Derivative works and artistic creativity

Music. Let's look at music, creativity, and interpretation.

Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition. Phenomenal work. But what most people are familiar with is the orchestration by Maurice Ravel, and to quote from the liner notes of my copy, "this modification of the music's essential nature has greatly increased its accessibility." Haven't heard the original work so I can't be sure of this, but I suspect the promenade portions aren't anywhere near as reminiscent of Aaron Copeland's style in the original, whereas the orchestration of the promenade screams Copeland at me, which probably has to do with Copeland being influenced by Ravel. Anyway, Ravel took Mussorgsky's piano work, altered it for orchestra, and produced a work of creative genius. Derivative, yet original.

Interpretation. There's a reason Conductors get top billing, when they conduct they produce a unique interpretation of what the composer envisioned. Musicians are noted not only for their technical skill, but their ability to work with the conductor to produce unique interpretations, to create each work anew, to breath fresh life into a work played many times before.

Covers. One artist originates a song, then others add it to their repertoire, each performing it differently, sometimes taking a song which was so-so with the original artist and creating a hit due to their interpretation of it [and sometimes, well, Trini Lopez anyone? (taking a hit and making it far less)]

I should be nice in mentioning Mr. Lopez, while I dislike his style he had quite the following, and a unique hand at interpretation.

Something we sometimes come across are those who are technically proficient, but who seem flat in their performance, for while their technique is good, they have no ability to add anything to the work via interpretation. In theory they produce exactly what the composer or arranger intended, by following the score without variation, but one has to wonder.

The ideal is someone who is technically proficient, who has great skill, and also has the spark of creativity which allows for interpretation; they can deliver a letter perfect performance without variation, but can also add those little nuances which separate the inspired performance from that which is technically proficient but non-interpretive.

Something to bear in mind. The modern standard is to have all the parts scored, every note indicated, but this was not always the case. There was a time when the base line was filled out, the figured bass, with key signatures given, but the rest of the score was not given; the musicians filled it out anew with each performance, and what was prized was the ability to take the figured bass line and fill in the other parts on the fly, to have a structured jam session each and every time. That was musicianship!

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