I'm working on a project that began as a Logic rendering of a Beatles MIDI downloaded from the Internet sometime in the 90s.
At some point, I took all the parts and inverted them, melodically, using Logic's MIDI transform function. To my surprise, the result was surprisingly musical, and required only a little adjustment to sound like a decent pop song. Now, every ascending passage descends and vice versa, and a bouncy major key has become a fairly grim minor.
I like it. But who wrote it?
I can't say I did, for obvious reasons.
But the result is a distinctly different piece of music from the original, and, really, not one to be reasonably (or fairly) credited to Lennon and McCartney.
I wonder about the general ethics / esthetics involved here, given that it's theoretically possible to produce a steady stream of "original" compositions this way.
What! You have an original song written by the Beatles which was never published?
Steve Jobs was quoted saying... "good artists borrow and great artists steal." However, he probably stole that quote from Picasso… who probably took it from Stravinsky. We stand on the shoulders of giants as we move forward in life.
Dan, BIAB2021, Dell XPS 8920 Intel Core I7-7700 @ 3.60GHz 16GB RAM "...My goal is not to create backing tracks for my music, but rather to get more of me in my music."
So.... essentially, if you hadn't said a word about it, no one would have ever guessed where you got the inspiration from..... is that correct?
If it's not an obvious rip-off.... I don't think it's considered stealing. I see it as processing something through the filter of your brain both conscious and subconscious, and getting a unique outcome. But again.... I'm not a lawyer versed in copyright law. If no one recognizes it as having other origins.... it's obviously an original. That's how I look at it.
The secret is to take what you hear from others and make it your own in such a way that the one who inspired the idea doesn't recognize it as something they did in one form or another. We all do this constantly.
Chord progressions, as everyone knows, are not copyrightable. And if you reversed it, and have a different melody, which would obviously be the case, I think you're in the clear. You're under no obligation to even mention it or give credit to the "other" song or writer unless you simply want to let folks like in this forum know how it was achieved. I don't think I would have even done that. Just a simple..... here's a new song. Done
Edit: the only way I could see trouble brewing in a legal sense is if you sampled the original, reversed it and used it. That is a copyright violation. But.... if you don't do that, there's nothing to worry about.
Guitarhacker: "So.... essentially, if you hadn't said a word about it, no one would have ever guessed where you got the inspiration from..... is that correct?"
I guess that would depend on the listener; some people can hear things like that! But essentially, yeah. I'm not thinking of anything you could call an "interpretation" of the original, as a normal listener would hear it. A normal listener can recognize a theme in a different key, or a different mode, but not inverted.
But regardless of normal listeners and recognizeability, it's a trivial matter to reverse-engineer a reversed piece back into the original. And I don't know how such things actually play out in courts, but I can imagine a lawyer playing a contested song on a laptop and showing how you just do "select all" then take a certain menu option and suddenly you're listening to "Raindrops Keep Fallin On My Head" – and the jury going, whoa, it's the same song.
I suppose what you do to finesse the legal situation is take your inversion of "Raindrops" and call it something like "Neutrons Keep Shooting From the Ground" where the listener will get the winky-winky meaning.
In terms of "obligations", I would just feel dishonest if I presented such as I've described as completely original material. Plus it would be too easy to get caught, once any suspicions were raised!
To complicate things even further, the MIDI that I started out with says it is "(C)1996 by Eiko & Nobuo Takenaka". Not sure how that works, considering that these are note-for-note transcriptions of the original Beatles performances, but I certainly owe those folks a lot of credit here.
Inverting a Beatles' song has already been done. It played "Paul is dead"!
Mister Ed the Talking Horse got in trouble when his TV show theme was exposed as containing backwards Satanic messages. Here's the song reversed, if you try hard, you really can hear "someone sung this song for Satan" and "the source is the devil".
I don't recognize it. I might have figured out that it was reversed, or maybe not. There's only a few places that sound like they are reverse audio.
I was going to capture it but couldn't figure out how.... so I can't reverse it to unlock the magic .... oh well.
It's actually pretty cool sounding. The only thing is that the melody line.... that flute sounding thing..... if it's the original melody to the song, if reversed would give it away.... then your simple solution is to delete that midi track and create your own. It becomes totally unidentifiable at that point I would assume.
PS – Another "conceptual" thing I considered was taking the original recording, isolating the vocal and fixing one long and horribly flat note of Paul's that's been bothering me for 50 years now. But then a voice from deep within my soul said: NO, DO NOT GO THERE, and I didn't even let myself try it for chuckles and yucks – I didn't want that corrected version in my head!
The copy is “substantially similar” to the protectable elements of the original work.
There's no doubt that the work has been copied. It's rhythmically identical to the original melody, with the intervals exactly inverted.
So it's a copy that's substantially similar.
While The Beatles didn't compose the work, the derivative relies entirely on their creative work - none of it could exist without the source material, and the resulting material lacks anything that creatively transforms it.
It's a bit like taking a photograph of the Mona Lisa, and claiming the negative of the painting is your own creative work.
Sure, it was "transformed" - but every element of that transformed painting came from the painter, even if it's an inversion of some of those creative choices.
Since the derivative work is 100% built on a melody by Lennon and McCartney, not crediting them for the result would simply be wrong, as you'd be passing off someone else's work as your own.
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