Saturday, March 14, 2009

Science Nerd Relates to Hip Hop Artist!

So, I was listening to NPR yesterday (a radio station chosen intentionally, not by chance operations, I'm afraid) and they were interviewing Ahmir Thompson (aka Questlove), the drummer from Roots. Now, I'd never heard of this guy, or of Roots, but he was talking about sampling and mixing and hip hop, and I never would have thought that I would be one to understand a word of what this guy was talking about... but I did :) Oh, and when he started rattling off names of other artists like, DJ Spooky, I got really excited (I'm a dork, I know). Anyway, he said that when he first got started in high school, his friends would ask him to ply mixes that had already been done by other DJs. I thought that was funny. If you copy someone who used other people's work in the first place, is it any more illegal than the former copyright infringement? I suppose it is. I mean, if you copy a copier, you're doing it verbatim, rather than making a collage out of others' work.
But one must ask... what would Cage say? If a disc jockey plays something using other people's work to make something different -that is not quite the same as the original- then why can't people play something note for note that resembles something else, but sounds slightly different. But where does one draw the line? Just how different does it have to be? I mean, if I sing a song, and then you sing the same song, it's not going to sound the same. And if I sing the song, and then sing it again, it won't sound exactly the same. Inevitably, there will be some sort of variation, however slight. One performance in one moment in time can never be recreated unless it's been recorded (and then it's a recording, not a performance). So, technically, I should be able to sing Dolly Pardon's I Will Always Love You and be able to call it my own, because Dolly couldn't''t possibly make her performance sound just like mine ( not that she would want to, but that's beside the point). Whitney Houston's version is very different from Dolly's -so much so that I would prefer Whitney's over Dolly's. If I can like one more than the other, then why does Dolly hold the copyright? I would definitely buy Whitney's version before I'd buy Dolly's (nothing against Dolly, but like I mentioned, that's just my preference). It's like trying to own a joke. Maybe I wrote it, but tell it horribly, and someone else tells it better. Naturally, it will become their joke, because no one wants to hear it from me and everyone loves to hear this other individual tell it. But I digress... (wonder what Cage would think about ownership rights of jokes...)

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