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Musical Borrowing: Theft or Tribute?

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Event Series Event Series: The Quintessence of Music

January 26, 2022 @ 6:00 pm 8:00 pm CET

Watch the recording


a webinar produced, presented, and performed by

Dr Donna Coleman

Streaming from Studio OutBach® Santa Fe, situated in the heart of the deep Indigenous history of Native New Mexico, from ancient Paleoindians to Keres- and Tanoan-speaking peoples who were raided by the Comanches.

Wednesday January 26
9:00am PST  | 12:00pm EST  | 5:00pm GMT  |  6:00pm CET  |  4:00am AEST

From the series:

The Quintessence of Music with Dr Donna Coleman
A monthly musical and philosophical journey into the Mind, Heart, and Soul of Sound Organized in Time

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.”

Ecclesiastes 1: 10–11

The practice of appropriating a musical phrase, a motivic idea, a concept, or even an entire melodic line as material for a “new” musical composition is as old as music itself. Composers from Johann Sebastian Bach (and before) to the present day have mined hymns, folk music, the clickety-claque of train trucks on the rails, and the work of other composers (who may have borrowed from others themselves!) in the process of creating their own sonatas, cantatas, symphonies, and suites.

This two-hour, interactive webinar asks participants to consider the notion of originality vs plagiarism. If a composer “borrows” material from a pre-existing musical source, at what point can that composer claim that her material is “hers”?

Donna will discuss and perform examples of musical compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, Ferruccio Busoni, and Charles Ives that make extensive and obvious use of borrowed material. Participants will have the opportunity to present their response to the question: theft or tribute?

On Wednesday January 26, Donna will open our monthly Community Call with a presentation and followed by discussion and Q&A.


Join our Zoom meeting via the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81479605511

If you would like to participate, have any questions or need any help just contact Eleanor Peat: eleanor@paricenter.com

Recommended Reading:

Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music by Ferruccio Busoni (1907)
Translated by Theodore Baker; published 1911 by Schirmer

Essays Before a Sonata by Charles Edward Ives (1918)
Published by The Knickerbocker Press, 1920 at Ives’s expense

Donna Coleman is a multi-award-winning concert pianist, recording artist, author, performance researcher and philosopher, and master teacher whose career spans a half-century, of which more than half has been based in Australia. She is also an accomplished weaver and photographer and an amateur but passionate astronomer and archaeologist with a keen interest in the culture of the Indigenous peoples of Australia and the United States. As Head of Keyboard and of Postgraduate Studies at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, she convened weekly thought-provoking seminars that explored relationships between music and other disciplines. Donna is writing a book entitled Dancing with the Piano, a collection of essays distilled from these sessions and from her many years of phenomenological engagement with her ultimate dance partner, the piano.

Photo credit: Peter Paul Geoffrion


January 26, 2022
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm CET