Monday, June 27, 2005

More Reader Comments On Plagiarism

Yitz responds to Chaim.
"Basically unconfirmed"? Could Chaim please show me the liner notes on the Chabad albums where credit is given to either Rav Avraham Twerski, or R. Shlomo Carlebach, or the other sources I've mentioned?

It's very nice that the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l credited the French National anthem to his adaptation of Ha'aderes v'Emuna - but let's face it, EVERYONE knows that tune, and that the Rebbe Zt"l didn't compose it!!! The closest Chabad came to giving credit was on "Hoshia es Amecha" they wrote that it wasn't their niggun.

As to his other comment about Jewish music originating from "villages in the old country," I don't claim to be an expert, but I believe there's a difference from INFLUENCE to completely adapting a tune, or a major part of a whole song, which is basically plagiarism. To this, let me quote from someone a bit more expert than I, R. Velvel Pasternak:

"As with most Hassidic music born in Europe, many of these melodic motifs were influenced by the music of the surrounding culture. The Rabbis of Modzitz were however, able to weave a distinctive musical and Judaic fabric into their compositions of dances, marches, waltzes and extended niggunim..."

"The second Modzitzer Rebbe [Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar Taub zt"l] was, in a true sense, a composer. His niggunim were not merely the simplistic folk-type melodies of many of his predecessors. A number of them were intricate, musically structured, and quite lengthy. He thought in terms of instrumental colorations and often suggested that accompaniment of strings, winds and horns would enhance his niggunim." -- [The Music of Modzitz, pp. 7, 18]
He also writes:
Another thought about "musical influence." I was intrigued by the comparison of the intro to the S & G "El Condor Pasa" to Carlebach's "Kvakoras" in Samuel Katz's post. Has anyone noticed a similarity between the second part of Carlebach's "Barcheinu Avinu" and the second part of the famous song from "The King and I" - "Just Whistle a Happy Tune"? I noticed this when I listened to Musa Berlin's recording of the Carlebach tune, without the words...

"Yet Another" writes:
A few thoughts regarding the recent discussion of plagiarism in Jewish music:

1) Taking an entire secular song, note for note, giving it Jewish lyrics and passing it off as your own original (see: MBD) is reprehensible plagiarism. It's also pretty low to trick those who avoid "tumadik" music (whatever that means) by giving them "tumadik" music disguised as Jewish.

1a) Another infamous example: Tzlil V'Zemer "Let Us Grow" is The Pet Shop Boys' "It's a Sin".

2) Taking a folk song and transforming it into a Jewish niggun (see: old chassidish niggunim) is different from 1 above because a) it's based on a folk song, which is public domain and intended to evolve; as opposed to a pop song under copyright; and b) has a level of genuine spiritual uplift missing from 1 above.

3) Taking an entire secular song and giving it parody lyrics (see: Uncle Moishy) is called filking (look it up) and is very common. There is no claim that the song is original, therefore it's not gnaivas daas as in 1 above.

4) Borrowing a few bars, whether consciously or subconsciously, is extremely common in songwriting and AFAIK isn't usually considered plagiarism.

5) As for Andrew Lloyd Webber, well, this article is an interesting addition to the discussion: The New Yorker: Fact He's notorious for borrowing, especially from his own stuff :).

Now, when are you going to enable comments on your blog :)?
I'd started writing a post on these distinctions, but YA makes the point well. I do disagree with #4 though. Borrowing a few bars consciously is definitely plagiarism. If it done subconciously, I'd not fault the composer, but the courts have pretty consistently held that the rights to the song -- and any royalties earned -- should belong to the original composer.