Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] McLeod, Ken. "'A Fifth of Beethoven': Disco, Classical Music, and the Politics of Inclusion." American Music 24 (Autumn 2006): 347-363.

For a short time in the 1970s, disco provided a place in which various cultures could coexist on the dance floor, and such diversity is reflected in the music, such as in Walter Murphy's A Fifth of Beethoven and David Shire's A Night on Disco Mountain. Murphy's A Fifth of Beethoven is primarily based on the first theme area of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and opens with a quotation from the opening of the first movement. This opening motive is set against a 4/4 disco pattern of electric bass, acoustic drum set, and clavinet playing composed material. Recalling the French horn bridge to the second theme area, Murphy alternates C and Eb whole notes, marking the beginning of the B section, but, rather than following sonata form, Murphy keeps A Fifth of Beethoven firmly in C minor throughout. By not modulating and by using static harmonies and a persistent rhythmic drive, A Fifth of Beethoven exemplifies the "inclusive homogeneity" that was a marker of disco style. Shire's A Night on Disco Mountain, like its Mussorgsky source, employs a wide range of sources for its orchestration, including a wah-wah electric guitar. The combination of sounds serves as a reflection of the diversity on the disco dance floor. While this was a short-lived phenomenon, disco borrowings of classical music served to exemplify the pluralism of disco.

Works: Walter Murphy: A Fifth of Beethoven (349-57, 260-61); David Shire: A Night on Disco Mountain (349-51, 357-58, 360-61).

Sources: Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor (351-56); Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain (349-51, 357-58, 360-61).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular

Contributed by: Kerry O'Brien

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