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Good composers borrow, great ones steal
#2997027 06/30/20 11:22 AM
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I am not a composer nor a music scholar. I'm a political scientist and sociologist who loves music, and I have always found this remark by Stravinsky profound for its social implications and its insight into the creative process. I don't know if Handel plagiarized or if Mozart "stole" a symphony from Michael Haydn as this article alleges and others have whispered (both probably happened but no one cares because Handel and Mozart added tremendous value to what came before). It is unfortunate and a shame that someone like Michael Haydn does not get the credit he should for being a gifted composer and musician in his own right. Theoretically, capitalism (with its obsession over authorship and its system of copyrights and patents) should protect someone like Michael Haydn and the integrity of his "original work", but when the great Mozart comes along, we all bow down and submit. This is because capitalism and man in general values something else--the idea that the most gifted and talented among us shall always rise to the top, even if the lesser must be stepped over or on. Herein lies a central contradiction of nature and of capitalism, and instance where ideals clash. I should say amid all this that one modern composer I really admire is Vaughan Williams, a man who drew heavily from traditional folk songs and the works of others but in so doing popularized, transformed and brought attention to music that might have otherwise been forgotten/lost to history. So the debate will continue forever without a resolution; does the repackaging and repurposing of more obscure composers' music by famous composers mutually benefit both entities, or does it represent a gross theft and the latter profiting at the expense of the former. These are my completely original thoughts as I sit at home in the middle of a pandemic, and I hope you care to read and respond. Andrew
https://thelistenersclub.com/2016/04/27/good-composers-copy-great-composers-steal/

Re: Good composers borrow, great ones steal
iamandrew3 #2997055 06/30/20 11:59 AM
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Composers borrowed & stole from each other all the time - with or without acknowledgement. They still do (the ones still alive, I mean).

Bach stole from Vivaldi (4 keyboards for 4 violins). Mozart from his pet canary and J.C. Bach, among others. BTW, Mozart did Michael Haydn a big favour by completing the latter's set of six duos for some bigwig, and who then passed Mozart's off as his own (though they were musically superior, as you'd expect).

Shostakovich stole from several people, including Beethoven, as did Ives. Schnittke just.....stole.

No big deal.

Oh, I forgot - I stole too (in my Op.1, Op.11 & 111 wink ).


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Good composers borrow, great ones steal
iamandrew3 #2997089 06/30/20 01:17 PM
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Whether you call it "steal" or "borrow" is a matter of wording. Music compositions get rearranged for various instruments. The original composer gets more recognition when his piece is rearranged and performed like "La Campanella" by Paganini became a piano piece by Franz Liszt. There is the "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" by Rachmaninoff. And there is the famous "Chaconne" from Bach's Partita #2 arranged for piano by Bushoni.

Yesterday copyright laws were not as strict. Bach never met Vivaldi in person and don't think Vivaldi would take Bach to court for copyright violations and sue for damages. Today any piece of work that is at least 50 years old or long after a composer /songwriter died the music is considered public domain.

A piece like "Ancient Airs & Dances" by Ottorino Respighi is a 20th century compilation of pieces by bygone composers from the 16 - 18th centuries. Otherwise many composers more than 200 years old would be forgotten.

Re: Good composers borrow, great ones steal
iamandrew3 #2997105 06/30/20 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by iamandrew3
I don't know if Handel plagiarized or if Mozart "stole" a symphony from Michael Haydn as this article alleges and others have whispered.

But that's not what the article says. The only thing written about it in the article is this: "Mozart’s Symphony No. 37 is actually Michael Haydn’s Symphony No.25 in G Major with the addition of a slow introduction."

You read more into it and added the word plagiarize. Plagiarize means lying, pretending a work to be your own. But the article did not say that.

Works have been misattributed by editors and historians. That's a mistake of the editor. Plagiarism is entirely different.

Originally Posted by iamandrew3
It is unfortunate and a shame that someone like Michael Haydn does not get the credit he should for being a gifted composer and musician in his own right. Theoretically, capitalism (with its obsession over authorship and its system of copyrights and patents) should protect someone like Michael Haydn and the integrity of his "original work", but when the great Mozart comes along, we all bow down and submit.

Michael Haydn was huge in Salzburg, bigger than both Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart. He was already well-known when Mozart was six years old. Just because many people today don't know Michael Haydn does not mean he was unknown in his lifetime.

As for authorship, Haydn was a court composer. His work was performed in court fresh from the quill before it would ever be published later on. Hard to plagiarize from the leading composer in town when the work has already been performed.

The meaning of the quote “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” is that good artists imitate what they admire in others' work. But great artists steal – meaning they make it their own artistically. It's a quote about art, not money and profits from copyright.

Last edited by wszxbcl; 06/30/20 02:15 PM.

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