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New song with old lyrics - protocols?

GUEST 28 Oct 09 - 12:00 PM
Nigel Parsons 28 Oct 09 - 12:29 PM
GUEST 28 Oct 09 - 01:03 PM
Joe Offer 28 Oct 09 - 01:29 PM
GUEST 28 Oct 09 - 05:22 PM
Jim Dixon 29 Oct 09 - 06:43 PM
Leadfingers 29 Oct 09 - 08:10 PM
Artful Codger 30 Oct 09 - 02:52 AM
Charley Noble 30 Oct 09 - 09:08 AM
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Subject: New song with old lyrics - protocols?
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 12:00 PM

My band, Round the House, is about to record a new CD and one of the songs we are doing uses the words from a poem by deceased poet, Katherine Tynan. The words are placed to an original melody,which is a variation of a traditional tune, played in the breaks. It was a really cool project to take a tune we love "Old Copper Plate", and create a song melody to go within it, instead of finding the tune to match an existing song.

My problem is that I am not sure if I need to get permission to use the poem as lyrics now that we are recording it. Does anyone have experience with this type of thing. The poet is deceased and I have no idea who I might contact about using it... or if that is even necessary. I am not sure exactly when the poem was written, but it was likely in the early 1900s.

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

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Subject: RE: New song with old lyrics - protocols?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 12:29 PM

Before anyone can advise we would need to know where you are from. Copyright rules are not universal.
In the UK the author would retain copyright on the words until 70 years after his death (or his estate would)
But this will be different for other countries.


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Subject: RE: New song with old lyrics - protocols?
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 01:03 PM

Thanks Nigel,
I am in Arizona in the U.S. How do you even contact the estate of someone to find out? I know that for modern songs, we contact the writer and send them a royalty, if they want it.... but not sure about how that works if you are only using lyrics.   On a side note, I would love to send a cd to the decendants of Katherine Tynan - I just think that might be really nice for them to have.


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Subject: ADD: Poetry of Katharine/Katherine Tynan Hinkson
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 01:29 PM

Hi, Claire -
If you want to post the poem or at least tell us what it is, we're pretty good at researching such things.
As far as I know, no nation has longer copyright protection than the United States. Until 1998, copyrights were protected for 75 years after publication, so anything published in 1923 or earlier is in the public domain. Under the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, 20 years were added to the copyright of everything not yet in the public domain; and other works would then be protected for 70 years after the author's death. It looks like the European Union has enacted similar extensions.
So, for works published after 1923, it's confusing - but most works are protected for longer than we want to think about.

There are several articles about Katherine Tynan (1861-1931) on the Internet, and here are a few nice examples:
And since these are in the Public Domain, how about some poetry?

Flowers of Youth was extraordinarily popular. Copies were sold to aid the Red Cross. A thousand were distributed to bereaved mothers in the South of England and the Bishop of London used it several times in sermons.

Flowers of Youth
by Katharine Tynan Hinkson

Lest Heaven be thronged with greybeards hoary.
God who made boys for His delight
Stoops in a day of grief and glory
And calls them in, in from the night.
When they come trooping from the war
Our skies have many a new young star ... Dear boys! they shall be young forever.
The son of God was once a boy.
they run and leap by a clear river
And of their mirth they have great joy.
God who made boys so clean and good
Smiles with the eyes of fatherhood.’

The Dead Coach
by Katharine Tynan Hinkson

At night when sick folk wakeful lie,
I heard the dead coach passing by,
And heard it passing wild and fleet,
And knew my time was come not yet.
Click-clack, click-clack, the hoofs went past,
Who takes the dead coach travels fast,
On and away through the wild night,
The dead must rest ere morning light.
If one might follow on its track
The coach and horses, midnight black,
Within should sit a shape of doom
That beckons one and all to come.
God pity them to-night who wait
To hear the dead coach at their gate,
And him who hears, though sense be dim,
The mournful dead coach stop for him.
He shall go down with a still face,
And mount the steps and take his place,
The door be shut, the order said!
How fast the pace is with the dead!
Click-clack, click-clack, the hour is chill,
The dead coach climbs the distant hill.
Now, God, the Father of us all,
Wipe Thou the widow’s tears that fall!

by Katharine Tynan Hinkson

The door of Heaven is on the latch
  To-night, and many a one is fain
To go home for one's night's watch
  With his love again.
Oh, where the father and mother sit
  There's a drift of dead leaves at the door
Like pitter-patter of little feet
  That come no more.
Their thoughts are in the night and cold,
  Their tears are heavier than the clay,
But who is this at the threshold
  So young and gay?
They are come from the land o' the young,
  They have forgotten how to weep;
Words of comfort on the tongue,
  And a kiss to keep.
They sit down and they stay awhile,
  Kisses and comfort none shall lack;
At morn they steal forth with a smile
  And a long look back.

Turn O' The Year
by Katherine Tynan Hinkson

This is the time when bit by bit
The days begin to lengthen sweet
And every minute gained is joy -
And love stirs in the heart of a boy.

This is the time the sun, of late
Content to lie abed till eight,
Lifts up betimes his sleepy head -
And love stirs in the heart of a maid.

This is the time we dock the night
Of a whole hour of candlelight;
When song of linnet and thrush is heard -
And love stirs in the heart of a bird.

This is the time when sword-blades green,
With gold and purple damascene,
Pierce the brown crocus-bed a-row -
And love stirs in a heart I know.

The Wind that Shakes the Barley
by Katherine Tynan Hinkson

There's music in my heart all day,
I hear it late and early,
It comes from fields are far away,
The wind that shakes the barley.

Above the uplands drenched with dew
The sky hangs soft and pearly,
An emerald world is listening to
The wind that shakes the barley.

Above the bluest mountain crest
The lark is singing rarely,
It rocks the singer into rest,
The wind that shakes the barley.

Oh, still through summers and through springs
It calls me late and early.
Come home, come home, come home, it sings,
The wind that shakes the barley.

Any Woman
by Katherine Tynan Hinkson

I am the pillars of the house;
The keystone of the arch am I.
Take me away, and roof and wall
Would fall to ruin me utterly.

I am the fire upon the hearth,
I am the light of the good sun,
I am the heat that warms the earth,
Which else were colder than a stone.

At me the children warm their hands;
I am their light of love alive.
Without me cold the hearthstone stands,
Nor could the precious children thrive.

I am the twist that holds together
The children in its sacred ring,
Their knot of love, from whose close tether
No lost child goes a-wandering.

I am the house from floor to roof,
I deck the walls, the board I spread;
I spin the curtains, warp and woof,
And shake the down to be their bed.

I am their wall against all danger,
Their door against the wind and snow,
Thou Whom a woman laid in a manger,
Take me not till the children grow!

There is a YouTube recording of "Old Copper Plate" here (click)
And musical notation here (click)

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Subject: RE: New song with old lyrics - protocols?
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 05:22 PM

Hi Joe,
The poem is the Wind that Shakes the Barley, which you showed above. So, I assume that is public domain - very good. Thanks for your help with this.


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Subject: RE: New song with old lyrics - protocols?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 29 Oct 09 - 06:43 PM

I found THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY, by Katherine Tynan, in a book which was published in 1909. That means it's definitely out of copyright.

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Subject: RE: New song with old lyrics - protocols?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 29 Oct 09 - 08:10 PM

Looks like you can help yourself Claire - But it WOULD be polite to credit Ms Tynan for the lyrics

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Subject: RE: New song with old lyrics - protocols?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 02:52 AM

And to be quite sure, base your variant on a copy of the poem published earlier than 1923, such as the book Jim Dixon referred to. If you use/reprint a text from a later source, it may contain differences in wording, punctuation or typography which are identifiably those of a later, still-copyrighted publication or variant. This precaution may be overkill, but better safe than sued.

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Subject: RE: New song with old lyrics - protocols?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 09:08 AM


There is consistent and excellent advice in this thread.

I've dealt with similar questions with regard to recording songs adapted from the poems of C. Fox Smith, and some of her poems were published after the British copyright cut-off of 1923.

Somewhere in your notes to the lyrics, printed with your CD and/or on your website, should be a credit to the composer and a source for the published poem. Contacting heirs is optional but can be a rewarding experience.

I applaud you for raising the question. Many other musicians appear indifferent to the source of their lyrics, even when the composers still walk this earth. May they endure their punishment in musician's hell for eternity (speculations will be addressed in a separate thread)!

Charley Noble

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