The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #107784   Message #2237783
Posted By: Uncle_DaveO
16-Jan-08 - 01:02 PM
Thread Name: Composers 'stealing' folk themes
Subject: Composers 'stealing' folk themes
Maybe someone can clear up a family disagreement in our house.

Last night my Beautiful Wife (a classical musician) and I had been watching a Rainbow Quest video, and Pete Seeger sang "Away Out There" with the stirring yodel refrain.

One of us (and I won't say which one, for fear of prejudicing the reactions) mentioned that "Stravinsky stole that theme from a Cossack folk song."

The other of us objected to the word "stealing" in this context, while recognizing that it's not been uncommon and is respectable for composers to utilize themes from folk music.

The first one, as justification for the use of that word, mentioned a quote once heard from a prominent 19th or 20th century classical composer, semihumorously stating something to the effect that it was the pathway of genius in composing to steal good themes. Using the word "steal", or maybe "theft".

The objector-against-"steal" stoutly denied that any respectable composer would have used that word in that context.

First question: Does anyone recall any such composer's statement with the word "steal"? Or does anyone have any good leads for tracking down any such quotation, if it exists?

Second question: Can anyone name the Stravinsky piece that utilizes that Cossack theme that shows up in the "Away Out There" yodel?

Dave Oesterreich