Haley Scholar Reading Groups
By Cindy Lyles
In his essay “Something Borrowed,” Malcolm Gladwell describes how British playwright Bryony Lavery scripted a play using life details and quotes from psychiatrist Dorothy Lewis, as well as sayings from Gladwell’s previously published articles, as creative inspiration. Although Lavery contacted and cited Marian Partington as a source of inspiration for her hit play "Frozen," she somehow did not feel the same course of action was necessary for either Lewis or Gladwell.
In regards to not citing her sources, Lavery informed Gladwell that she “thought it was OK to use it. ... It never occurred to me to ask you. I thought it was news/” (238). Even if she felt justified in using the words and work of Lewis and Gladwell because it was just “news,” Lavery faced devastating effects for her actions. Accusations of her plagiarism left her disgraced and perhaps, publicly shunned after newspapers around the world learned of her “careless borrowing.”
As Gladwell points out, there is a lot of accepted, or at least tolerated, borrowing among musicians, but in writing, borrowing without attribution is policed down to the "level of the sentence." Aside from plagiarism being viewed as wrong and borrowing in certain artistic realms seeming less troubling, what do you think about the differences between the two and how they are viewed?
In regards to plagiarism and "borrowing" borrowing small parts of a song is well accepted while plagiarism is highly shunned. I believe one reason for this is that in the artistic realm, many art forms stem from other art. Even though a new song uses the same notes another song, it is not reviewed at such a scholarly level as a written script or document would be. Also, "borrowing" in the artistic realm has always been more accepted than in other areas. In some ways, I feel that using other sources for inspiration have been encouraged in music.
In my opinion, I agree that borrowing parts of a musical piece is less offensive than borrowing someone's writing, to an extent. Musical notes and sounds seem more limited in a way that one piece may sound similar to another but still not be the same. In writing, one can find inspiration from someone and be able to express their thoughts in words that are completely new that do not lead back to where the inspiration originally came from, but with music, if one used inspiration from another song, it would be very difficult to remake it to sound different. There are so many more ways to word things than there are to make a melody.
One someone plagiarizes, that person is taking the thoughts and words of another and using them for their own use. When someone borrows certain aspects from other artistic realms, such as music, they are using someone else’s previous work to inspire themselves to create their own masterpiece. Even though musicians might use other pieces of work to provide themselves with inspiration, they still infuse their own words into the music that sets them apart from the other piece of work they used for inspiration. When writing, it is much harder to take inspiration from someone else’s work and turning it into your own without it sounding similar because writing is unique to each individual and special in their own sort of way. I also feel that many people find plagiarism worse than the other because they have been taught throughout high school and college that taking someone’s work and using it as their own is wrong and there are severe consequences if one does so. If people we taught the same for other artistic realms, then I wouldn’t be surprised if people felt the same way as they do about plagiarism. Nevertheless, I feel that it is ok for musicians to find inspiration in someone else’s work but they must find a way to make it their own.
For the most part, borrowing in the art world is much more tolerated than in the literary world. In writing, when someone “plagiarizes”, people look at them as if they are too lazy to find if what they’re writing has already been said or to come up with a different way to say it. In music, however, taking bits and pieces of music from other artists is very common. The reason why it is not noticed as much by the viewing audience is that in music, the parts that are borrowed are not necessarily the melodic points in the songs. Sometimes it’s just the background bass beats or supporting tones. Also, sometimes two melodies can look very similar on paper, but sound very different once played. Some composers will take a melody from another composer, change a few notes and then add some different accents and differing dynamics to add their emotion. When looked at on paper, these two melodies would have very few differences. However, once performed, the listener would hardly be able to tell one was created from the other. For this reason, “borrowing” in music is more widely accepted than it is in literature.
I personally don't really see much of a difference between borrowing parts of a song for a new musical composition, and borrowing parts of a written work for a new piece of writing; that is to say, neither of them strikes me as being particularly reprehensible. While copying a written work word for word out of laziness should be, and is, considered wrong, I don't think someone should be punished for copying small portions of someone else's writing so long as it serves some greater creative purpose--like if someone copied a passage of a short story or poem for satirical reasons. It seems to me that the only real reason why people view copying words as being a bigger ethical crime than copying music is because it's much easier to figure out if someone has borrowed from a written work than from a musical piece; therefore it's easier to accuse people of written plagiarism than it is to accuse them of musical plagiarism.
I believe that there is a certain point between borrowing and plagiarism. Its okay for someone to borrow somebody's else work for inspiration and as long as there own work doesn't relex to heavily own the borrowed work. However, if you go to far and actually copy word for word another's work and claim it as your own, then that of course is plagerism. In the artistic world, I believe its the same way, except of course borrowing is more acceptable. Most musicians find that their own music is inspired by someone else's work. Plus, in both the artistic and writing world, almost every idea has been done. It's getting harder to come up with completely new ideas without having some or part of your ideas belonging to someone else.
I agree with most of what was said. When I think of plagiarism, I think of a person using someone elses writing. For example, during High School my fellow classmates and myself had to submit our papers to a website that would then determine whether if everything that was in that paper our own words and thoughts. Plagiarism to me is using someone elses written work. Although in the music industry artist use pieces of another artist work all the time I would just consider that as borrowing. The artist didnt come up with that specific phrase or line themselves, but in a way I feel like the artist who "borrowed" from the other artist song is giving them credit for a hot line. This made me think of slang. Are we plagiarising the people who come up with different slang words. It was there thoughts but thousands of people say them. Are we wrong for using their words. I think it depends on the situation. To sum this all up, I think stealing someone's written work is more offensive than "borrowing" from a song or using someone elses slang.
i agree with a few of the other people who pointed out that music is much more likely to be a collaboration of artists rather than a stand-alone art. music has a certain rhythm and flow that can be tweaked and played around with, something that isn't really tried in writing. it would be interesting to see a group of authors or poets come together and do a "mash-up" of different writing styles... but it generally seems more acceptable to "borrow" another musicians work because there is a lot more option and free expression to make it into something new. with words and stories and ideas, those things have a definite boundary, hard, sharp syllables and letters and very clear meanings so distinctive that it is CLEAR when someone hasn't put the work into remaking them.
Borrowing ideas in the realm of music may seem less harrowing than writing because there are only 88 keys on a piano, and likewise only certain connections you can make within those notes, unlike the thousands of words to choose from to make a single sentence.
Music, as well as writing, are creative processes, and one has to be inspired in order to create, so after reading this chapter, I don’t view “borrowing” from another author as disturbing, because as Gladwell mentioned, when writing phrases and sentences, he himself may have gotten the idea for them from reading a textbook, but does that make his connection any less effective or his own?
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