Monday, September 13, 2010

The Axis of Awesome

Got into a discussion on another site where somebody was taking John Williams to task for stealing the Star Wars theme. So I posted this:

Regarding musical plagiarism:

A few years ago, I had occasion to correspond with composer Joel McNeely, who wrote the music and led the Royal Scottish Orchestra for the CD: Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. (I can't tell you how cool it was to listen to an album of music based on something I wrote for a novel.)

Um. Anyway, there's a section of the composition "Into the Sewers," I said to McNeely, that sounded very much like some of the here's-the-monster! music in Creature From the Black Lagoon. Was that, I wondered, an homage to the three aitches -- (Henry Mancini, Hans Salter, and Herman Stein, who more or less did the score?)

Not on purpose, McNeely allowed. He then went on to point out that western music had just the seven whole notes and then a repeat at the octave, plus those pesky sharps and flats, and that chances were pretty good that some of these sequences would be repeated now and again accidentally by even the most ardent composer trying to avoid such.

As George Harrison found out about the Chiffons' "He's So Fine ..." when he wrote "My Sweet Lord." And why Paul McCartney sat on his song "Yesterday" until he was convinced he hadn't lifted the tune from somewhere unconsciously.

As much a risk as it is for a writer to accidentally borrow something, it's much more so for a musical composer to have an episode of unconscious plagiarism. Several hundred thousand words in English. Seven whole notes in western music. So before you call somebody a thief, consider this ...

What I said there. And I'll add this: It gets to be even more fun when you get into four-chord rock -- which came from three-chord blues (and that nod to ole Johann Pachelbel) -- which, with two common progressions: I, vi, IV, V which is a variant f the doo-wop progression: I, V, vi, IV, there is a shitload of pop and rock music you can play. Same deal -- You can do Springsteen's Born to Run using the same chords in the same order as you do Bobby "Boris" Pickett's Monster Mash, along with everything from Earth Angel to Let it be.

And then I found this: Enjoy:


Anonymous said...

When I was 17 years old, I was a BIG fan of the old David Carradine "Kung Fu" series. I was also a big fan of the rock guitar player Steve Vai. I was listening to Vai's song "For the Love of God" one day when I realized that the main theme is almost identical to the "Kung Fu" theme music. It happens. :-D


steve-vh said...

Barbie Girl by Aqua was a nice touch.

Justin said...

Hell of a mash-up, innit?

Funny how a U.K. Jack Black knockoff was on that video about plagiarism.

Berry K said...

Check out this video too:

(No, it's NOT Rick Astley)

Anonymous said...

Their an Australian band, and it's not plagiarism, it's just that nothing of Jack Black's has reached us here yet (joking). Actually that's another possibility, the realisation of the same idea by two different people independently of each other, like Liebnitz and Newton. Although in a creative field I'm guessing that's not as likely?