A thing I’ll be doing in June

This is going to be a thing.

The Ethics of Cover Songs

Friday, June 10, 3:00-5:00 EDT via Zoom

A cover song, on a typical definition, is a recording of a song that had earlier been recorded by someone else. Philosophers of music considering cover songs have debated the adequacy of this definition, argued about the aesthetic evaluation of covers, and worried about their metaphysical status. This panel asks instead about ethical issues that arise from recorded music. Are there obligations which artists have when recording covers? If there are, do they arise from general ethical considerations or from norms within musical communities?

In the first half, each panelist will give a short talk. In the last half, questions and discussion will ensue.

The Short Talks

  • “Ethics, Appropriation, and Expertise”, Jeanette Bicknell
  • “Why There Are (Almost) No Rap Covers”, Evan Malone
  • “The Ethics of Re-recordings”, Brandon Polite
  • “What Artists Might Owe to Each Other”, P.D. Magnus

About the Panelists

  • Jeanette Bicknell is an independent scholar based in Toronto. She is a pioneer in philosophy of song, and her work includes Philosophy of Song and Singing: An Introduction (Routledge, 2015).
  • Evan Malone is on the cusp of completing his PhD in Philosophy at the UAlbany. His work deals with issues of genre and aesthetic properties.
  • Brandon Polite is Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Knox College. He has published on a range of issues in philosophy of art and music, and he is the host of the YouTube series Polite Conversations.1
  • P.D. Magnus is Professor of Philosophy at UAlbany. His work on covers includes “Judging Covers” (2013, with collaborators Cristyn Magnus and Christy Mag Uidhir) and the forthcoming book A Philosophy of Cover Songs.

This event is sponsored by the University at Albany Philosophy Department as part of the Virtual Summer Aesthetics Festival.2

  1. I recently had a Zoom chat with Brandon about Taylor Swift’s rerecording her early albums— whether they are covers, what covers are, and how thinking about covers might help us think about Swift. I’ll link when he posts the video.
  2. The Festival is an event loosely organized by the American Society for Aesthetics, the British Society of Aesthetics, and the Kent Aesthetics Research Centre. Their announcement of the summer festival is what prompted me to put this panel together.

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