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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Wrinkles Name that tune? (16) RE: Name that tune? 31 Oct 08

Whooo boy, Seems I'm replacing one can of worms with another. Also seems that my original question can not be given a definitive answer.

I've done an original OpenD _arrangement_ of the tune of WMT, and all I wanted was a name to call it by that didn't reference WMT. Seems, from the above answers and quoted threads there's no single authoritive answer to this so I guess my arrangement will remain nameless and creditless for the forseeable future and the long winded "My arrangement of the folk tune WMT is set to" will have to do.

However it raises interesting points.

I was privliged to be at the Sunflower in Belfast when McPeak Snr was pursuaded to give his last ever public performance, which included this song; a moving and memorable occasion.

A few years later, in one of those complicated FOAF situations I ended up driving one McPeak to the airport to meet and collect another. That Scots lass who co-hosted the late and unlamented "Generation Game" had just had a minor hit with her recording of WMT and I was subjected during the few hours drive to the airport to an earbashing on the topic of how the tune was traditional, but daddy had written the lyrics so the McPeaks were owed royalties by that b*ch who was lying through her teeth when she claimed she'd learned it from her granny in the 50s, etc etc. The diatribe also went on to include, before and after McPeak Snr's death, all the other folk they'd sued for royalties over the years.

Did I enjoy this? To paraphrase Joss Wedon; I hope there is a special place in Hell reserved for muderers, rapists, and people who demand the attention of a driver doing 70mph on a busy motorway.

The lesson I learned from that was only that the McPeaks were vocal in claiming ownership of the lyrics and very litigious about it too. Consequently I figured that it was "safe" to freely play the tune but never to sing the song at a paid gig. Now it seems that not only are the lyrics derived from earlier sources but there's no common agreement about the tune either; only that both had older multiple sources.

However, if indeed the Elder McPeak just re-worked older lyrics, either combined from more than one source or just given a few original "tweeks", I can understand why he felt WMT was his property. I've "songsmithed" old lyrics myself and it can be quite hard work and a certain amount of propriatal feeling is certainly understandable and justified.

Jenny Hicks (nee Robinson: former promoter of London's Trubador Folk Club) who worked at C# house in the 60s used to tell very amusing stories about performer/collectors who got caught out, or succesfully covered up, claiming a song they culled first from a very obscure source as their own. Apparently the practice of keeping for themselves, maybe just a liitle bit "tweeked" too, and claiming as their own, a song collected from a source with one foot in the grave was not uncommon. But I digress.

Is a reworked song, no matter how much effort that went into it, an "original" work worthy of its own intellectual property rights? At what point does it cease to be the original and become a "new and original" work again?

My own perspective?

On more than one occasion I've bashed and butchered a poet's poem into a song lyric. But I've never felt that the resulting song was "mine"; even if I wrote the tune: which would not have come into existance if I hadn't been trying to find notes and chords to fit someone else's words. I feel that claiming even partial credit would be like a building's bricklayer laying claim to its design and architecture. The vision belongs to the visionary, not its embellisher.

Furthermore, even although some of the folk songs I've done this to as well have been very extensivly changed I think of them only as "my" version rather than an original work by me or my exclusive property. If I discovered someday than one of "my" versions of an old song has been recorded or performed by other folk I'll be flattered, and if not given credit for the re-working maybe a tad miffed too, but I'd never claim it was my exclusive intelletual property. I feel that for one to claim intellectual property rights then the whole work has to be original, or to be so thuroughly modified that the work which inspired it is no longer recognisable.

Your thoughts?


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