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February 22, 2012



Richard, Great response to this nonsense about Golijov. Philip's music, & musical style are constantly 'borrowed/stolen' to the point of not being able to keep up with it. I used to get very angry about this, now there's so much of it I shug it off & tell myself that using PG's style or his actual music is the highest form of flattery. I agree that villianizing Mr. Golijov, means that music critics can't find anything else to write about.

Aaron Holloway-Nahum

Richard, can I just ask - in your update (after you actually listened to the pieces in question) - what do you mean when you say the Ward-Bergman is 'dangerously' influenced by Yann Tiersen?

I only mean that I'm interested in what it means for a piece to be 'dangerously' influenced by something when you are writing such a spirited defence of another example of what I imagine you would term 'influence'.

I wonder, too (again, after listening to the works) if you still stand by the comment at the top of your post that Golijov's work 'incorporates' (not: 'orchestrates') a 'section' (not: 'virtually the entirety') of another work?

Finally, I'd just point out that whether or not Golijov had permission to use the other composer's work has very little influence on what is upsetting people. Had Golijov's programme note said "I've orchestrated a piece by a friend, and placed it within the context of my orchestral setting", then I imagine the response would have been nil. But to submit a work as an 'original' composition that 'borrows a melody' in fulfilment of a contract for an 'original composition' - when in actuality a large part of the music is not your own (e.g. if I orchestrate a Debussy Prelude, even if I add some notes and an introduction, my name doesn't go at the top) doesn't this seem to you, even the tiniest bit, disconcerting?


To your last point: no it's not disconcerting again because he had permission and unless you or I are able to see the commission agreement, it's speculation that it's supposed to be a truly "original" work.
John Corigliano won his Pulitzer Prize for music in the last decade by filling a commission with an "arrangement" of his 15 year old string quartet. Are people equally outraged by it not being original?
To this day people think the Righteous Brothers wrote unchained melody, which was actually the theme to a film called Unchained composed by Alex North. Maurice Jarre won awards for it when they used it in the movie Ghost and I heard it pop up in a Michael Nyman string. Quartet.
I didnt see Glass credit the sibelius theme he used in Glassworks. Nor did i see j.j. Abrams credit Glass' Truman Sleeps in his theme for Fringe. That recent Coldplay song that went no.1 was clearly a tip off of Joe Satriani (you tube Coldplay Satriani) and that sold millions. That's a case where it actually matters. Theres no money in this Golijov affair.

I'm not advocating for plagiarism, I'm saying it's more complicated and fluid than that. In London "Andrew Lloyd Webber's Wizard of Oz" is playing. I don't see the authors' names on the marquis of that. That's a work still protected by copyright. These are complicate issues so to damage someone's reputation like this is not only irresponsible, it's libelous.


Richard - No offense, but, your rebuttal would have been far more credible if you would have actually listened to the works "before" criticizing the critics (who did their homework). This controversy is not about "character assassination," as you put it. Nor is it a controversy about stylistic originality (something tells me you haven't even read the critic's articles fully). I agree with you that no one is doing anything "new" in the true sense of the word. In fact, you could argue that there are only a handful of composers in the history of music who were truly "original" in terms of creating works/concepts that had no stylistic precedent or didn't imitate the structures of previous works. Therefore, when we use the term, "original" in our everyday language (especially in the legal sense), it refers to a work that, although it may have a similar sylistic quality of previous works, has a new arrangement of pitches, rhythms, harmonic progressions/changes, textures, etc. that the composer can call his/her own.

So, what has everyone fired up in this case is the fact that a famous, celebrated, and honored composer accepted a HUGE sum of money to write an original work (i.e. commission) and ended up turning in a work that was a mere orchestration of someone else's piece (peppered with a brief into., a brief transition, and a brief ending). In addition, the complaint is that the composer tried to pass this orchestration job (which was a significant part of the piece) off as his own by only giving a brief, vague mention of a melody he used by the composer. Which is misleading, again - if you listen to the music - he takes more than the melody, he takes the rhythms, the actual key, accompaniment gestures, and chord progressions verbatum. This is more than a mere "springboard," Richard. This is an orchestration job of someone else's work passed off as an original, commissioned piece. If you or people like you can't see the ethical/moral problem with that, then there is no hope for the classical music world.

Richard Guerin


I did listen to the work and updated my post, and in fact I read all the criticisms.

I know and concede that it was basically an arrangement of WBs piece, which Golijov first published as Radio, a piece which he premiered at WNYCs Greene Space back in 2009. I know all this. Im not denying the content. Im saying number one that the issue is between the commissioners and the composer, and number two that this type of stuff happens all the time, its actually not a bad thing.

Again, Im not arguing for plagiarism, but discovering this stuff - hearing other peoples work and influence is actually part of the fun of listening to music. Its not cynical to say at this point that knowing that tonal composition pretty much ran its course by 1910 - everything tonal since then has simply been a repackaging of the same ideas. Where does one draw the line? Philip Glass himself said in an interview with Ira Glass back in 2009 that Im doing the same thing everyone else has always done, Im just good at disguising it. If you talk to more musicians you might discover a greater sense of this attitude.

Ive heard of copyright suits being thrown out in court, when to my ears they are direct lifts.

This is not about Golijov. Its about the free exchange of ideas. I was being ironic when I said that the WB piece is dangerously influenced by Yann Tiersen. Ill say in in plainer language. The Ward-Bergman piece is HEAVILY influenced by French composer Yann Tiersen. So if the commissioners sue Golijov and WB, I think Yann Tiersen should also sue. Then where do you stop? How far does the line of influence go?

There are thousands of examples here. The net result of this incident is that Golijovs reputation has been damaged. He told me that the only answer to this whole thing will be his music. But if we have to call out Golijov and feign outrage - then I insist on consistency and we need to thoroughly attack people who copy.

Take your pick of a point in history, any composer, and we can launch a full scale investigation.

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