Wednesday, October 26, 2016

On Composer's and Appropriation...



Appropriation, following a visual arts model, lifts musical passage in its entirety, reframing it in a score. 

There is very little intervention and editing; the intention begins and ends with the lifting. 

As such, textual appropriation often involves issues of quantity: how much untreated composition is grabbed determines the action. 

Let's look at poetics - if something — say a haiku — is appropriated in its entirety, then the amount of language is small. 

If, on the other hand (as suggested in recent comments to these posts), the Gutenberg Bible is transposed, then the amount of language is enormous. Referring to Marjorie Perloff’s idea of Benjamin’s Arcades Project as a precursor to conceptual poetics, that book deals in complete chunks of pre-existing texts, often running untouched for up to ten pages. 

If we compare this to Pound’s Cantos, we’ll see the difference between the whole and the fragment, a very different project, indeed.

The visual arts began this practice in the twentieth century with Duchamp’s appropriation of a urinal and found its legacy in the consumerist photographic critiques of the 1980s, particularly in the works of Sherrie Levine’s re-photographing of modernist masters and Richard Prince’s and Jeff Koons appropriations of unaltered advertisements. 

Today, of course, appropriation is old hat in the art world. 

But composing — with its reception still fifty years behind visual art — is just beginning to struggle with these issues.  But it is fun.

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