Sunday, November 13, 2011

Singing to the Preacher

While reading Anna Julia Cooper's Our Raison D'Etre, one particular section jumped out and stuck with me - her comparison of writers who write for the mere sake of perpetuating creative beauty and writers who write with an intention of convincing audiences of their point of view. After letting this stew for a while, it actually translated in my mind into a new perspective on the whole issue of copyrighting that is addressed in Good Copy Bad Copy.

First off, I would just like to say that I really loved Cooper's writing style - her way of crafting her argument around very stylistic poetic prose. Her argument for the Black Woman is absolutely gorgeous, as she seems to be reflecting in her writing her claim of the need for the African American writing community to take up a more eloquent style of writing. She uses this style very well n the section "The Negro as Presented in American Literature," where she begins with the two functions of writing, which she defines those who write with one of two goals: creativity or propaganda. Of the first group she writes, "For such writers, to be true to themselves and true to Nature is the only canon. They cannot warp a character or distort a fact in order to a prove a point. They have nothing to prove"(380). Cooper's explanation of those who write with creativity is linked to the image of the songbird - enchanted with life and sings without agenda, only a song.

In comparison to the lovely songbirds, Cooper creates a juxtaposition with the opposite side of the spectrum. On this side, the preachers sit with their agenda open on their laps. Cooper describes these preachers as, "all those writers with a purpose or a lesson, who catch you by the buttonhole and pommel you over the shoulder till you are forced to give assent in order to escape their vociferations"(381). She clearly thinks a little lower of this crowd, with their violent manipulations causing a blindness by the obsession of their own arguments.

Although Cooper wrote this in terms of the creative restrictions of the black female, her philosophy can be applied to the issues in Good Copy Bad Copy. The music industry over the past recent years has been bogged down and obsessed with the issue of copyright laws, licensing, and creative ownership. Essentially, it seems to me that it is simply a question of dollars and cents. The film neglected to interview any of the artists whose material had been sampled, which translates to the issue not being one of creative authority and artists wanting their credit, but one of producers wanting their money. Thus I would like to argue that in this case, the companies and record labels take on the role of preacher, as their legality and rhetoric serves no creative purpose.

Creativity comes, rather obviously, through creation; and today we have a new form of it - sampled and mixed music. There is a lot of discredit paid to those (like the DJ featured in the film from Girl Talk) who see inspiration in music that already exists and can offer a new way of listening to it. While I am not naive in thinking that there is a lot of money to be made in pirating and creative theft, many of these the new artists are creating new material and maybe this demands a new genre of interpretation. These are the songbirds of the new generation, the artists who talk simply because they have something to say. As Cooper puts it, "But the singer sings on with his hat before his face, unmindful, it may be unconscious, of the varied strains reproduced from him in the multitudinous echoes of the crowd"(381).

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