In a recent episode of Polite Conversations, Brandon Polite interviews Alex King about the appreciation conditions for Taylor Swift’s mimic rerecordings of her earlier tracks.1 A couple of really nice points come out in the episode.Continue reading “Polite interviews King on Swift on Swift”
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?Continue reading “A thing I’ll be doing in June”
I just found out today that my book on the philosophy of cover songs has been accepted for publication! Both referees said that the manuscript could be published as is, but of course went on for pages with comments about how it might be improved.Continue reading “Celebration and title ruminations”
One side effect of the pandemic is that I’m out and about less, so I hear less programmed Christmas music. Here’s a flashback to pre-pandemic times, when I did a series of posts about my favorite holiday songs. I’m not sure the list would be any different this year.
I recently signed up for the free trial of Apple Music. It’s like the old days in some ways. Less so in others.
Current music: Little Simz, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
Current mood: nostalgicContinue reading “🍏🎵”
I’ve mentioned in passing a few times that I’m writing a book on the philosophy of cover songs. I now have a complete draft, which moves it to the rock tumbler stage in which I roll around the prose to remove rough edges and add polish.Continue reading “Cover songs book progress”
Andrew Kania poses what he calls the striking cover paradox. The idea is that there could be a series of covers, each making small changes to the one before it, so that the final product sounds nothing at all like the original.Continue reading “Striking covers”
Today I attended part of a regular seminar series at Uppsala University. An upside of a dire times is that it was on Zoom, so I was able to just drop in. The talk was by Brandon Polite on The Fine Art of Sonic Duplication.
Polite discussed artists remaking their own tracks for licensing reasons, the paradigmatic examples being Def Leppard (who remade a few tracks so as to squeeze their record label for a better deal) and Taylor Swift (who is in the process of remaking her first six albums so as to crush misogyny and master her destiny). These are cases I’ve also been thinking about recently, so it was interesting to hear his take on them. The questions from the Uppsala folks were also top notch.
John Stuart Mill makes an argument that there will come a time— if it has not been reached already— when all the great works of music have already been written. He writes:
The octave consists only of five tones and two semi-tones, which can be put together in only a limited number of ways, of which but a small proportion are beautiful: most of these, it seemed to me, must have been already discovered, and there could not be room for a long succession of Mozarts and Webers, to strike out, as these had done, entirely new and surpassingly rich veins of musical beauty.
His idea is that there are only a finite number of notes which can be combined in only a finite number of ways. Many of the ways will be awful. Of those that are not, many have already been discovered and documented by great composers.
Although Mill only addresses instrumental music, we could extend the argument to songs. Any lyrics which can be written down with an alphabet are built from a finite number of letters which can be combined in only a finite number of ways. Many possible lyrics will be bad. Of those that are not, many have already been written— and each new song further reduces the remaining number of unwritten songs. So there will come a time when all of the great songs have been written.Continue reading “Torment and interpolations”