Hey, That’s MY Idea!

25 03 2015

 

You’re only as original as the obscurity of your sources.  Pablo Picasso

I am a visual artist; before that, I was a (very minor) professional musician.  I have come to my own ethical conclusion regarding originality – not a valid legal one, to be sure – that, as long as I am making art that comes from and is imbued with my personal perspective and my voice, I am not taking anything that is not mine; I am giving something of me to the work.

The recent legal dust-ups in the world of pop music (Sam Smith/Tom Petty and Estate of Marvin Gaye/Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and Clifford Harris, Jr.) have given me more than a bit of creative heartburn, so this morning, I took a Google stroll through the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of the word original, which led to the definition of the word copy, which led to the word similar . . .

Except for making my brain hurt, this exercise did very little to help me understand the extremes to which it seems we have gone, as a society, in terms of what determines that something is an “original” idea.

It’s hard for artists, sometimes, to see that their work might be (who am I kidding – IS) derivative. Sometimes, our sources are so obscure that we aren’t conscious that we are drawing from those works, ideas, concepts, and techniques of those who came before.  Other times, they are more obvious.

Back in my bar band days, our trio used to sing these three 3-song medleys to show that lots of  old music is new and new is old:

Louie Louie 1955, Hang On, Sloopy  1964, Wild Thing 1965

Cherry, Cherry 1966, What I Like About You 1980, R.O.C.K. in the USA 1985

Here, There, and Everywhere 1966, Sunshine on My Shoulders 1971, Longer 1979

Go ahead.  Pull up one on You Tube and sing along – sing any one of the three along to any other.  Big Fun! (and Paul McCartney never called for John Denver’s head on a platter.) My musician’s ear hears that, while they are not exact copies, they are surely as close as Blurred Lines is to Got to Give It Up.

Every human being is an original, yet we have common component parts, much the same as those who came years before us . . . We’ve been walking this planet with pretty much the same hearing and sight abilities for a very long time.  Let’s all just lighten up a little and acknowledge that we did not invent color or sound. Let’s be grateful for what we can see and hear and all play happily together.

Our band, Crippen, in 1983. We played happily together for (too) many years. Thanks Ken and Hank.

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4 responses

25 03 2015
HG

It was my pleasure and honor to get to play for (not enough) years with you and Ken!! You are exactly right!! Unless one has uttered the first sound, or scratched the first line for others to see, you have built on that which came before you. Having several copyrights to my credit, I can tell you there is a place in the copyright application process that specifically asks for “work inspired by”, “collaboration”, “work previously copyrighted”. (These are paraphrased, but accurate in their intent) The copyright office themselves believe works are inspired!! Let’s take a look at the Blues. It could be argued that a recording of the Blues Greatest Hits could be a 45 rpm record (yes…I’ve owned them) with 2 tracks and 12 sets of lyrics. Yet I would defy anyone to say those 12 great songs were copied from one another. Plagiarism occurs when work belonging to another is purposely copied and claimed to be original. Should a model sue and artist for painting their likeness? Our National Anthem is a poem set to an old English drinking song. My Country Tis of Thee/God Save The Queen…please. Art in any form is meant to allow the artist to put forth that which touches them deeply. And if it moves those who experience that art, so much the better!!

Now…I’m going to my studio and play Sweet Home Alabama/Werewolves of London!!

25 03 2015
MARIA ETTEL

WELL, PAULA, I MAY HAVE AN ALTERNATE DEFINITION OF “ORIGINAL”. YOU!!!!!
THANK YOU FOR LIGHT IN MY DAY AND FOR ALL THE JOY WHICH YOU CREATED WHEN YOU COULD USE ONLY AN OCTAVE OF TONES.
LOVE FROM MY HEART–MARIA XO XO XO XO

25 03 2015
Jack

Reblogged this on Wyrdwend.

26 03 2015
scorchedeyebrowstudio

Thanks for the reblog, Jack.

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