Tag Archives: art

The ecstasy of influence

The ecsta­sy of influ­ence: A pla­gia­rism, By Jonathan Lethem Harper’s Mag­a­zine

In near­ly one breath, [Mud­dy] Waters offers five accounts [of the ori­gin of his song]: his own active author­ship: he “made it” on a spe­cif­ic date. Then the “pas­sive” expla­na­tion: “it come to me just like that.” After Lomax rais­es the ques­tion of influ­ence, Waters, with­out shame, mis­giv­ings, or trep­i­da­tion, says that he heard a ver­sion by John­son, but that his men­tor, Son House, taught it to him. In the mid­dle of that com­plex geneal­o­gy, Waters declares that “this song comes from the cot­ton field.”

Blues and jazz musi­cians have long been enabled by a kind of “open source” cul­ture, in which pre-exist­ing melod­ic frag­ments and larg­er musi­cal frame­works are freely reworked.

Com­pelling quote from a com­pelling edi­to­r­i­al with an even more com­pelling ori­gin. (Be sure to read it to the end.)