The Open Goldberg Variations is a non-profit project that created a new studio recording and typeset score of Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations, and placed them directly into the public domain. By releasing an entirely free version of the classical masterpiece, the project aims to change a common problem: in theory classical music is a common property, yet it is hard to find quality versions online due to copyright restrictions. Open Goldberg Variations cemented a free quality version into the public domain, making the music available for everyone and everything, including schools, universities, musicians, private persons and even commercial productions.
The project embraces open standards and coined the term "Open Source Bach" in reference to the ideals of Open Source Software.
The score and the recording were released into the public domain using the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license tool on May 28, 2012.
The creation of the new score was responsible for significant advancements in the state of the art for open source music notation software. Two rounds of public, online peer review were utilized to spot errors and inconsistencies in the new score, as compared to Bach's manuscript. Jamie Lughlin of the Dallas Observer underscored the need for a high-quality, public domain version of the score, saying "Unless a brand new score is crafted and gifted to the public, such as in this case, with all parties involved volunteering his or her time and signing over their rights to future kickbacks, the classics cannot be accessible to everyone."
Pianist Kimiko Ishizaka supported the project by performing the 85-minute piece for the recording, including a five-day session in the Teldex Studio of Berlin. Piano manufacturer Bösendorfer supported the project by shipping their flagship instrument, the 290 Imperial, from Vienna to Berlin for the recording session. Canadian record producer Anne-Marie Sylvestre volunteered her time to record, edit, and master the recording.
As part of the project the team developed a digital score that allows people to read the notes while they are being played. The technology recognizes which notes are being played and people can follow along with live performances using their smart phones, iPads and digital devices. The digital version has two major implications for the way music is being produced, used and distributed online: