Thursday, October 23, 2014

An Artistic Filter Bubble: Perpetuating Unoriginal Works

                A dictionary would define “original” as present or existing from the beginning; first or earliest. It may also say that original describes something created directly and personally by a particular artist; not a copy or imitation. This makes me ponder about what music is truly original. Thus, “I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words” what I think about musical originality. Certainly, one would not accuse an artist of plagiarism for using the same shade of purple as Van Gogh used in his work. Yet, musicians are ridiculed for the use of patterns similar to those already created. Of course, no one person can take credit for the creation of those notes. No one “invented” the musical notes A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Perhaps a better word would be “discovered.” Notes always existed, but the music made by these notes must be invented. Just like a painting must be put down on canvas, music must be composed. While one cannot be ridiculed for using the same colors as another painter, one can be accused of copying if each individual brushstroke copies another’s work. This should hold true for music, as well. When notes are painted onto the canvas of music, it should not be deemed unacceptable to use some of these same notes. However, copying each and every musical brushstroke would not be original. This made me wonder how many different songs can be created, and if there will be a time when everyone can say “It’s all been done before.” I found this video in which several calculations are presented to determine how much music can be created. One such calculation determined that there are 123,511,210,975,209,861,511,554,928,715,787,036 unique combinations of notes in a musical measure. To put it in perspective, the video draws the audience’s attention to the fact that the universe is only 432,329,886,000,000,000 seconds old. Clearly there will always be new music for the human race to invent. Even if a new, different song was created every second for billions of years, there would still be unused melodies. Yet, it seems as though we simply “record and play, after years of endless rewind.” We stick to certain melodies. Even though, as far as lyrics go, it seems that “words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,” there are still many similarities. The video also mentions that lyrics of many songs are written in “common meter.” Even though words are different from song to song, “after changes upon changes, we are more or less the same” because of stylistic similarities. So, why does the human race remain stagnant under the influence of these melodies and lyrics? Perhaps we have all established our own artistic filter bubbles. With these, we can pick the music we enjoy and draw inspiration from other artists. People have grown very accustomed to listening to music that they enjoy. “Now they’re frightened of leaving it. Everyone’s weaving it: going on strong, all the time.” People seldom branch out to discover one of the 123,511,210,975,209,861,511,554,928,715,787,036 melodies that have not been heard yet. Perhaps they fear people saying “He was a most peculiar man,” or “has he lost his mind?”. Perhaps, as far as musical tastes go, “it’s easier to be somebody else when you hardly even know yourself.” Perhaps people listen to familiar music to “take a sentimental journey.” I myself admit that “I have become comfortably numb” inside my own filter bubble. Whatever the reason for staying inside, it is clear that there is much yet to be invented in the field of music. In order to tap into this potential, one cannot just amalgamate pieces of others’ work in order to “take these broken wings and learn to fly.” We tell ourselves that people who do this realize “I know I’m fakin’ it. I’m not really makin’ it.” However, we do not do enough ourselves to break our own artistic filter bubbles. We end up listening to the same old music, telling ourselves “I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do.” “We all want to change the world.” We all want to challenge norms and be different, but this will never happen until we leave our comfort zones, perpetuated by the norms of humanity, and find another one of the billions upon billions of melodies. Thus, regarding music and its originality, it would be wise to follow a simple rule. “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.” One can appreciate, enjoy, and draw inspiration from old melodies and lyrics. Notes and a few words strung together can be used and reused (assuming that credit is given where credit is due), but if we are ever to move forward and make more original works, we must abandon the musical brushstrokes that paint our filter bubbles and look towards the future.

Song Lyrics Used in this Post
I’d Love to Change the World- Ten Years After
Fakin’ It- Simon and Garfunkel
Blackbird- The Beatles
Revolution 1- The Beatles
A Most Peculiar Man- Simon and Garfunkel
The Boxer- Simon and Garfunkel
Comfortably Numb- Pink Floyd
Iron Man- Black Sabbath
Your Song- Elton John
Liar- Hey Ocean
I Me Mine- The Beatles
Across the Universe- The Beatles
Too Little Too Late- Barenaked Ladies
Sentimental Journey- Doris Day
Don’t Stop- Fleetwood Mac

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