Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Confusion Creeps Inside Me!

Yoko Kanno is one of my favorite musicians of all time - but, yesterday, I found a message board post listing examples of how she's plagiarized other musicians. I'm not quite sure what to think about this.

I'm not quite sure how accusations of plagiarism work in music, for one thing. What's the difference between the similarities between "Hello I Love You" and "All Day and All of the Night" on the one hand, and those between "My Sweet Lord" and "He's So Fine" on the other? That YK's "Call Me Call Me" uses some music that sounds exactly identical to the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" is obvious as soon as you listen to the two songs, but I've never thought of it as plagiarism - the songs otherwise strike me as very different, and I love "Call Me Call Me" as more. But it's true that if it were a work of literature, that one line would be enough to make it plagiarism and to affect my attitude towards the literature. I guess because of the generally contentless nature of music, my attitude towards melodies is generally different.

Another issue is that the most obvious, blatant, and thorough piece of plagiarism that was reported, YK's "Mushroom Hunting" and DJ Food's "Let the Good Shine", can't possibly have bothered DJ Food too much, as they ended up remixing one of Yoko Kanno's songs after the publication of "Mushroom Hunting." So that makes me wonder if there's something more behind this story that we don't know about yet.

And then the third thing is that even if this is, really, as bad as it looks, well, I've gotten a lot of great music out of the situation that I wouldn't have heard of anyway. Perhaps the best plan for me to make is that someday, I'll buy all of this music that I've discovered through Yoko Kanno, from its original creators. For example, yesterday, I listened to the first movement of Steve Reich's The Desert Music. This is a piece of 20th century classical music, not at all the kind of thing I normally pay any attention to. But I really enjoyed it - as much as I enjoy the YK song, "Powder," that sounds like it. It's hard to be angry at Yoko Kanno for introducing me to this music, but it might be good to tip Steve Reich a few bucks, if he's the one who actually created it.

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