When drawing from preexisting works, how do you balance legal and moral obligations with the potential to create new art? John Biggs

John Biggs
Photo by Stephen Parker

Over the years in my compositional career I’ve been influenced by Medieval and Renaissance composers, who frequently borrowed material from other composers, actually, as a kind of homage to them. Whenever I’ve borrowed, I’ve done it in this same spirit.

In my orchestral overture called Pastiche, I ran 27 quotes from 19 composers together in a line, and the very difficult task was to get them all to sound like they flowed naturally from one to the other. A few are not yet in public domain, but because of the nature of the piece, and the fact that almost NO revenue is generated from rare performances of music by “Classical” composers who are not very well known, I don’t believe there is any infringement here.