Fodder for title ruminations

As a followup to the earlier post, here’s a bit brief summary of what the book is going to cover. Unlike the title— which might still be in flux— this broad outline of topics is locked in.

This book is divided into three parts, each containing two chapters.

The first part is about how to think about covers. Chapter 1 reviews the history of covers and topples some possible definitions of “cover.” Even though there is no clear definition, we can get by without one. I take cover songs to be the ones that are typically called that, and that is enough to get going. Chapter 2 introduces several distinctions which can help us understand covers better: First, between songs, performances, and tracks. Second, between mimic covers and rendition covers.

The second part is about appreciating covers. Chapter 3 uses the difference between mimic and rendition covers as the key to thinking about how we evaluate and appreciate them. Chapter 4 discusses covers which have an especially strong connection to the original— the original is either alluded to by the cover or changes how we hear the cover. Evaluating and appreciating these covers turns out to be tricky.

The third part is about the metaphysics of covers and songs. Chapter 5 poses some puzzles about the metaphysics of cover versions. Although a cover is typically a version of the same song as the original, there are some interesting and striking counterexamples. Chapter 6 develops an analogy between songs and biological species. Like species, songs are historical individuals. This shows how to resolve the puzzle cases from the previous chapter and also helps in thinking about oddities like mashups, parodies, and instrumental covers.

A man browses at a German record store.
Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F079073-0006 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

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