Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ripoff artists

After Dave Matthews released his second major album, there were accusations that he ripped of David Bowie. The only song I know from David Bowie is Ground Control to Major Tom [1]. The only other work from Bowie that I knew of was his portrayal of Andy Warhol in a movie about the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. To the best of my knowledge, Dave Matthews wasn't portraying Andy Warhol on his latest album, and therefore it was unlikely that I would have picked up on the similarities between the two artists. About two years ago, Dr. McNeil pointed out the similarities between The Who's Pinball Wizard and David Francey's Skating Rink. I knew both of these songs, but it had been a long time since I had heard the former, and they are also different genres, so I didn't notice. More recently, another friend told me that James Blunt ripped of Elmo. Not being familiar with the music of either of these artists, I never would have noticed. The oldest example of creative borrowing that I can think of is Beethoven's 5th symphony. While it's not a exact ripoff, the opening rhythm and melodic contour [2] of Beethoven's piece are noticeably similar to the main motif of Bach's Fugue in D from Book 2 of The Well Tempered Clavier.

Then, today, after seeing this video [3], I'm wondering perhaps Gentil MontaƱa should have appeared with Cypress Hill in the Homerpalooza episode of the Simpsons, instead of the London Symphony Orchestra.

[1] Moments after writing Ground Control to Major Tom, I loaded iTunes and played Ground Control to Major Tom. As of the writing of this footnote, Icarus from Enter the Haggis is playing.

[2] The melodies are not exactly the same, but at the very beginning of the respective pieces, Beethoven's notes go down when Bach's go down, even though the musical distances are different. The influence is not implausible, since Beethoven was known for playing pieces from Bach's Well Tempered Clavier.

[3] Hat tip to David Koyzis.

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