Sweet Inspiration

Here’s a fascinating and challenging observation by American independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch:

Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said, “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

As a longtime composer and songwriter, I hesitate to accept Jim’s point without question, but at the same time I do understand where he’s coming from.

This brings back a conversation I shared with a fellow songwriter many years ago. He insisted that he created his songs, seemingly from thin air; I rebutted that I discovered my songs, from some magical place where all things have existed for eternity. I was merely fortunate to be able to recognize and accept a gift – a snippet of melody, a rhyme or a hook, maybe a chord progression. Then off I would go and make it my own.

Whether music, prose, poetry or software, how do we know when a so-called ‘original work’ is legally a derivation versus just plain stealing? Jim’s point about authenticity versus originality may offer an interesting litmus test.

References

  1. Nothing is Original – Edible Apple

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