Valentina Lisitsa Accidentally Made YouTube Think She's Glenn Gould

Wednesday, February 08, 2017 - 02:01 PM

Valentina Lisitsa at piano Thanks to a Youtube Malfunction, Valentina Lisitsa has found her performance of Bach's Partita No. 2 partially silenced. (Valentina Lisitsa/Youtube)

Can “doing your best” ever go wrong? If you’re Valentina Lisitsa, it most certainly can. The Ukrainian pianist recently shared a beautifully executed performance of Bach’s Partita No. 2, and she soon noticed there was a gaping musical hole in her video — 90 seconds of silence right in the middle of the piece.

So what happened?

Piano legend Glenn Gould recorded the Partita in 1957 for Columbia Masterworks, now Sony Classical Records. Like many discerning copyright owners on YouTube, Sony Classical uses a tool called "Content ID," which scans the audio of new uploads against files the copyright owner submits to YouTube. If new audio content matches something in the database, it’s flagged and the owner can decide if it's a copyright violation. Still with us? Good.

In this case, when Lisitsa’s Partita (say that three times fast) was scanned, it was matched to the 60-year-old Gould recording. Naturally, Sony blocked the offending portion. Simply put, Lisitsa played so well that she accidentally fooled YouTube into thinking she was Glenn Gould. This almost certainly has to do less with her playing and more with classical music's ongoing problems in the digital and streaming space but, as she notes, the error is a somewhat offhanded compliment.

Although Sony doesn’t seem to be easing up on the block, Lisitsa plans to perform the Partita on tour, where she invites her fans to see for themselves whether she is “half as good as Gould.”

For the curious and uninitiated, here’s a video of Gould playing the same piece. It’s not from the 1957 recording, but instead a documentary called “The Art of Piano.” It’s played a bit faster and comes complete with his signature humming.


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Comments [6]

Bohdanchyck from NYC

Dear WQXR,
please do not promote artists who actively involved in pro-Putin propaganda, like Ms. Lisitsa.
your faithful listener

Twisted Muses: Hitler’s and Putin’s Pianists
Lisitsa actively supports pro-Putin extremists with the translation of anti-Ukranian propaganda.

Feb. 13 2017 04:04 PM
ron b from NJ

What makes it funnier is the Sony copyright at the end of her recording.

Feb. 13 2017 09:29 AM
Glen Hoban from Winnipeg, MB, Canada

I am a classical (and other) pianist on YouTube since 2008 (I am 'Kamibambiraptor'). I have endured hundreds and thousands of false content ID matches of various sorts. I have disputed them all and have won all of my disputes, but this has taken up hours of my time, and has lost me revenues on popular videos.

I have been mistaken for Glenn Gould, too, and Arthur Rubenstein, and others. It is not terribly a compliment: occasionally crappily performed old videos taken with my point & click camera have been flagged.

YouTube makes 'disputing' a content ID match scary, and I do not doubt that many other classical musicians have gotten content ID matches, but have not disputed because they were scared to (you get warnings against filing frivolous disputes and so on), or were flattered. This means that YouTube and rights holders are making money they are not entitled to.

I have LOTS to say on this subject.

I am surprised the content ID match has not been dropped already; Ms. Lisitsa is a well-known performer!

Feb. 11 2017 12:24 PM
Adele Fishman

A "compliment" to Valentina - but a sorry state in the current devlopment of electronic "eavesdropping"???

Feb. 10 2017 09:04 PM
Michael from hudson valley

What?? Sony (via Gould) OWNS that way of playing the Partita no. 2?

No explanation how a Sony robot executes on YouTube with no check or oversight.? It would be bad enough if Sony & YT (Google) were the same mindless monolith; afaik they are not. But if both giant corps are brain dead, you get this. I wish that like @Bitter I could see only humor. But the powerful-but-brain-dead turning things over to robots is no laughing matter.

Feb. 10 2017 01:04 AM
Bitter Scribe from Chicago

Pretty darn funny, and of course a tribute to the great Valentina.

I wonder how often things like this happen with the classical repertoire.

Feb. 09 2017 02:53 PM

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