Wednesday Philosophical Query: Renditions, Adaptations, New Versions

With the prospect of Star Wars jumping to a light speed joy ride beyond Lucas’s watchful eye and tight control, and with yet another gritty action-packed retelling of a classic fairy tale on the horizon, my thoughts have turned to the responsibilities artists may have to original works when creating a new version, adaptation, or rendition. Do they have any obligations?  If so, what are they?  And do they change depending on whether or not the new work maintains the name of the original?



Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer who blogs about culture, philosophy, politics, postmodernism, and religion. He is a contributor to the group Catholic blog Vox Nova. Kyle lives with his wife, son, and daughter in North Texas. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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4 Responses

  1. Will H. says:

    Somewhat, and it depends on the circumstances.

    Back when the Band was together, I wanted to do Jack Bruce’s “Victoria Sage,” altering the arrangement and a few of the lyrics.
    This brought stringent objections from our bass player, who had roadied for West, Bruce & Laing.
    My view was more that which led to impressionism from the development of the Deguerreotype– that I am not a phonograph, but an artist in my own right, and that it should be expected of me, in performance, to alter a piece somewhat, even nightly.
    Jack himself never played “Powerhouse Sod” twice in the very same way. A good part of it was improvisation, and that’s more of the background that I come from.
    At any rate, I didn’t consider it as “disrespectful” to alter the arrangement substantially or the lyrics very slightly.
    Nevertheless, we scrapped the piece simply because it was too much of an argument to come to any agreement.

    That said, I honestly do prefer the Bauhaus version of “Ziggy Stardust” to the original (to which it is fairly true), and the also the Eric Gales version of “Foxey Lady” (which is very different).

    Mixed feelings here.

  2. Kolohe says:

    I don’t think they have many obligations. Shakespeare after all famously stole adapted just about every plot he had, but his artistic creativity is almost unparalleled in the English language. (though he did change the names and titles in most cases so I can’t really answer the last question) (though again, theater has been about ‘revivals’ since ancient times.)

    Just be good. That’s the only obligation.

  3. BlaiseP says:

    Every rendition of a story cannot help but deviate from its predecessor. Even shot-for-shot reproduction movies carry with them a freight of originality. It cannot be otherwise.

    Borges once said El original es infiel a la traducción.. The original is unfaithful to the translation.

    Marbles of the dancing floor
    Break bitter furies of complexity,
    Those images that yet
    Fresh images beget,
    That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea.

  4. MikeSchilling says:

    The Jim Rome rule applies: Have a take–don’t suck.