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date: 23 January 2021


  • J. Peter Burkholder


Many musical compositions incorporate material from one or more earlier works. The procedures and significance of borrowing vary between repertories and over time. The history of borrowing in Western music has yet to be written, but its general outlines can be traced through the repertories that have been studied.

A new piece may use or refer to existing music in various ways. It may feature qualities identified with another tradition, as when a modern symphonic work incorporates sounds and gestures from jazz or Baroque music. A piece for one instrument may use figuration typical of another, such as fanfares in a piano sonata. Within a tradition, a piece may use common melodic formulae and formal conventions. Most broadly, all music draws on the repertory of notes, scales, gestures and other elements available in that tradition, so that every piece borrows from earlier pieces in its own tradition. Thus in the widest sense the history of borrowing in music is the history of improvisation, composition and performance....

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