only present the interviews or will they integrate what they have found with other sources? The students might find that their interviewees have other interesting things to talk about, but it would be good to start with one area to focus on and a clear idea of the scope of the project.

As the oral history approach has been used for a long time, there are a lot of supporting materials describing the whole process of conduction oral history interviews.  The following website describes this process: dohistory.org/on_your_own/toolkit/oralHistory.html

A detailed downloadable guide is also available from the Smithsonian Institute (this is very useful and it provides samples of release forms and other kinds of documentation like personal information forms):  http://www.folklife.si.edu/resources/pdf/interviewingguide.pdf

The following PowerPoint presentation (in video form) video clip gives a detailed overview of the whole process:

 

This clip, from the University of Leicester, focuses on the technical aspects of the interview (e.g., seating positions, audio recording techniques, cameras angles, lighting, and getting the interview started etc.) and gives examples of good and bad interview techniques:

4. Educational Benefits

The video activities have several benefits:

  • They encourage students to reach out to the community and come into contact with people from all walks of life and/or from different generations.
  • They help students develop their confidence and communication skills as they approach potential interviewees.
  • They let students listen to different views and challenge students to review preconceptions.
  • They give students the chance to develop their interpersonal skills as they work in groups to plan, prepare, shoot, edit and publicize the video.
  • They can give students inspiration for the further development of their own ideas (The activity could be followed up by written work like writing their own answers to their question and posting it on a class bulletin board or using the video of their oral history interviews as part of a larger research project. It could also be followed up by oral work like presenting their video to the class and reflecting on what they learned by doing the project).

The 50 People 1 Question approach also helps students learn how to analyze and use film techniques. The original 50 People 1 Question videos give students a framework to build on, not just in terms of the overall format, but also in terms of the shooting style. The creators of the original series of videos created them in a specific style. The videos feature:

  • Long introductions (the camera just examines some of the interviewees, creating a feeling of suspense)
  • A structure in which tends to start with shorter responses and with more insightful and deeper responses appearing later on in the video
  • The interviewer never being heard or seen
  • People sometimes being interviewed in pairs, so we can sometimes see reactions to comments
  • Some interviewees having their footage being intercut with others, often with some link between the interviews in the content or language)
  • Use of establishing shots to give the viewer an idea of the general environment
  • The use of background music to set a contemplative mood
  • The use of shots of interviewees getting into position and of the camera being positioned and being put into focus along with unfocused
    shots and shots of people people partly out of the frame. These shots give the video a sort of guerrilla film-making shooting-on-the-fly feel that contrasts with the professional-quality clear sound (quite difficult to achieve in a street interview)  and very still and clear images
  • Extensive use of close-ups
  • The use of specific camera techniques like rack focus (i.e., the focus of the camera gradually changes from foreground to background or vice-versa) and shallow depth of field (e.g., the foreground is clear, while the background is blurry).

 

5. Questions to Consider

Using video in assignments comes with all kinds of challenges. You will need to consider the following:

  1. Are the educational benefits the students will get from the activity worth the time required by students to produce the video?
    How much do your students know and what skills do they already possess?
  2. What support do the students require in terms of equipment and learning?
  3. If the assignment is assessed and not for a film course, how will you take into consideration the gap between students who have easy access to equipment and software and those who don’t or the gap between those with some video-making experience and those who are working on their first video project?
  4. How will you handle copyright infringement and how can you get students to respect copyright?
    How will you handle privacy issues?

For any kind of video project, students should formally gain the consent of the interviewees by having them sign release forms (an example is here:  www.smccd.edu/accounts/brenner/lsci110/OralHistoryReleaseForm.html) and personal information forms.


If your students do work on a 50 People 1 Question video or oral history project, let me know. I’d love to see their work.


~by longzijun

education

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Three new free background music tracks

Three new free background music tracks (Songs 10-12) have been added to the Free Background Music Series

You can use these music recordings for any non-commercial projects that you are working on (e.g., video, animation, presentations, etc.); just provide  credit (music by longzijun). You can refer to the Terms of Use for more information.

Background Music 12: Dreams

Dreams (www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRtHl9n-G3o)

This is the most popular song in the series. It was originally composed for a video done by students in my school’s Creative Media Studio team. They interviewed people about their dreams in life (see their video: (www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbLf9QZ-njY). The song was mainly composed on a Korg M50 synthesizer and is influenced by Indonesian gamelan music and minimalist music.   

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Homepage

This pages serves as a portfolio of education projects I have worked on as well as my creative work in music, photography and writing.

Featured Video

Holly’s Theme (Background Music No. 37) is a video in the free background music series. This video is a collaborative effort with Kate Kwok (piano arrangement and performance) and dancers from Japan, the USA, the Czech Republic and Georgia.

Holly’s Theme (www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNgGpkFZ2f8)

This blog features:

  • Music: Original compositions; free background music
  • Videos: Travel videos, videos about art, culture and movies
  • Photography: Travel and street photography
  • Writing: Poetry, reviews, Japanese music & blog posts
  • Education Projects: School-related projects, resources and articles
  • AsianVoices: An archived version of a site I used to run featuring poems and stories by young Asian writers

Social Media Links

The WordPress blog serves as my main site, but I also have the following accounts:


I am based in Hong Kong, so I have a Chinese name−龍梓駿—which I use for my web-based work and creative projects as it is more distinctive and easier to search for than my actual name. You can contact me at zijun01@gmail.com