Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Szarecki, Artur. “Musicking Assemblages and the Material Contingency of Sound: Mostly Other People Do the Killing’s Re-Enactment of Kind of Blue.” Popular Music and Society 46 (March 2023): 99-116.

New York jazz quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing (MOPDtK)’s 2014 album Blue, a detailed, note-for-note recreation of Miles Davis’s 1959 album Kind of Blue, calls attention to the sonic materiality of music and encourages listeners to rethink what constitutes a musical work. Founded in 2003, MOPDtK has long taken a playful, irreverent approach to jazz history that exemplifies Fredric Jameson’s conception of postmodernism. In preparing to record Blue, the members of MOPDtK meticulously transcribed each instrumental part and rehearsing the nuances of each Kind of Blue performance to achieve maximum fidelity. The album’s liner notes are a reprint of Jorge Luis Borges’s short story “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” a 1939 spoof of literary criticism concerning a word-for-word recreation of Don Quixote, implying that Blue is a musical actualization of Borges’s premise. This connection supports the assessment that Blue is about the meaning of artistic works and authorship. However, this understanding does not account for the materiality of music specifically. Kind of Blue sounds the way it sounds because of the specific musicians, their specific bodies and experiences, the specific space it was recorded in, and the specific technologies used to record it, all of which contributed to the sonic vibrations that constitute Kind of Blue, and none of which Blue can recreate. From the perspective of musicking assemblages—that is, thinking of music as sonic energy circulating within material arrangements, not rarefied objects—asking if Blue sounds like Kind of Blue is irrelevant; there is no singular musical object “Kind of Blue” to compare to. While there are many possible interpretations of Blue, it can disrupt listening habits and encourage a kind of listening that goes beyond assessing static musical works.

Works: Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Blue (99-114).

Sources: Miles Davis: Kind of Blue (99-114).

Index Classifications: 2000s, Jazz

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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