It is nearly impossible to create something that is completely original. That is a sad truth for creators to accept, but it is the truth. No matter how much effort or creativity an artist invests into their work, at the foundation of the piece, viewers will find a concept that could be considered similar to something that has been done before. Even though this is the case, rarely does it ever occur that two pieces turn out to be exactly the same unless it is a work of plagiarism. Paradoxically, a given work of art is at once unique and derivative. This dynamic is of particular interest in pieces constructed from appropriated materials, given that the purpose of these pieces is to create something unique from something that has already been done before. Some would argue that art constructed from appropriated materials are not as valid as works that were made “from scratch.” In order to work out this issue myself, I decided to create a musical medley of songs that were all focused on the rain that falls from the sky above.
I ended up compiling about forty minutes of audio material even after trying to narrow down the list of songs I used to create this medley. I managed to cut down the audio to a much shorter three minutes and twenty-eight seconds. This process caused me to gain more respect for artists that use appropriated materials. I found that I had to look at the materials I was working with through a selective lens because using appropriated materials still allows for an ample amount of room to distort the material in a myriad of different ways. When an artist decides to create a piece from appropriated materials, it is as though the original artist loses the autonomy they had over their work completely. The second artist decides what the new vision will be, what parts will be used, and what parts will be thrown away.
When working with appropriated materials, creators are working with pieces that were not created with the intention of being spliced together with other works. I am sure the directors of the movies Christian Marclay used to create his piece Telephones never imagined someone would create a piece comprised of the telephone scenes in their movies. Even though this was not the original purpose of the movies, the piece Marclay created was still a work that was able to inspire me. What I most admired about his piece was its fluidity. His work flows so well that at times the characters in his video seem like they are in conversation with characters that were in a completely different movie. I initially set out to this medley sound as cacophonous as possible in order to highlight the fact that pieces that all share the same subject matter, are often inherently different in many ways. The songs I started this project with were ultimately very different from the songs I used in the end product. They spanned different genres, time periods, and tempos. If B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head” is followed by Fat Joe’s “Make it Rain,” the resulting effect will ultimately be one that is a bit jarring. However, I was not happy with the jarring effect because Marclay forced me fear the prospect of my piece seeming too disjointed.
Although following this path would have been an interesting, I felt that in some ways, it would have undermined the validity of the piece. Some people would argue that a piece that ends up looking like a simple hodgepodge of things that have already been done should not be considered art. Instead critics would state that the piece looks more like a messy attempt at art. While I am not sure I agree with this argument, thinking about the possibility of this piece just sounding messy shifted me towards attempting to create something that sounded more melodious.
Given that there are enough songs out there in the universe for virtually any subject to be remixed, I very well could have created a medley on happiness, sadness, or rainbows. So why did I choose the rain? Weather is something that envelops us constantly. It affects our moods, our schedules, and even how we dress for the day. The rain’s musical ties date back to native rain dances performed in order to help communities get through long dry summers. However, the rain is often talked about in the context of sadness in spite of the benefits it provides us. In using the rain as the subject for my piece, I knew I wanted to showcase more positive songs than sad ones, and I found that I had the autonomy to do so even though I was working with someone else’s lyrics. In manipulating their music I was allowed the liberty to only showcase the parts I wanted to showcase. Pieces made from appropriated materials allow the second creator to change the first creator’s message. If used for positivity, this method of creation could lead to the distortion of many messages that were initially hateful.
If the Rain comes
Raindrops are fallin’ on my head
(if the Rain Comes)
And just like the guy whose feet
Are too big for his bed
Nothing seems to fit
Are falling on my head
They keep falling.
I can show you that when it starts to rain
(when the rain comes down)
Everything’s the same
(when the rain comes down)
I can show you, I can show you
But that doesn’t mean my eyes
Will soon be turning red
Crying’s not for me cause,
I’m never gonna stop the rain
Because I’m free, ’cause nothing’s worrying me
Into each life some Rain must fall
But too much is falling in mine
Doo doo doo doo doo…
I’m singin’ in the rain, just singin’ in the rain
What a glorious feeling I’m happy again
From where I stand the sun is shining all over the place…
Rain, I don’t mind
Shine, the weather’s fine
I want to know, have you ever seen the rain?
I want to know, have you ever seen the rain
The Beatles, “Rain” (56.4 seconds)
B.J. Thomas, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” (43.7 seconds)
Ella Fitzgerald and The Inkspots, “Into Each Life Rain Will Fall” (27.8 seconds)
Gene Kelly, “Singin’ in the Rain” (45.8 seconds)
Creedance Clearwater Revival, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” (31.8 seconds)
Mike Koenig, Rain background noise (layered in various places)