In pictorial work collage is an art form in which compositions are made
out of pieces of paper, cloth, photographs and other miscellaneous objects,
juxtaposed and pasted; any collection of things. The word comes from
the French coller (to stick) and colle (glue); originally from the Greek
kolla. For the purpose of my talk about `quotation and collage in music'
I am defining collage as those passages of music which appear to be
`stuck on' to the main body of the musical composition - either in the
form of quotation from other music; the attaching of every day sounds
and mundane instruments; or sound being grafted on by means of tape-recorded,
computer and other electronic means.
The quotation of other people's music, or self quotation, often appears
as something fixed on to the music like a collage and on first hearing
can come as a bit of a surprise. Its sudden appearance may amuse (or
perhaps alienate) those who know where the quotation comes from. There
will be different reactions to the music (presumably) from those who
don't recognize the quote. What is our reaction after several hearings
and does the surprise lose its initial impact on later hearings? It
is interesting to consider why composers choose to attach the work of
others on to their music. Is it by was of a tribute or is the technique
used as a scornful mockery, a rhubarb, a send up, a lampoonery or micky-taking?
The effect of quoting someone else in a composition can bring about
unexpected relationships and it can shift the comfort of the listener
by confusing what was expected or anticipated. In any event it will
affect the listener who recognizes the quote.
Some quotations can give a mock dignity to a popular tune. In Henry
Purcell's aria `May her bright example chase' in Love's Goddess sure
was Blind (a birthday ode for Queen Mary, 1692) we can hear the old
Scottish melody `Cold and Raw' in the bass line of the orchestral accompaniment.
We are told that during a musical entertainment Queen Mary once held
she neglected to invite Purcell and the famous bass John Gostling to
perform - preferring to ask a certain Mrs Hunt to sing the Scots popular
ballad `Cold and Raw'. When, sometime later, Purcell came to write the
birthday ode for Queen Mary he inserted the tune in his composition
as a joke.
J.S.Bach hardly ever quoted from other composers unless he was adapting
a work , such as he chose to do with one or two of Vivaldi's compositions.
He also did some `self-borrowings' when he was busy or (just as likely)
wanted to revive a good tune he had written for an old work which was
no longer being played. (Handel was always borrowing from himself).
Bach quoted the popular air - `Les Folies d'Espagne' in his secular
cantata Number 212, known as `The Peasant Cantata'. This is a tune which
countless composers have incorporated in their compositions or have
written variations on its tune. It was originally a wild and mad dance,
named `folia'. The orchestra plays the melody as an accompaniment to
the soprano aria `Unser trefflicher, lieber Kammerher'.
Mozart wrote A Musical Joke for 2 horns and strings (K522, 1787) in
which he sends up the amateur orchestras of the day - borrowing a fugue
by Atwood in the finale as well as a sonata by his father in the first
movement. It includes an outrageous violin cadenza and `wrong' horn
notes in the minuet second movement as well as a surprise out-of-tune
flourish on the last chord. Charles Ives loved to interpolate other
composers' music into his own compositions. In his second Symphony he
incorporated episodes from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Brahms third,
Wagner's Tristan and Walkure, Bach, Bruckner, America the Beautiful,
Turkey in the Straw, Columbia the Gem of the Ocean, and many hymn tunes
such as When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. We hear the beginning of Mendelssohn's
`Wedding March' in the third movement of Jacques Ibert's Divertissement
for Chamber Orchestra (1930). Mahler quotes `Frere Jacques' in one of
his symphonies and Michael Jackson begins one of his songs with a passage
from Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
Jazz performers frequently quote from others, as a homage, dig, or when
their improvisation seems to lead them to a familiar tune. In Gillespie's
trumpet solo `Birks Works' (1953) we hear an short episode from Bizet's
Carmen and we hear a suggestion (and delightfully unresolved) of `Three
Blind Mice' in Charlie Parker's saxophone solo in Cole Porter's `In
the Still of the Night' (also in 1953).
Frank Zappa quoted Stravinsky, The Supremes (`Baby Love'), the Beatles
(`Twist and Shout'), the Beach Boys (Call any Vegetable') and Holst
(`Planet Suite') in his album Absolutely Free (1967), which possibly
accounts for the title ! The `Residents' [in `Meet' (1974) and `Third
Reich & Roll'(1977) albums] are another group who poach on other's
territory. One of the most delightful pieces of sequential bathos I
know in music is Dohnányi's `Variations on a Nursery Theme' for
piano and orchestra (Op. 25, 1914). The orchestral introduction begins
powerfully and we think we're in for a really serious session of music-listening
, until suddenly the piano plays the simple familiar little tune of
`Twinkle, twinkle little star' - a sudden ludicrous descent from the
exalted sounds heard earlier.
While our ears have become accustomed to the `atonal' sounds of Schoenberg's
second String Quartet the familiar melody of the plague song `O du lieber
Augustin' suddenly breaks in on the scene in the middle of the second
movement. It is perhaps worth pondering upon the sequential effects
of music which moves from dissonance to melody (vide Schönberg,
Schnittke, Berio) or from melody to dissonance (vide Schmelzer, Biber)
and music which travels or alternates between the two.
Joseph Haydn paid tribute to Mozart by quoting him in Simon's aria `Erblicke
hier' (`Behold here') from `Winter' in his The Seasons (composed between
1799 and 1801). Haydn quoted from the Andante movement of Mozart's Symphony
in G minor (K550, composed in 1788). We hear a downward group of notes
in the orchestra as the bass soloist sings the words `Ershöpfet
deines Sommers Kraft' (`Your Summer's strength exhausted') - alluding
to the early loss of Mozart who had died in the prime of his life just
ten years earlier.
Bartok seems to be `blowing a raspberry' at Shostakovich when he grotesquely
distorted the main melody of the Russian composer's first movement of
the 7th Symphony (Op. 60, `The Leningrad', 1941) in the Intermezzo Interrotto
section of his Concerto for Orchestra, composed just a couple of years
after . Shostakovich was one for quoting music too; whether it was from
other composers' music or his own. In the mischievous opening allegretto
movement of Shostakovich's 15th Symphony (1971) a short passage of the
William Tell overture by Rossini suddenly infiltrates itself into the
music. Among recent music I've heard we have William Bolcom's quoting
`Abide with Me' in his 5th Symphony and Pwll ap Sion quoting Stravinsky's
Petrouchka in his recent orchestral compositionWhite Noise (first performed
in December 1993).
I've mentioned one or two composers who were fond of quoting from their
own music. Borrowing ones own music is different to quoting it. Whereas
borrowing may be an expedient - quoting one's own music may be an important
`statement' in the composition. Richard Strauss quoted from his own
previous works in `Ein Heldenleben' (1897-8) since it was an `autobiographical'
work, with Strauss as `the hero' - full of self reference. Indeed self
reference is something we may want to consider when we listen to music
- whether it is self reference with regard to the composer of the music
him/herself or self reference with regard to the music itself. Bach
uses the notes `BACH' as a personal musical signature while Shostakovich
will use `DSCH'. Shostakovich quotes a lot of his past music in one
of his string quartets. Mozart introduced a selection of his own music
in the dance music for Don Giovanni.
Quoting other's music as a homage and borrowing one's own music may
be acceptable but what about cribbing or plagiarizing other people's
music and what about copyright? Themes have been stolen or, with subtlety,
adapted by composers for centuries. Unconscious `cribbing' must be rife
in music. Falla once unconsciously incorporated a zarzuela melody into
his Nights in the Garden of Spain. When this was drawn to his attention
it transpired that he eventually recalled hearing the melody played
by a blind violinist who used to play the notes of the tune on a badly
tuned violin on the pavement near where Falla lived and the melody must
have been fixed on his unconscious mind. Howard Blake's melody for the
film of Raymond Briggs' The Snowman (1984) seems to come from Janacek's
Sonata for Violin and Piano (1914 rev 1921). Blake originally wrote
his piece for an entirely different purpose and later borrowed it for
The Snowman.. Janacek (1854 - 1928) by the way, used to employ the specific
inflections of speech in his vocal pieces.
For the purpose of this hand-out I define `self-reference' as that which
draws attention to itself. Self reference to the performance of the
music itself can be found in such works as Pavel Vranicky (1756-1808)
who wrote a `quodlibet' symphony in D written about 1798. The symphony
outdid Haydn's `Farewell' Symphony (No 45 composed in 1772) since Vranicky
(an Austrian violinist and court composer in Vienna) wrote both a `Hello'
and `Goodbye' symphony with the players both arriving and departing
one by one - all carefully laid out in the score. In the quodlibet sections
there are many instances of borrowing from composers such as Mozart,
Salieri, Weigl, Mayr and others.
Haydn's `Farewell' Symphony has the musicians leaving one by one before
the end of the last movement. It was a diplomatic hint by Haydn's to
his patron Prince Esterházy to allow his orchestral players to
have their Summer break and return to their wives again after a long
working season! It is said that the sudden loud chord in the slow movement
of the `Surprise' Symphony (No 94) was written in by Haydn in order
to keep awake the somnolent audience at court. Alfred Schnittke's giant
collage of a first symphony is a great piece of `self reference' with
its contradiction of musical styles, quotations, parodies, memoirs,
in-house quarrels, sirens and whistles etc. The composer employs a `magpie'
approach to composition like Charles Ives, Berio, Maxwell Davies et
al. In the work he alludes to (or quotes from) earlier composers, such
as Beethoven 5th symphony, Chopin's `Funeral March', Grieg's `Peer Gynt'
suite, Strauss's `Tales from the Vienna Woods', & Tchaichovsky and
many others in this densely textured work. There is also a jazz cadenza
for violin and piano. The orchestra applauds itself midstream and the
instrumentalists do a mass walk-out as well as walk-in during the performance.
It is full of orchestral raspberries and rhubarbs. The composer imitates
Baroque styles of composition; brings in the Dies Irae melody (a theme
used by composers such as Berlioz, Rachmaninov and many others) and
Luciano Berio wrote his Recital 1 (For Cathy) for his wife - Cathy Berberian,
the American soprano. In it she sings fragments from many familiar works
from Monteverdi, Purcell and Bach, to Schubert, Milhaud, Poulenc and
many other composers. In his Sinfonia (1968-9) Berio quoted umpteen
composers, particularly as a "homage" (Berio's words) to Mahler.
He mainly quotes from Mahler's Scherzo from the second symphony (1890s).
This is a work which incorporates collage or quotation (verbal and musical)
on a grand scale. James Joyce is quoted, so is graffiti seen in Paris
during the student revolt of 1968, and fragments of taped conversations.
A word in the text may prompt Berio to a musical quotation (for instance
"lowing cattle" causes the composer to introduce a snippet
from Beethoven's `Pastoral' Symphony). In the Sinfonia other words in
the text prompt him to quote passages from the works of Brahms, Stravinsky,
Boulez, Debussy, Ravel, Strauss, Berg and others. Does such quotation
become something of a `musical quizz' for those who are already initiated
or those who are musically `in the know'? What function does it have.
How does it serve the music? Is it preferable not to be `tainted' by
knowledge and hear such music as an `innocent' person who does not grasp
the allusions to other people's compositions? After all we can enjoy
music without knowing anything about its construction. We don't have
to be an entomologist to enjoy the beauty of a butterfly! The effect
such music (Ives, Berio and Schnittke particularly) has on me is an
experience of being involved in a vast panoramic collage of ever-changing
remembered sounds - a host of musical presences. Sequentially it has
a great impact on the listener.
Eric Satie (like Paul Klee) was fond of giving fanciful titles to his
works. In 1913 he composed a piano composition entitled Embryons desséchés
which bears the scientific names of three crustaceans which live in
the Bay of St Malo in France. In them Satie includes the well-known
tune `Mon Rocher de St Malo' and a piece by Chopin. The pianist is instructed
to play `like a nightingale with a toothache' and the work concludes
with a an exaggerated thumping of chords.
Speaking of nightingales - it was a phonograph record of a real nightingale's
song , which Respighi used in the third movement of his Pines of Rome
(1924) which astonished audiences. It was attached to the music like
a photograph. Cage (in the 1960s I think) also introduced a nightingale
in one of his Song Books l - ll/Empty Words lll. There was a well-known
recording of a woman (whose name escapes me just as I type) who regularly
played a cello in her garden to the song of a nightingale.
JOHN VERNON LORD