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hominid's avatar

Artists, have you ever created something you thought was original, but it turned out that it wasn't?

Asked by hominid (7347points) April 21st, 2015

Sure, all art is derivative to some degree. On one end of the spectrum, most pop songs follow a strict formula and 4 chord progression (Axis of Awesome’s “4 Chords”). But even most independent music is built upon a well-defined foundation, that is rich with cultural references (musically).

There are times when a musician is sued for completely ripping off a song. In some cases, it seems entirely possible that two musicians could come up with a very similar song independently, as music’s influences within a culture progress in rather conservative and sometimes predictable ways. Of course, there are other times when it most likely that one artist heard the song, liked it , and either copied it or forgot s/he had heard it and thought it was his/her own creation.

A few years ago, I was playing a chord progression and building up some changes into the chords and strumming to hint at a melody. It was a relaxing little thing, and I built up drums and bass in my mind, and fully built how the vocals would go. After months of occasionally returning to “my” song, I was completely shocked to hear it play out of my MP3 player. It was a song I had heard (multiple times, years ago) and had completely forgot. The melody and every little detail were exactly what I had imagined that I had created. Yet, I had not. Creation in this case was remembering.

Have you ever created something in this way? A painting, sculpture, poem, song, or story?

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9 Answers

Uasal's avatar

I haven’t, personally, but that happens a lot asking my partner’s crowd. He is a musician. You wouldn’t believe how many local kid bands accidentally rewrite well known 80s and 90s thrash and death metal songs, thinking they’ve come up with something new. All it shows is that they’re wearing blinders. So focused on their own desire to be famous they can’t do due diligence and study their own genre.

Mimishu1995's avatar

I unofficially write stories. And it happens sometimes. I come up with an idea, think it is original, only to find out someone has already done it before. Sometimes the idea I come up with is similar to a story I have read before.

I think we unconciously use ideas we’ve seen before to make our things. When you see a great piece of art, you appreciate and remember it. Later when you make your own piece of art you reuse the ideas in that previous piece (because they are so good). And because your unconscious mind do it, you can’t realize you are actually “reuse” the ideas. This is just what I think is going on in my mind. I don’t know if it’s right.

But then again the world is full of crazy coincidence…

cookieman's avatar

This a completely natural occurrence. As an artist and designer for almost thirty years and a design educator for almost fifteen, I can say I have seen this many times.

They key, as @Uasal points out, is that if you’re going to call yourself a practicing artist, you have to make time to not only create and make, but to assess and critique. This is our due diligence process, and it includes verifying “originality”.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My dad used to say that there is no such thing as “original.” He said that every thing you think you come up with on your own is actually built on things you’ve experienced or learned about.

Pachy's avatar

Most people wouldn’t consider ad copy writing an art, but in the days I was doing it for a living and thought so, I was convinced that every headline I wrote was the most original combination of words ever. The longer I was in that silly business, the more often I discovered ‘twern’t so.

David_Achilles's avatar

Not particularly religious but when something is said well, it bears repeating:

Ecclesiastes 1:9 New International Version

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

New Living Translation
History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.

English Standard Version
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

New American Standard Bible
That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.

King James Bible
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.

International Standard Version
Whatever has happened, will happen again; whatever has been done, will be done again. There is nothing new on earth.

NET Bible
What exists now is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing truly new on earth.

GOD’S WORD® Translation
Whatever has happened before will happen [again]. Whatever has been done before will be done [again]. There is nothing new under the sun.

Jubilee Bible 2000
The thing that has been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun.

King James 2000 Bible
The thing that has been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

American King James Version
The thing that has been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

American Standard Version
That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Douay-Rheims Bible
What is it that hath been? the same thing that shall be. What is it that hath been done? the same that shall be done.

Darby Bible Translation
That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which will be done: and there is nothing new under the sun.

English Revised Version
That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Webster’s Bible Translation
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

World English Bible
That which has been is that which shall be; and that which has been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Young’s Literal Translation
What is that which hath been? it is that which is, and what is that which hath been done? it is that which is done, and there is not an entirely new thing under the sun.

That said, I think we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. If we are humble enough, we admit that this is so. It’s very hard to create something absolutely new but we keep trying. Trying is good. But so also is acknowledging those who came before us.

I myself would rather be a cog in the wheel of human progress than an isolated comet of genius.

Uasal's avatar

@david, I love you.

hominid's avatar

Thanks everyone. I’m in agreement with many above that there are no original – as in occurring within a vacuum – songs, thoughts or anything. It’s all a remix.

And to be clear – when I discovered that my “creation” was really just me remembering that song, I was far from disappointed. It was so amazing to see how the mind can so easily be tricked into thinking it’s generating new information…from…nothing. To find proof that my mind had done that was encouraging in a strange way. It just makes me feel bad for musicians or comedians that are accused of intentionally stealing material. It must be so difficult to take in all of the cultural input and be able to vet all outgoing material for signs of theft.

David_Achilles's avatar

@Uasal Are you talkin’ to ME??? thank you

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