Variations – the history of appropriative collage in music


I’ve been listening to this excellent 8 part series recently. Variations covers the history of appropriative collage in music i.e. using other people’s music in your own compositions – something I’ve done many times in my musical career. The series begins with examples from 1908, examines Musique Concrete of the 40s, the Avant Garde and experimental music of the 50s and 60s to sampling and remixing of the 80s and beyond.

The series investigates the whole notion of authorship. Indeed, “The idea of a completely original piece of music is a fairly recent one. Music was passed on through sound, through generations, even for centuries after the invention of written music. Only gradually, and centuries after the implementation of written notation, did it become standard practice for a composer to sign his name to a piece of music and claim it entirely as his own, giving rise to the cult of the individual composer.” (Leidecker, 2008).

The series is available as a free podcast from RWM’s website (under the heading Curatorial). I highly recommend it to our Audio Production students or, indeed, anyone with an interest in society’s experience of music.

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About David McSherry

Senior Lecturer in Audio Production