Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Harris, Ellen T. "Integrity and Improvisation in the Music of Handel." Journal of Musicology 8 (Summer 1990): 301-15.

Handel scholars have criticized or sought to justify Handel's borrowing practices based on issues external to the composing process, such as illness, time-constraints, and lack of talent. Handelians must accept the fact of Handel's borrowing and acknowledge the integrity of Handel's compositional methods by focusing on compositional intent and searching for semantic meanings of the borrowings. Compositional intent is vital to distinguishing between "borrowing" or related benevolent practices, and "plagiarism," which suggests intent to deceive. Performance practice involves elements of improvisation that affect our appreciation of a work, but integrity belongs to the composer and the compositional process. Handel scholars may learn from the methodologies of analysis used by scholars in other areas. For example, Geoffrey Bullough, in his work on Shakespeare's borrowings, does not entertain notions of plagiarism, but argues that Shakespeare drew inspiration from the source and molded it into something new. In his book Painting as an Art, Richard Wollheim argues that it is the intention of the artist while painting that determines whether a work is art. Scholars such as Peter Burkholder and Christopher Ballantine have dealt with the semantic connotations of Ives's borrowing. Evidence of semantic connotations in Handel's borrowings emerge in Israel in Egypt; he pairs related Old Testament and New Testament material from Erba's Magnificat, which suggests he is reinterpreting the texts.

Works: Bach: Fugue in E Major BWV 878 from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II (308); Handel, Israel in Egypt.

Index Classifications: 1700s

Contributed by: Brian Phillips

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