Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Oswald, John. "Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative." 1990. Available from (Accessed 16 November 2002).

Legal rights over recorded sound materials involve many difficult issues. Although many artists have been incriminated for use of another's pitch and rhythmic materials, there is more difficulty concerning borrowing of timbres and less quantifiable musical elements within copyright laws. In fact, artists who use technology to create their works often use pitch and rhythm elements less than timbral elements. The oral tradition of popular music compounds this issue. Traditionally, plagiarism has been determined by the written notes on a page, but purely recorded musical works have no written component. This makes the case of copyright violation more difficult. Unique uses of instruments either associated with particular nationalities, such as the Trinidadian steel drum, or created from traditionally non-musical objects, such as a blade of grass cupped in one hands, also compound copyright issues. Does one's unique appropriation of such instruments give the person the rights over those sounds? Within American and Canadian copyright law, borrowing for pedagogical, illustrative, critical, and parody purposes qualifies as legal fair use. As long as the "economic viability" of the source work is maintained, there is no violation of copyright law. Moreover, borrowing of works in the public domain has no legal repercussions. Whether considered legal or not, all popular and folk music exists as public domain entities.

Works: Charles Ives: Symphony No. 3; George Harrison: My Sweet Lord; Jim Tenney: Collage 1.

Sources: Ronnie Mack: He's so Fine; Carl Perkins: Blue Suede Shoes.

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular

Contributed by: Victoria Malawey

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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