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<<  -- 4 --  Peter Dale    REALITY OR INVENTION?

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There's a sense in which this book is going to be most useful to lawyers, those who are involved in litigacious proceedings to determine in law who is actually responsible for so much popular music, and therefore whose is the rightful claim upon its revenues. For them it could be required reading. Anyone looking, for example, at the Lennon manuscripts, which recently came up for sale in London, would have seen vividly for themselves one aspect of the problem, one reason at least why water-tight definition of the word 'work' could become a big legal industry. To look at these sheets of paper is to be reminded of how the claim, actually and literally, to 'write' a piece of popular music is at best a metaphor. And even if we overlook that, even in the case of someone like Lennon (who in his way may have been a genius, and who certainly had no intentions to mislead) the apparently discrete 'work' of the individual author is bound to dissolve more rather than less into collaborative 'authorship' of his fellow musicians, George Martin, the sound engineers, and so on.

In the case of the legion of far less talented pop performers we can't really talk of a 'work' and certainly not of 'writing a song' in any truly meaningful sense at all. What you hear (or much more likely see, because it's the video that really counts) is not a 'work' at all in any conventional sense, but a product. The collaborative authorship in such a case is going to involve not just performers, musical guru and sound engineers, but also arrangers, market researchers, lighting engineers, costume designers, camera men, choreographers, and even make-up artists. The scope for acrimonious (and lucrative) court-room combat is suggested by the very anonymity of the synonyms and circumlocutions with which the words 'work' or 'oeuvre' or 'opus' have been replaced in the sphere of Popular Music: number, album, track, product, and so on.

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Copyright © 12 January 2003 Peter Dale, Danbury, Essex, UK

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