Using old compositions: Blasphemy or inspiration?

The geniuses of former centuries have left a wealth of compositions, many of which are being used for formal musical education.

To what extent may old compositions be used for inspiration towards modern compositions and productions with “unsuitable” instrumentation?

Is there such thing as a “netiquette” in composing, i.e. would it be blasphemy to take a sacred Goldberg variation and instrumentalize it using modern synths and rhythms and professionals would just not do this, as much as a spray painter should not try to mimik Edvard Munchs “Der Schrei” on a train station wall (although some graffiti immediately carries that association)?

I think there are many answers to this question.

I personally love hearing old compositions transformed into more modern versions with todays electronic capabilities. I just think it’s cool. I don’t really find it offensive at all.

On the other side, I can understand people who do not agree with it.

Different flavors for different people.

I think it comes down to whether or not it’s done properly - and that’s where it usually breaks down, which is why many resort to just categorically say “Don’t do it!”

You can’t just pull out a Bach score, enter it hard quantized into a sequencer, and expect it to sound anything other than annoying and pathetic. Can’t even change instruments without some level of reinterpretation. Whether you’re playing classical music on synths, or modern music on traditional instruments, it all needs to add up to a nice interpretation that takes advantage of whatever instruments and other devices that are used.

1 Like