A Lecture byJohn Vernon Lord


In pictorial work collage is an art form in which compositions are made out of pieces of paper, cloth, photographs and other miscellaneous objects, juxtaposed and pasted; any collection of things. The word comes from the French coller (to stick) and colle (glue); originally from the Greek kolla. For the purpose of my talk about `quotation and collage in music' I am defining collage as those passages of music which appear to be `stuck on' to the main body of the musical composition - either in the form of quotation from other music; the attaching of every day sounds and mundane instruments; or sound being grafted on by means of tape-recorded, computer and other electronic means.


The quotation of other people's music, or self quotation, often appears as something fixed on to the music like a collage and on first hearing can come as a bit of a surprise. Its sudden appearance may amuse (or perhaps alienate) those who know where the quotation comes from. There will be different reactions to the music (presumably) from those who don't recognize the quote. What is our reaction after several hearings and does the surprise lose its initial impact on later hearings? It is interesting to consider why composers choose to attach the work of others on to their music. Is it by was of a tribute or is the technique used as a scornful mockery, a rhubarb, a send up, a lampoonery or micky-taking?
The effect of quoting someone else in a composition can bring about unexpected relationships and it can shift the comfort of the listener by confusing what was expected or anticipated. In any event it will affect the listener who recognizes the quote.

Some quotations can give a mock dignity to a popular tune. In Henry Purcell's aria `May her bright example chase' in Love's Goddess sure was Blind (a birthday ode for Queen Mary, 1692) we can hear the old Scottish melody `Cold and Raw' in the bass line of the orchestral accompaniment. We are told that during a musical entertainment Queen Mary once held she neglected to invite Purcell and the famous bass John Gostling to perform - preferring to ask a certain Mrs Hunt to sing the Scots popular ballad `Cold and Raw'. When, sometime later, Purcell came to write the birthday ode for Queen Mary he inserted the tune in his composition as a joke.
J.S.Bach hardly ever quoted from other composers unless he was adapting a work , such as he chose to do with one or two of Vivaldi's compositions. He also did some `self-borrowings' when he was busy or (just as likely) wanted to revive a good tune he had written for an old work which was no longer being played. (Handel was always borrowing from himself). Bach quoted the popular air - `Les Folies d'Espagne' in his secular cantata Number 212, known as `The Peasant Cantata'. This is a tune which countless composers have incorporated in their compositions or have written variations on its tune. It was originally a wild and mad dance, named `folia'. The orchestra plays the melody as an accompaniment to the soprano aria `Unser trefflicher, lieber Kammerher'.

Mozart wrote A Musical Joke for 2 horns and strings (K522, 1787) in which he sends up the amateur orchestras of the day - borrowing a fugue by Atwood in the finale as well as a sonata by his father in the first movement. It includes an outrageous violin cadenza and `wrong' horn notes in the minuet second movement as well as a surprise out-of-tune flourish on the last chord. Charles Ives loved to interpolate other composers' music into his own compositions. In his second Symphony he incorporated episodes from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Brahms third, Wagner's Tristan and Walkure, Bach, Bruckner, America the Beautiful, Turkey in the Straw, Columbia the Gem of the Ocean, and many hymn tunes such as When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. We hear the beginning of Mendelssohn's `Wedding March' in the third movement of Jacques Ibert's Divertissement for Chamber Orchestra (1930). Mahler quotes `Frere Jacques' in one of his symphonies and Michael Jackson begins one of his songs with a passage from Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

Jazz performers frequently quote from others, as a homage, dig, or when their improvisation seems to lead them to a familiar tune. In Gillespie's trumpet solo `Birks Works' (1953) we hear an short episode from Bizet's Carmen and we hear a suggestion (and delightfully unresolved) of `Three Blind Mice' in Charlie Parker's saxophone solo in Cole Porter's `In the Still of the Night' (also in 1953).
Frank Zappa quoted Stravinsky, The Supremes (`Baby Love'), the Beatles (`Twist and Shout'), the Beach Boys (Call any Vegetable') and Holst (`Planet Suite') in his album Absolutely Free (1967), which possibly accounts for the title ! The `Residents' [in `Meet' (1974) and `Third Reich & Roll'(1977) albums] are another group who poach on other's territory. One of the most delightful pieces of sequential bathos I know in music is Dohnányi's `Variations on a Nursery Theme' for piano and orchestra (Op. 25, 1914). The orchestral introduction begins powerfully and we think we're in for a really serious session of music-listening , until suddenly the piano plays the simple familiar little tune of `Twinkle, twinkle little star' - a sudden ludicrous descent from the exalted sounds heard earlier.

While our ears have become accustomed to the `atonal' sounds of Schoenberg's second String Quartet the familiar melody of the plague song `O du lieber Augustin' suddenly breaks in on the scene in the middle of the second movement. It is perhaps worth pondering upon the sequential effects of music which moves from dissonance to melody (vide Schönberg, Schnittke, Berio) or from melody to dissonance (vide Schmelzer, Biber) and music which travels or alternates between the two.

Joseph Haydn paid tribute to Mozart by quoting him in Simon's aria `Erblicke hier' (`Behold here') from `Winter' in his The Seasons (composed between 1799 and 1801). Haydn quoted from the Andante movement of Mozart's Symphony in G minor (K550, composed in 1788). We hear a downward group of notes in the orchestra as the bass soloist sings the words `Ershöpfet deines Sommers Kraft' (`Your Summer's strength exhausted') - alluding to the early loss of Mozart who had died in the prime of his life just ten years earlier.

Bartok seems to be `blowing a raspberry' at Shostakovich when he grotesquely distorted the main melody of the Russian composer's first movement of the 7th Symphony (Op. 60, `The Leningrad', 1941) in the Intermezzo Interrotto section of his Concerto for Orchestra, composed just a couple of years after . Shostakovich was one for quoting music too; whether it was from other composers' music or his own. In the mischievous opening allegretto movement of Shostakovich's 15th Symphony (1971) a short passage of the William Tell overture by Rossini suddenly infiltrates itself into the music. Among recent music I've heard we have William Bolcom's quoting `Abide with Me' in his 5th Symphony and Pwll ap Sion quoting Stravinsky's Petrouchka in his recent orchestral compositionWhite Noise (first performed in December 1993).

Self quotation

I've mentioned one or two composers who were fond of quoting from their own music. Borrowing ones own music is different to quoting it. Whereas borrowing may be an expedient - quoting one's own music may be an important `statement' in the composition. Richard Strauss quoted from his own previous works in `Ein Heldenleben' (1897-8) since it was an `autobiographical' work, with Strauss as `the hero' - full of self reference. Indeed self reference is something we may want to consider when we listen to music - whether it is self reference with regard to the composer of the music him/herself or self reference with regard to the music itself. Bach uses the notes `BACH' as a personal musical signature while Shostakovich will use `DSCH'. Shostakovich quotes a lot of his past music in one of his string quartets. Mozart introduced a selection of his own music in the dance music for Don Giovanni.

Quoting other's music as a homage and borrowing one's own music may be acceptable but what about cribbing or plagiarizing other people's music and what about copyright? Themes have been stolen or, with subtlety, adapted by composers for centuries. Unconscious `cribbing' must be rife in music. Falla once unconsciously incorporated a zarzuela melody into his Nights in the Garden of Spain. When this was drawn to his attention it transpired that he eventually recalled hearing the melody played by a blind violinist who used to play the notes of the tune on a badly tuned violin on the pavement near where Falla lived and the melody must have been fixed on his unconscious mind. Howard Blake's melody for the film of Raymond Briggs' The Snowman (1984) seems to come from Janacek's Sonata for Violin and Piano (1914 rev 1921). Blake originally wrote his piece for an entirely different purpose and later borrowed it for The Snowman.. Janacek (1854 - 1928) by the way, used to employ the specific inflections of speech in his vocal pieces.

`Self reference'

For the purpose of this hand-out I define `self-reference' as that which draws attention to itself. Self reference to the performance of the music itself can be found in such works as Pavel Vranicky (1756-1808) who wrote a `quodlibet' symphony in D written about 1798. The symphony outdid Haydn's `Farewell' Symphony (No 45 composed in 1772) since Vranicky (an Austrian violinist and court composer in Vienna) wrote both a `Hello' and `Goodbye' symphony with the players both arriving and departing one by one - all carefully laid out in the score. In the quodlibet sections there are many instances of borrowing from composers such as Mozart, Salieri, Weigl, Mayr and others.

Haydn's `Farewell' Symphony has the musicians leaving one by one before the end of the last movement. It was a diplomatic hint by Haydn's to his patron Prince Esterházy to allow his orchestral players to have their Summer break and return to their wives again after a long working season! It is said that the sudden loud chord in the slow movement of the `Surprise' Symphony (No 94) was written in by Haydn in order to keep awake the somnolent audience at court. Alfred Schnittke's giant collage of a first symphony is a great piece of `self reference' with its contradiction of musical styles, quotations, parodies, memoirs, in-house quarrels, sirens and whistles etc. The composer employs a `magpie' approach to composition like Charles Ives, Berio, Maxwell Davies et al. In the work he alludes to (or quotes from) earlier composers, such as Beethoven 5th symphony, Chopin's `Funeral March', Grieg's `Peer Gynt' suite, Strauss's `Tales from the Vienna Woods', & Tchaichovsky and many others in this densely textured work. There is also a jazz cadenza for violin and piano. The orchestra applauds itself midstream and the instrumentalists do a mass walk-out as well as walk-in during the performance. It is full of orchestral raspberries and rhubarbs. The composer imitates Baroque styles of composition; brings in the Dies Irae melody (a theme used by composers such as Berlioz, Rachmaninov and many others) and Gregorian chant.

Luciano Berio wrote his Recital 1 (For Cathy) for his wife - Cathy Berberian, the American soprano. In it she sings fragments from many familiar works from Monteverdi, Purcell and Bach, to Schubert, Milhaud, Poulenc and many other composers. In his Sinfonia (1968-9) Berio quoted umpteen composers, particularly as a "homage" (Berio's words) to Mahler. He mainly quotes from Mahler's Scherzo from the second symphony (1890s). This is a work which incorporates collage or quotation (verbal and musical) on a grand scale. James Joyce is quoted, so is graffiti seen in Paris during the student revolt of 1968, and fragments of taped conversations. A word in the text may prompt Berio to a musical quotation (for instance "lowing cattle" causes the composer to introduce a snippet from Beethoven's `Pastoral' Symphony). In the Sinfonia other words in the text prompt him to quote passages from the works of Brahms, Stravinsky, Boulez, Debussy, Ravel, Strauss, Berg and others. Does such quotation become something of a `musical quizz' for those who are already initiated or those who are musically `in the know'? What function does it have. How does it serve the music? Is it preferable not to be `tainted' by knowledge and hear such music as an `innocent' person who does not grasp the allusions to other people's compositions? After all we can enjoy music without knowing anything about its construction. We don't have to be an entomologist to enjoy the beauty of a butterfly! The effect such music (Ives, Berio and Schnittke particularly) has on me is an experience of being involved in a vast panoramic collage of ever-changing remembered sounds - a host of musical presences. Sequentially it has a great impact on the listener.

Eric Satie (like Paul Klee) was fond of giving fanciful titles to his works. In 1913 he composed a piano composition entitled Embryons desséchés which bears the scientific names of three crustaceans which live in the Bay of St Malo in France. In them Satie includes the well-known tune `Mon Rocher de St Malo' and a piece by Chopin. The pianist is instructed to play `like a nightingale with a toothache' and the work concludes with a an exaggerated thumping of chords.

`Nature' music

Speaking of nightingales - it was a phonograph record of a real nightingale's song , which Respighi used in the third movement of his Pines of Rome (1924) which astonished audiences. It was attached to the music like a photograph. Cage (in the 1960s I think) also introduced a nightingale in one of his Song Books l - ll/Empty Words lll. There was a well-known recording of a woman (whose name escapes me just as I type) who regularly played a cello in her garden to the song of a nightingale.