Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Mutability of Music (more of your e-mail)

From Daniel:
Michael's response was an interesting angle, and I'd like to expand upon it.

I think his concept of "performance" is incomplete.  I think all forms of art include "covers".

The success of the Da Vinci Code launched a wave of "covers".  Bookshelves were filled with novels about a smart professor-type who stumbles across an age-old mystery solved by re-examining real legends and historical artifacts.  (National Treasure is basically a film cover of the Da Vinci Code).

The success of Harry Potter launched a wave of "chosen kid discovers secret world hidden in the real world where he has special powers".  Percy Jackson is probably one of the most notable.

New Sherlock Holmes books are still being written, so are new James Bond novels.

All that said, there is an interesting challenge when understanding the concept of a cover.

How do you view the cover of a song like Jonathan Coulton's "Baby Got Back", where he takes the words but otherwise completely re-invents the song?  

And how does that compare to The Shakespeare Manuscript, which is literally a paint-by-numbers copy of the Da Vinci Code (lost secret, cover-up, clues hidden in artifacts, race to discover the truth, 'shocking' betrayal of major character)?

Is the art the principles underlying it?  Or the execution?  Is there much difference between Dave Matthews selling 50 CDs of different recordings of the same damn songs and Dan Brown selling 4 books that all follow the exact same plot? (I'm really being hard on poor Mr. Brown here, but the example stands).

This brings something to mind that I hadn't thought of originally: the accessibility of mutability.

Mutability is easier to explore in music because it's song-focused. An interesting cover of an existing song is probably 3-5 minutes in length. A book, though, is a many-hour investment of time. So mutability is certainly more accessible in music, which may have influenced my perception of its frequency.

There are occasionally full album tributes, though. Dub Side of the Moon is pretty fantastic as a reggae tribute to Dark Side of the Moon (you can listen to it here), and my favorite version of Holst's The Planets is Tomita's electronic version. They just take a huge amount of time to create.

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