Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Middleton, Richard. "Work-in(g)-Practice: Configurations of the Popular Music Intertext." In The Musical Work: Reality or Invention?, ed. Michael Talbot, 59-87. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000.

Popular music, as practice, differs from classical music, as a repertoire of iconic objects, in that the former places less emphasis on authorial attribution, involves greater collaboration between musicians, has blurred the distinction between "performance" and "composition," and overall features widespread use of borrowing procedures. "Intertextuality" is the best term that encompasses the borrowing practices of popular music. "Remixes" are one type of borrowing procedure, in which old songs are digitally re-worked in a new context. Bill Laswell creates remixes of the music of Miles Davis and Bob Marley. In the Davis remix, Laswell streamlines 38 minutes of music into fifteen, clarifies the instrumentation and textures through digital technology, reorders seamlessly connected sections, and highlights the similarities between all included source materials. Through his creative process, Laswell emerges more as a composer of something new, rather than a "remixer" of something old. In addition, the artist presents a remix of Marley's songs, but removes all of his prominent vocals. The result is not reggae, but rather a new "ambient gospel" genre. In part, these modern borrowing procedures in popular music have precedent in Western music history and are part of a long-established vernacular tradition. Other influences in popular music practice include multi-voiced repetition, best characterized as African-American "Signifyin(g)," which opposes the traditional Western concept of the singular "composer's voice." A semiotic dialogical theory can address these issues in popular music intertextuality. A final issue to consider is the opposition that emerges between intertextual musical performance and popular music recording, which preserves a specific version of a given song at its moment in time and highlights solo individualism. Remixes and cover songs highlight this tension; to accommodate this, one's analytical model must account for an "originating moment," the version of a song that is to be the measure for all others that re-create it.

Works: Bill Laswell: Panthalassa: The Remixes (62-67), Dreams of Freedom: Ambient Translations of Bob Marley in Dub (62, 67-71); Bob Marley: One Love (People Get Ready) (71); Grandmaster Flash: The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel (79-80); Richard Ashcroft [Verve]: Bittersweet Symphony (82); Paul Anka: My Way as performed by Elvis Presley (82-83), Sid Vicious (83).

Sources: Joe Zawinul: In a Silent Way as performed by Miles Davis (63-67), Miles Davis: Shhh/Peaceful (63-67), It's About That Time (63-67); Bob Marley: One Love (People Get Ready) (67-69), Exodus (69-71); Curtis Mayfield: People Get Ready (71); Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers [Chic]: Good Times (79); John Deacon [Queen]: Another One Bites the Dust (79-80); Debbie Harry and Chris Stein [Blondie]: Rapture (79-80); Grandmaster Flash: Birthday Party (79); Sugarhill Gang: 8th Wonder (79); Spoonie Gee (Gabriel Jackson): Monster Jam (79); Mick Jagger and Keith Richards [Rolling Stones]: The Last Time (82); Paul Anka: My Way as performed by Frank Sinatra (82-83).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular

Contributed by: Victoria Malawey

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