April 3, 2010

Between Creating Work and Controlling Creation

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:43 pm by Hyeueon Bek


G-Dragon, a singer, released a 30 second preview of Heartbreaker online, the title song from his solo album in August of 2009. There were opinions that the song sounded like Right Round. Soon after, online communities and the media began criticizing G-Dragon for plagiarizing Flo Rida’s song, because he had announced that he had written the music on his own. After the release of the entire album, people began comparing other songs included in the album with that of other musicians, and put up clips showing the similarities. The discussion about plagiarism, sampling, writing music, legal issues and the creativity of G-Dragon as an artist went on for months. And finally, about a week ago, to ‘prove’ that his work is a pure creation of his own, G-Dragon came up with a new remix version of the song featuring Flo Rida.

The fact that Flo Rida worked with G-Dragon seems to show that Heartbreaker is not a plagiarized song. It has surprised many that the original singer has acknowledged the song which has been in dispute of copyrights and the debate came to an end. Some argue that it is a completely different song and apart from the first 30 seconds it does not resemble Right Round in any way. Heartbreaker is an example of creative act which got away from the controversy of plagiarism, but we hear other examples of such cases very often, and in this ‘Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, it has become a simple job which could and is be done by anyone.

Music and the sound, as a form of information, is being produced and reproduced and a large fraction of them include sampling. Sampling has allowed recordings of an infinite number of songs. In terms of creativity, the freedom to reproduce, upload and share music (or any other form of information) is a positive outcome of a digital world.

Paul D. Miller is for open culture because it increases creativity. He describes music and its sounds as something which can be changed by a software program, mixed and simplified in some cases. If the similarity between two different pieces of music is recognizable by the public it may become a serious issue, but even then, some have the opinion that it is a helpful act towards creativity. People uploading different forms of information, taking samples to reproduce another style of art all leads to the creation of another thing with different meanings and interpretations. The reproduced form can now be seen, listened and reproduced again and this spreads various ideas and culture.

Well known singers most likely have the reason of commercial profits when it comes to sampling, but other small individual producers of music, who do not have to do with commodity, may have other reasons and goals when they reproduce music. And even when benefits from their actions the focus should be the final product of creation. The new culture has the tendency to see other pieces of work and use it, although there are regulations about what is defined as intellectual property.

The mechanical production of art, in this case music, has become much easier than before. Walter Benjamin mentions in his article, that ‘the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition.’ The process of reproducing sound itself has a significance, and when the listener accesses the reproduced version it ‘reactivates’ the sound. Reproduction frees the work of art from and lets the musician or producers add another value which differs from the traditional one. Benjamin was afraid that in such cases the mechanical reproduction harms the commodity and uniqueness of the original object. As Benjamin wrote, reproduction changes the way the audiences looks at a newly created work. There are opposing viewpoints about creative work and when it is being controlled and restricted, but the trend is flowing towards accepting the changes producers and consumers. More changes and developments are becoming possible for art and people get the chance to see it and share opinions. Maybe it’s better to let the creation move on by itself.

Works cited:

     Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations (New York: Schocken Books, 1968), pp.217-251.

     Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid, “In Through the Out Door” in Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008), pp. 5-18.


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