If you take a sample of music and place it in a completely different musical context than it originally was in, can it become more meaningful? Or produce a different meaning altogether? Musical Quotation started in the mid 1960s where composers consciously made references to early familiar works, and re arranged it in such a manner that made the communication between the composer and listener have new meaning or just become easier. Before the 60’s ideas of quotation to produce a different meaning can be seen in “A Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra” by Benjamin Britten (1946) a piece of music that it used to show the different types of Tone Colour and limitations of instruments, while different groups each get to play the same theme one after another. This “theme” was originally taken from Henry Purcell’s “Abdelazar” score (1676), and now is used to educate children and adults about basic instrumentation. Does this have a new meaning than Purcell’s original intention?
In contemporary society, musical quotation has faced lot of lawsuits and ideas of intellectual property, many hip-hop artists have sampled riff from somewhere adding a layer of “rap” over the top then claiming it as their own. There’s no doubt that if a “Dj” samples a chord progression or melody without changing it, and has that as a monotonous ostinatoe while adding layers to it, then he is no different to a keyboard player soloing over a preset midi drum beat. But by how much have they changed the context from the original piece, does it have the same articulations, dynamics, phrasing, does it contrast with anything? Daft Punk bases most of its songs upon samples that produces a backing ostinatoe to which electronic drums or filter techniques are added, as they are dance based their music always has a steady pulse and regular time signature. Some could say that would be limiting which is mutual for hip-hop artists as well. But with the progression of technology, sampling or quoting previous music has become a lot easier and open to more aspiring composers. This means that one does not have to know how reproduce that specific type of music, thus possibly having little musical ideas or knowledge themselves.
Musical quotation can show the contrasting styles of different eras of composers, if just thrown together without a musical conscious it would sound messy, although that is not always a bad thing. For example, “Sinfonia” (1968) by Italian composer Luciano Berio, shows signs of a musical collection or collage of fragments of music from a range of earlier composers; such as Debussy, Bach, Berlioz and Schoenberg which are all within the third movement which is based on “Symphony No. 2” (1888) by Gustav Mahler. These sharp juxtapositions of Bach to Schoenberg create a new meaning where the sharp contrast creates a new understanding which then breeds an appreciation of both styles. Sharp juxtapositions can also be implemented through crazy ideas such as Frank Zappa’s term “Xenochrony” where he would superimpose a guitar solo from one of is own songs into a different piece, creating an inevitable contrast of rhythmic clashes and key, also in various live solos he would quote famous movie scores such as “Halloween” juxtaposed to the American National Anthem to get his point across.
Contrasting styles or ideas has been a big influence in contemporary works, such as the term “Bastard Pop” which throws together mash-ups of old artists and new to contrast the musical ideas and genres to create something different than both. The song “Unbegun Symphony” by PDQ Bach mainly consists of the collage of Tchaichovsky’s “1812 Overture” with “You Are My Sunshine”. The main difference between music quotation now and back then is that now everything has to sound acceptable, possessing a regular pulse or catchy riff. This can be blamed to the preconception that anything electronic belongs to dance or hip-hop. So today, musical quotation has created new musical feats and at the same time retarded music growth.
Music An Appreciation Sixth Edition – Roger Kamien
The Best Of The Music Makers – George T. Simon & Friends
Classical Music The Great Composers And Their Masterworks – John Stanley
The New Grove Dictionary of Music – Sir George Grove
The Real Frank Zappa Book – Frank Zappa