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Adapting or Borrowing Music by Composers

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Music has been stolen, borrowed and adapted for centuries! Some of thefirst examples of borrowing music dates back to the 13th Century andChoral and Church music! During the 13th Century there were many typesof musicians. Apart from Monks and their plainsong style of musicthere were jongleurs, troubadours, trouveres, minnesingers anditinerant minstrels which all contributed to music of the day! Thoughthese secular musicians did not engage in choral activity they didcreate a vocal tradition that was soon to “borrow” musical ideas fromthe church as the sacred motet transmogrified into the secularmadrigal.

The madrigal appeared as the secular equivalent of the sacred motet inthe late thirteenth century. The madrigal writers immediately adoptedthe style of having each part as an original composition rather thanuse an existing melody around which other parts could be structured.The secular words were taken from the works of esteemed poets as wellas original verse written specifically for madrigal purposes. Thequality of the words was deemed so important that they were able tostand as poetry of merit in their own right and were sometimespublished as thus. Petrarch (1304-1374) was one of the earliest poetsto have his words used as the inspiration for madrigal setting.

This form of borrowing is seen in our set pieces too. Palastrina tooka plainsong hymn and used it in his Mass.

Another form of music borrowing is arranging! Arranging is where acomposer takes an original piece of music and adapts it to his or herrequirements. For example ‘You are the Sunshine of My Life’ wasoriginally a 1970’s popular piece of music. Frank Sinatra had itadapted to Swing music so that he could put his own twist on it. Jazzplayers do this as well, but taking someone else’s music is not reallycomposing so does that mean that people who arrange or borrow musicare not composers? Well going back in history again, Bach is one of

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