I Stole That Tune Fair and Square! – Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” Quick and Dirty Dance Remix


“Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal.” — Igor Stravinsky

It’s no secret: musicians have been pilfering each others musical ideas since times immemorial.

The most notorious example of outright musical intellectual property theft in the 20th century arguably occurred on Led Zeppelin’s first few albums, where they covered numerous songs by blues artists, folk musicians, and others… without crediting them. After a series of court battles the songs were thankfully credited to the original artists. They are still one of my favourite bands ever, they just started out more like a cover band.

Jimmy page1

“Willie Dixon? Never heard of ’em”

But its not just rock musicians who plunder other musicians’ tunes.

The “Ode to Joy” theme from Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony #9, 4th Movement, sounds astonishingly similar to a melody by Mozart from “Misericordias Domini” (listen to the strings at 1:00):

It doesn’t stop there: Mozart ‘borrowed’ the following theme (C -D – F – E) featured in his Jupiter symphony from J.S. Bach’s E Major fugue from Book 2 of the Well Tempered Clavier, who borrowed it from J.K.F. Fischer’s E Major fugue in Ariadne Musica (a collection of preludes and fugues for organ in various keys that largely inspired Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier). I remember reading in a book one of my professors lent me that Fischer got that theme from somewhere else, possibly Frescobaldi. Heavens knows who he may have lifted it from.

Beethoven Bust

He stole it fair and square

To be fair to Beethoven and Mozart, in cases such as these where a musical theme may have been consciously borrowed from another composer’s work, it may be more accurate to interpret this as a gesture of tribute to the original composer. That’s what I keep telling myself anyways.

Back to Stravinsky, who’s most widely known work is probably the “Rite of Spring” (based on melodies derived from Russian folk songs no less, but I digress) which was featured in Disney’s Fantasia in the segment depicting the Earth’s prehistory including the extinction of the dinosaurs. Familiarize yourself with the opening melody if you will:

I have a theory that in many instances where a song is a hit, it is because the songwriter either consciously or unconsciously (I’ll give him/her the benefit of the doubt here) took another well known tune and rearranged it in some manner.

For instance, I’ve long believed that the first few measures of the keyboard melody from “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin is based on the opening theme from Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”. Listen and decide for yourself:

I also have a hunch that the theme from the Halo video game series is also based on the initial theme in “The Rite of Spring”. Listen closely to the second phrase:

massa chief

“Sorry Igor”

In the spirit of taking Stravinsky’s above quoted musical advice a little too literally, I thought it might be fun to attempt a dance remix using Stravinsky’s theme. Here’s a quick and dirty excerpt I cooked up one morning:

(©2013 Bryne Carruthers and Igor Stravinsky)

It uses a variation of the aeolian progression bVI-bVII-i that seems to be quite popular among dance hits in recent years (think Ke$a’s “Tik Tok” or LMFAO’s “Party Tonight” for the reverse progression) which is of course why I stole.. I mean used it here.

Many musicians and non-musicians alike no doubt feel that the trend in the past two decades of ‘sampling’ and ‘remixing’ other musician’s songs and recordings has signaled a decline in artistic quality in contemporary music in general. It may indeed be true, but this ongoing process of musical appropriation is almost certainly as old as humanity itself, if not considerably older (in other species), and advances in technology have seemed to not only accelerate this existing process but also make its occurrence much more obvious than it may have appeared before. That’s my theory at any rate.

With that said, I extend my apologies to Igor, but nonetheless, I stole that tune fair and square!

Until next time,


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