The first piece of classical music has been sold on the blockchain for $375,000. The piece was written by Texan composer Nicholas Reeves, who was first commissioned by the Verdigris Ensemble in 2018. The ensemble wanted to be the first classical music organisation to produce a work to be sold on the blockchain, which is a ledger of transactions made using bitcoin or other forms of cryptocurrency. The money raised from the sale will go back to the ensemble.
The 20-minute choral work is titled Betty’s Notebook and is based on 15-year-old Betty Klenck’s notes from what she believed to be Amelia Earhart’s signals coming through on her family’s shortwave radio. She wrote these sketches in 1937 in St Petersburg, Florida. Although her story has been dismissed, she maintained that it was a true account throughout her life.
The work went to auction at Async Art, a digital art auction blockchain platform. The winning bid was placed by Metapurse, a crypto-based fund that specialises in virtual estate and collectibles.
Betty’s Notebook was recorded by the Verdigris Ensemble in a layered performance of four individual ‘stem’ NFTs (non-fungible tokens), which were sold as separate elements on the blockchain, as well as one master ‘stem’ NFT. These ‘stems’ consisted of a recording of the 16-person choir, who sings the voice of Amelia Earhardt; Klenck narrating her own story later in her life; jazz songs – also composed by Reeves – that harken back to the music that might have been on the radio at the time; and a choral adaptation of Betty’s voice, created using a spectral analysis of her speaking voice.
The first three stems were bought by Metapurse for $19,094, $26,732 and $43,916 respectively. The fourth and final stem was sold for $49,644 to MaximoNX and the master track was also sold to Metapurse for $215,989.
Metapurse has announced that the physical representation of the master track – a vintage 1930s wooden radio console repurposed to include an LCD screen of digital art and the four musical ‘stems’ – will be lent to museums.