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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
chet w Robert Johnson (16) RE: Robert Johnson 14 Feb 98

I've often tried to imagine copyrighting or claiming authorship of melody to any blues song, particularly the standard 8 or 12 bar variety. Blues is (are?) very much a performer's art, and Robert Johnson's artistry lay in his performing, not in composing, although he was very good at that too. The whole idea of "borrowing" a melody or even lyrics to another author's work being an unsavory thing is relatively new, and not, I think, particularly important. Even in "classical" (actually Baroque) music, JS Bach once wrote a concerto for four harpsichords that is note for note almost the same as a concerto for four violins written earlier by A. Vivaldi. Vivaldi did the same. As for the oral tradition, of course tunes and words passed around freely, were claimed here and there, and generally did no harm, I guess until the subject of royalties came up. When you play the blues, you might give credit to the Yoruba and other peoples of west Africa from which the scales came directly. But even before that they may have come from somewhere else. One interesting thing I discovered (probably I was far from the first) is that if you take the standard pentatonic (5 note) blues scale and compare it to one of the most commonly known east Asian scale(the one used in the 60's chart hit "sukiyaki") they are exactly the same, except with the root in a different place. If we could find the real roots of music, they probable lie in the structure and function of the human ear and the way it's wired to the brain. Fascinatin' subject, if I ever get the time.

Let the good times roll, Chet W.

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