Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Oswald, John. “Bettered by the Borrower: The Ethics of Musical Debt.” In Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, edited by Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner, 131-37. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004.

Recorded sound and its attendant technologies muddy the distinction between sound producers and sound reproducers, broaden the scope of musical instruments, and challenge traditional approaches to copyright laws. Analog and digital reproduction technologies have also changed what can be borrowed from music. Melody was once the principal material that could be taken from one piece and reworked, but recordings allowed for sound itself to be used as the actual raw material for new compositions, especially by amateur musicians. It was not until 1976 that copyright laws offered any protection for recorded music; prior to this point music had to exist as a score in order to be copyrighted. However, the increased restrictions on the use of existing recorded music and sound makes it more difficult for artists to create works that reference or quote other music. This not only limits what can be created, but what materials make it into the open field of public domain. Unfortunately, the discourse surrounding how people use existing music is predominantly negative, framing such uses as robbery, poaching, and brainless mistakes. Instead, we should think of reworking existing material as creative composition that turns an everyday song or sound into something entirely different and invites passive listeners to take on active roles in musical creation.

Works: Ives: Symphony No. 3 (132), 114 Songs (132); George Harrison: My Sweet Lord (133); Herbie Hancock: Rockit (135); Michael Jackson: Hard Rock (135); Jim Tenney: Collage 1 (136).

Sources: Chiffons: He’s So Fine (133); Led Zeppelin: Whole Lotta Love (135); Elvis Presley (performer): Blue Suede Shoes (136).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular

Contributed by: Sarah Kirkman

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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