The Art Of Imitation

There is much more to making music than meets the ear, and even designing electronic equipment can be prone to the odd ‘borrowing’ of inspiration. However, the difference between a facile copy and a significant repurposing (derived from a deeper understanding) is what pushes creation onwards…

Discard Excess Baggage

Everyone, from the day they are born, imitates the world around them. Musicians take inspiration from other people’s music all the time, but the line between creation and plagiarism is regularly called into question.

Owen at the Indie Digest recently raised an interesting point by calling out the parallels between Jeff Veen’s Cargo Cult video and the processes of musical creativity.

Basically, a cargo cult involves ‘imitation without understanding’ – an attempt to reproduce the superfice of another’s work, without having the requisite skills or knowledge to actually devise the true essence of that work.

One example quoted is the legion of iPhone clones that have so far failed to capture the essential appeal of the original iPhone, despite having far better ‘features’ on the spec sheet.

In terms of music, the notion that “talent borrows, but genius steals” is entirely relevant. If you take inspiration from other music, and bend the essence of a musical idea to create a new work that is entirely of your own design, this is creativity. Bringing good ideas a step further forward is the heart of creativity, but you need to understand the original idea to do that effectively.


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