Tuesday, September 11, 2007

More Hatto!

The case of the purloined piano recordings just won't die! Intelligent Life magazine has a long article on Joyce Hatto and the fraud perpetrated by her husband William Barrington-Coupe and, presumably, the pianist herself.

Apparently the "Hatto" recordings have been traced to 66 different pianists. (Details are at Farhan Malik's site.) Rod Williams, the author of the Intelligent Life article, has tracked the literature about Hatto and found that some unsubstantiated claims had been made over the years about her training and early career. What a surprise, eh?

I'm especially intrigued by this:
James Inverne, editor of Gramophone magazine, was contacted by two critics who wished to remain anonymous, to warn him off this story.
I wonder if those particular critics would be willing to come forward now.

Update, Sept. 11: Mark Singer's New Yorker article is now on line and a must-read.


Marc Geelhoed said...

Gramophone published this story, though, at least an early version of it, when Jed Distler reported his concerns about Hatto. Inverne is warned off by two critics only to be pressed forward by another? Doesn't make sense.

Lisa Hirsch said...

This is sequence of events implied by the Intelligent Life article:

- Hatto career develops through numerous reviews, Internet buzz, etc.

- Anonymous critics warn off Iverne

- Rumor & gossip

- Jeremy Nicholas challenges the world to produce proof (June, 2006)

- The Gracenote database tips Jed Distler off (February 2007)

- Not mentioned here, but more or less simultaneously with Distler's discovery, CHARM discovers that some Hatto mazurka recordings are identical to those of another pianist

Makes sense to me.

Anonymous said...

The article makes it sound as if Distler discovered the database anomaly, but it was actually someone else who first noticed it, and emailed Distler about it, and then Distler followed up on the tip.

An interesting thing about the story that remains to be cleared up is why the item in the database was partially correct, giving Hatto's Concert Artist label, while still showing the artist name from BIS. Strange. I think that Gracenote, the database company, keeps track of all changes made to the database and could give the world what information they have for that item, but I haven't heard that they have done so.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I have friends at Gracenote. Perhaps I will make inquiries.

Andrys said...

Lisa, at my Hatto news page, at http://www.andrys.com/hatto.html
I've included for awhile a link to the discussions re the details of the Gracenote database having, when queried more than once after the hoax announcement, Laszlo Simon's name as pianist but Concert Artists as the label.

One cannot change the label field easily, as that requires special software and permissions, it's said.

Also, I've added today, a preliminary PDF of the New Yorker article for issue February 17, which is incredibly comprehensive, acknowledges the complexity of the story and is an entertaining and illuminating read.

Yes, Brian Ventura was left out of the Economist Intelligent Life story (apparently having been based on Gramophone's earliest announcement but since modified by Gramophone retroactive to Feb 15).

Ventura is interviewed in Mark Singer's article.

I was given permission to forward the file to anyone so I have placed it on my site for download. It will probably be readable on the NewYorker site soon as they seem to be planning an online feature around the article.

I enjoyed Rod Williams' article quite a bit, but the max length didn't allow the depth of information in Singer's, though I must say Singer is a very thorough and deft writer.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thanks, Andrys!

Only people with the right permissions or inside Gracenote would be able to edit the database. The data may be editable by the company that submits the data, I don't know.

I'll read Singer when get my New Yorker issue.

Andrys said...

Right. Permissions to edit the artist name are lighter than the ones to edit the label, people have found, which would explain why the label was still saying 'Concert Artists' a few days after the hoax exposure.

Lisa, don't miss the audio/mp3 discussion at NewYorker as it is an excellent 15-minute intro and describes and explains the waveform analyses, something not included in the magazine article.

Links to the two versions of the article (HTML and pdf) and the audio are on my page though I've changed the permalink to
to make it easier to find after subsequent New Yorker issues become the current feature.

Anonymous said...

The database issue is a little more complex than just one of permissions. For one thing, the database is editable via applications which provide the interface, such as CD creation programs, or media players. It isn't at all clear that some of them do not provide the label name as an editable field. In some instances they must, since users are allowed to input all the information for a CD they don't find in the database, which would of necessity include the label (or that the way it seems). I believe Gracenote allows the application designers to include whatever editable fields they want, and I know from experience that different apps included different fields. Making the situation even murkier is the fact that at one time there was a downloadable direct interface application that ordinary users could get from the Gracenote website itself, so they could do edits without the need for a licensed piece of software from elsewhere. I never got it to work, but I do remember it being there. I don't know whether working copies of it were out in world prior to Ventura's discovery.

But anyway, it would still be interesting to know the revision history of that particular item in the database, if Gracenote tracks it.

Andrys said...

You mention, "since users are allowed to input all the information for a CD they don't find in the database" ...

Yes, but we're talking about "editing" -- editing an existing CD, since Hatto records were there. This one in mid-February apparently replaced that one, so it would have been an edit.

There is much detail/reported experience with this in connection with the Hatto iTune records as of Feb 15-18 and on the various editing capabilities and permissions for consumers, at the RMCR groups searchable via google groups).

No one querying those days, including someone at pianophiles forum on Feb 17, saw anything but Concert Artists in the Label field though Simon's name was in the artist field...

So many mysteries in this story.

Things often are not what they seem, on many levels there.

Anonymous said...

I went to Google Groups and did some searching. My, what a lot of information to sort through!! I haven't the time at the moment to go through everything with a fine-toothed comb, but during a quick skim over some of the messages, I did not find any verifiable reference that the "smoking gun" CD in the database was ever anything other than what appeared to Brian Ventura (although there is vast amounts of speculation on the subject). That is, that the CD had at some time prior to his discovery appeared as a Hatto CD and then was altered or replaced. Or that the data for the Simon CD on BIS was in the database at any time before the story broke. I don't remember seeing any information about that in any of the media coverage, either.

It would be good if Gracenote could provide what information they might have on it, if they have any. Or if they don't, let us know that they don't. The Gracenote website press section includes a links to a good number of articles about the Hatto affair, including one in the Wall Street Journal that has interviews with Gracenote officials in which they discuss the disc recognition process, and also say that user changes to the database such as replacing an artist's name would be flagged for scrutiny by the Gracenote staff (although nothing is said about what scrutiny really involves or the results of it). And nothing about the actual record in the database.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Gracenote probably considers information about the particular records and who edited them to be proprietary. I think my best bet is not to ask my friend who works there, but to query the press officer or something. I will check out the links to the Hatto affair articles first.

Anonymous - are you willing to identify yourself?

David B said...

The New Yorker article is excellent, particularly for describing the sequence of events and for identifying Hatto's husband's earlier career of false labeling - which would be circumstantial evidence at best except for the claims that 1) he was using in the 50s or 60s the same imaginary conductor he later ascribed Hatto's concerto recordings to; 2) the 1989 claim that the pianist who really did play the transcription of Elgar's First Symphony (not a regular item in the solo piano repertory, surely: it's a huge, long symphony) was a pupil of Hatto's; when asked now, he says he'd never even heard of her at the time.

The NYer podcast is also interesting, partly for including a clip of Hatto talking. However, the author of the article is a little confused about CHARM's charts when he talks about them in the podcast. He implies that they compare recordings one-by-one, but that's not the case: As Cook explained in his Stanford presentation, as you'll recall, they compare individual recordings to everything in their entire database, and the speckled multi-colored charts indicate which other recording is closest to the one in hand in particular aspects at particular moments in the work. These comparisons typically run all over the map, so when a recording measures as near-identical to one other item in the database all the way through, that's really striking and unusual, and a strong indication of simple plagiarism. A given pianist will usually run fairly close to his or her own teachers or pupils in the CHARM charts, but nowhere near that close.

Anonymous said...

I am going to stay anonymous, but that is not for any reason specific to this story or to your blog. I am just really tired of having every single thing I've ever written online coming up when my name is googled. But I don't think you'd know my name even if I gave it. I'm not a journalist or blogger, nor am I associated with Gracenote, any of the companies that use the database, or any of their competition, or any entity that has any particular interest in this case, if that helps.