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Borrowing folk tunes vs borrowing classical compositions


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Starting in the 19th century

there began a movement , among classical composers to explore the folk music of their native land. This was inspired by indepedence movements and nationalist sentiment.

It was also musically inspired.

The list of composers is long and extended into the 20th century.

Liszt....Dvorak...Bartok...Vaughan Williams ...Copland..

 

So, is this practice of ' borrowing' folk melodies fundamentally different from film composers borrowing from the classics; especially ones in public domain?

 

Discuss

 

 

 

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So did Beethoven. You can hear a lot of folk tunes in his symphonies.

Richard Strauss used the melody of Luigi Denza's "funiculi funicula" in his symphonic poem "From Italy" assuming it was a folk tune, but it was an actual composition.

As I heard classical composers also used to quote not only folk tunes but actually eachothers themes from time to time for their own compositions.

 

But I think, the main question is what "borrowing" means. When the classical or romantic composers "borrowed" they took probably a five to eight note melody from somewhere else and wrote their own harmonies, rhythm and counter points to it. When today compositions are borrowed usually most of what I mentioned are taken from the original, even the instrumentation from time to time, like Tchaikowsky's "Russian Dance" in Home Alone.

 

But anyway, I think, "borrowing" is ok, but I would like to have it credited in the albums.

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Like I said, there is a LONG list of composers who used folk melodies.

It became a ' thing' in the 1800 when nationalist fervor was.high during the revolts against the European ruling class, I.e Austria- Hungary empire.

Bach quoted Vivaldi etc.

 

I have nothing against crediting sources but it's not immoral

 

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Wow! Moral was not what came to my mind. But when you do something with a classical public domain composition that would grant you a law suite from a living composer, then I would at least consider it good practice to credit that quote.

 

But on the other hand, for many modern film scores which are often more or less pure functional sound design, in best case a little bit like elevater music, so where there is so little creative engergy invested I don't mind the usage of classical tunes in addition.

 

As I said, it is a matter of context, the degree of pure copy paste and the way how the work gets presented, like if the composer claims others ideas as his own or as the kind of postmodern patch work, that it actually is.

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I probably should have said " unethical".

 

Tbh I much prefer classical quotations in film music to folk ones.

Max Steiner constantly quoted folk tunes.

Westerns are the worst. The same Stephen Foster songs, cowboy tunes and church hymns , over and over. Yuk#😅

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Folk tunes are difficult to credit. Like, who composed the "Dies Irae" anyway? They're just part of the international vernacular. So I think it's fairly unproblematic to incorporate them into a score, should it be necessary.

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46 minutes ago, Thor said:

Folk tunes are difficult to credit. Like, who composed the "Dies Irae" anyway? They're just part of the international vernacular. So I think it's fairly unproblematic to incorporate them into a score, should it be necessary.

Again, it is for me a difference if we talk about just a motif like "Dies Irae" or complete tunes like Max Steiner in for example "The Adventures of Mark Twain".

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Sure, I agree that a little note in the album notes saying "based on the folk melody [X]", or "incorporating [X]" would be nice, in general.

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I'm not so much concerned with credit.

I'm asking if the techniques are comparable. I.e. is it fair to criticize Horner for borrowing  and not Copland?

8 hours ago, Thor said:

Sure, I agree that a little note in the album notes saying "based on the folk melody [X]", or "incorporating [X]" would be nice, in general.

THIN RED LINE did this for the Christian hymn but not the Melanisian chants.

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11 hours ago, Thor said:

Folk tunes are difficult to credit. Like, who composed the "Dies Irae" anyway? They're just part of the international vernacular.

 

"Dies irae" (Ecclesiastical Latin[ˈdi.es ˈi.re]; "the Day of Wrath") is a Latin sequence attributed to either Thomas of Celano of the Franciscans (1200–c.1265)[1] or to Latino Malabranca Orsini (d. 1294), lector at the Dominican studium at Santa Sabina, the forerunner of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome.[2] The sequence dates from at least the thirteenth century, though it is possible that it is much older, with some sources ascribing its origin to St. Gregory the Great (d. 604), Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), or Bonaventure (1221–1274).[1]

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11 minutes ago, Darth Wojo said:

 

"Dies irae" (Ecclesiastical Latin[ˈdi.es ˈi.re]; "the Day of Wrath") is a Latin sequence attributed to either Thomas of Celano of the Franciscans (1200–c.1265)[1] or to Latino Malabranca Orsini (d. 1294), lector at the Dominican studium at Santa Sabina, the forerunner of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome.[2] The sequence dates from at least the thirteenth century, though it is possible that it is much older, with some sources ascribing its origin to St. Gregory the Great (d. 604), Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), or Bonaventure (1221–1274).[1]

 

I just looked it up as well, but see the later bit about the actual melody:
 

Quote

 

The first melody set to these words, a Gregorian chant, is one of the most quoted in musical literature, appearing in the works of many composers.

 

 

Anyway, it's not so much about *what* you borrow, but *how* you borrow. Folk music (and other well-known "common" music, like liturgical stuff) has often been used either as a reference the audience would recognise (see the above Strauss example; Steiner went overboard with that), or as the basis for a new arrangement (see RVW & Co). In the latter case, it was usually acknowledged by the composer that the theme wasn't theirs, but the arrangement and development were. This can range from pretty straightforward settings (see all the common arrangements of corals, for example) to substantially original works based on existing music (see RVW's Tallis fantasia). Composers have also often copied themselves (either because they needed a melody and already had a fitting one, or to further develop an earlier idea, or for context) and others (usually as homages; Bruckner sometimes went overboard with the Wagner quotes).

 

There are also curious cases of obvious quotations that don't seem to have been acknowledged much, like Wagner using a major motif from Liszt's Faust Symphony in exactly one moment in Die Walküre - hardly anything about it can be found on the internet, and figuring out who wrote it first isn't that straightforward, although considering their relationship and knowledge of each other's works, it's clear that it can hardly be a coincidence.

 

And of course young upstart composers taking inspiration from their role models and sometimes going overboard with it. There's a ton of Bruckner and some Wagner quotes in Hans Rott's first and only symphony, but then his friend and classmate Mahler came along and used some of Rott's most original and unique ideas in his own first symphonies, while Rott was wasting away in an asylum and hardly composed anything new at all.

 

What I find annoying is when a quote stands out as being "out of tune" (not musically) with its surroundings, like a too in-your-face quotation where you don't expect it, or something that's too closely associated with something entirely different. Film music sensitive in that regard because a sudden climactic ad verbatim quote from a score to a different film (the sort of thing Horner tended to do) stands out to me like a scene from that other film being edited straight into the one I'm watching.

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Wagner also borrowed the opening of PARSIFAL from LIZST' " Excelsior", which RW acknowledged.

Don't know about FAUST.

I guess I'm asking is,  if well known ( or, lesser known) COMPOSED pieces are as ripe for picking as well known VERNACULR pieces when it comes to the proper appropriation?

 

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A more fitting aspect of Parsifal for this thread would probably be its frequent use of the Dresden Amen, also popularly used in Mendelssohn's Reformation Symphony (which in turn also makes heavy use of Luther's Ein feste Burg).

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Yeah, for me, some of the considerations are:

 

  • Do we know who penned the original? (Typically folk songs = no and classical = yes.)
  • How is credit given to the original, if at all?
  • How significant a role does it play in the work as a whole?
  • How much of the new composer's own voice is involved? An all-new orchestral setting of a well-known melody is different from a fairly direct lift of an existing piece, with all the orchestrations more or less intact.
  • Is the new use of the material in a setting where the listener might expect/recognize the adaptation?
  • How much does the new composer rely on this sort of thing in general?
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Re the Walküre/Faust Symphony thing I mentioned above, here's the only somewhat substantial of the very few things I can find online that acknowledge it at all:

 

https://books.google.at/books?id=7FAPEAAAQBAJ&lpg=PA407&ots=oME4OBQ9SV&dq=wagner liszt walküre faust&pg=PA407#v=onepage&q=wagner liszt walküre faust&f=false

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Boy, Marian really knows the classical repertoire!

 

 

 

Its only in recent decades that scholars have acknowledged Wagner's debt to Liszt.

The harmonic innovations credited to RW rightly belong to Liszt- or at least shared credit.

When Wagner was hiding out in Liszt' apartment- he was wanted by the law for insurrection-  he repaid his hospitality by reading his unpublished manuscripts and ' stealing his ideas!

What a guy! 😆

 

 

Btw There is a great scene in the otherwise silly LISZTOMANIA that depicts this history , albeit  in allegorical fashion: WAGNER as Dracula!

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58 minutes ago, Marian Schedenig said:

Mendelssohn's Reformation Symphony (which in turn also makes heavy use of Luther's Ein feste Burg).

 

…AND which, to me eternal delight, also contains the famous waltz from Shostakovich's Jazz Suite.

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I had another thought on the subject. Or... same thought in different words.

 

The big diffference between borrowing folk tunes or from classical pieces is that in classical music it is usually not just about the tunes.

 

If you adapt the for first notes from Beethoven's fifth everybody will recognize it. But there are many tunes that hardly anyone would regognize. But in classical music you can adapt as well chord progressions, counterpoints, ostinati, rhythms. 

 

Borrowing the whole or almost the whole package is really lame, boring, mediocre, whatever.

 

In folk music it is usually just the melody. And I think, using exiting melodies is ok. Borrowing modulations is ok. 

 

By the way, one adaptation I personally really like is Joe Jacksons adaptation of the "Ode to joy" from his album "Fast Forward", which is even rather a tribute.

 

 

 

 

 

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You are absolutely right but...

coming up with a great melody is the hardest thing to do!

It's why they are in copyright but arrangements R not.

But, your point is good!

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