Sunday, July 31, 2005

Random Transmissions 2: On Plagiarism

Cannibalistic culture is not a modern phenomenon. Art has always imitated Art:

Beethoven's reaction after sitting through the opening night of Ferdinando Paer's Achille:

I liked your opera, Ferdinando. I'm thinking of setting it to music.

Ironically enough he did just that. The Funeral March from Achille turned up some years later, in skillfully disguised form, as The Funeral March of Eroica.

As T.S. Eliot once remarked:

Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal.

The American artist James McNeill Whistler, who at the time was President of the Royal Society of British Artists, was engaged in a battle of wits with Oscar Wilde. After one of Whistler's particularly corruscating remarks, Wilde is alleged to have said:

Well, Mr. President, I should have liked to have said that myself,

to which the American instantly replied:

You will, Oscar, you will.

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