London, July 8 (IANS) A newly recorded, one-of-a-kind rendition of Bob Dylan singing ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ sold at an auction at Christie’s here for 1,482,000 pounds, or 1,769,508 million U.S. dollars.
The live bidding topped out at 1.2 million pounds, but an official release sent out by Christie’s cites a higher price, including commissions. The price was well over the estimate the auction house had posted for the recording, which was in the range of 600,000 to 1 million pounds (or $716,000-$1,194,000).
Although two people could be seen on the live feed volleying back and forth as the top bidders, consulting with buyers on the phone, the auction’s winner was not immediately revealed.
The Blowin’ in the Wind record was the only remotely freshly minted item in Christie’s ‘Classic Week’ sale.
The other items being auctioned prior to Dylan’s new record being the climax of the sale were more along the lines of an Egyptian limestone statue from circa 2400 B.C., which went for 5 million pounds, and a Stradivari violin that had a starting bid of 6 million pounds.
The new version of Dylan’s 1962 folk classic was produced by T Bone Burnett with a small band of musicians, with Dylan recorded in Los Angeles and the rest of the group in Nashville. It was recorded directly to a newly invented kind of acetate recording, which Burnett, who had worked to develop the analogue technology for years, calls an Ionic Original. Although it is a new format, with reportedly higher fidelity and a coating that is said to make it almost impervious to normal wear-and-tear, the 10-inch disc can be played on a normal record player.
The people who have heard the recording thus far have been limited mostly to potential bidders at listening sessions at Christie’s in London, New York and Los Angeles, and at a few select playbacks Burnett held for members of the media and others.
Burnett spoke recently at length with Variety in a story titled “Why Did T Bone Burnett Record a Song With Bob Dylan That Only One Person Can Own? To Disrupt the Art Market” about the making of the new recording and the intent behind putting it up for auction – and addressed the question of whether the average Dylan fan will ever get to hear it, or whether it really could have just one listener-owner.
Burnett pointed out something: “I think it is important to know for people who are concerned about the exclusivity of what we are doing. An Ionic Original is not a copy. It is an original recording. We are not contriving scarcity. This is actually scarce. It is a unique, handmade, original recording. We have all been conditioned to accept the terms of and react to things from the frame of mass production. This is not that.
“This really started because recorded music has been commoditised to zero over the last 20-30 years. Because we work in an age of mechanical reproduction, musicians have had to accept the definition of the value of their music from the government, from corporations, from technologists, from record companies, from streamers. Well, in this case, we have taken matters into our own hands, and we control the means of production and we control the copyright. We’ll be able to explore: What is the value of a song? What is the true value of Bob Dylan singing Blowin’ in the Wind 60 years after he wrote it, in this environment? And we’re gonna find out.”
“But the intention has always been to create a new one-of-one programme. In fact, what I’m trying to do is enter a music space in the fine arts market. Because music is to the United States as wine is to France – it’s the most valuable and important part of our culture. And for the last 25-30 years, we’ve had parts of the audience telling us that we ought to put our music out for free. This is a chance for us as artists to work at complete autonomy.
“It’s something both Bob and I have done to the degree we could for our whole lives, but this is a chance now to do it not just for Bob, but for many other artists who are gonna do this with us, who’ve already signed up. With any luck, this is the way I’ll spend the rest of my working life, doing these beautiful one-of-one pieces of high art.”
As to whether the rest of the world apart from the auction winner will get to hear it, Burnett indicated that would be largely in the hands of the buyer, but that any public dissemination would likely happen if it ultimately gets put up for listening in a museum space, and that any digital reproduction would be unlikely, if not expressly prohibited.
Any commercial distribution would have to be the result of a three-way deal between Dylan’s record company, Sony Music, his publishing company, Universal Music Publishing Group, and whoever bought the record, which has not yet been revealed. But Burnett’s contention has been that the record was not really conceived for that public a dissemination, and he made it clear he would consider any kind of digital distribution to be anathema to their hi-fi analog intentions.
Burnett said he and Dylan recorded several other versions of his classic songs that may go up for auction as well, although he wanted to get through the Blowin’ in the Wind sale at Christie’s before determining any next steps.