Imitation is the greatest form of flattery: Part 1

I’m sure that almost everyone is familiar with the saying by early 19th century writer Charles Colton, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” This statement is true because in essence we all imitate. Imitation or mimicry is found throughout all life. Animals and insects imitate other animals or insects as a way of a survival; while we as humans find things that make us more appealing and replicate that specific thing. Mimicry has its downfalls but only in regards to the duck face selfie.  Well actually, there is two problems. The real issue is that imitation is defined as a ‘thing intended to simulate or copy something else’. So even though this simulation is meant to, in the sincerest way, dorian graypay homage to that specific item; the replication is just that….a replication. The quote from Charles Colton was augmented later in the 1800s by the writer of the amazing novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, the great Oscar Wilde (one of my favorite authors and books). He is slated as saying that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” His explanation of this phenomena is that this mimicking act produces a mediocre product. This act may protect the Larvae of the Hemeroplanes Tripolemus Moth  by imitating a snake but what does this mean when we think of  it in regards to something extremely trivial…like music. One artists mimicry of another artist’s work is something that has been replicated for years. My question is if a musician doing their hemeroplanes triptolemusversion of an already produced song or mimicking a certain style or grouping like something else is  is causing the production of a mediocre product? Does this mean that nothing will ever beat the original form of something or are we as a populous so caught up and in awe of the original product that we cannot appreciate something that is paying homage to this original work?

First lets start by an investigation of the evolution music itself because as a lifelong, eclectic music lover, I have always been intrigued by how much one musical styling or group influences another. In regards to music; the humming, whistling, clicking, and sounds produced by our mouths led to the invent of simple wind instruments which led to the invent of other instruments. These instruments led to Gregorian chants or the melodic harps and pipes that were spoken about thousands of years ago in the first book of the Holy Bible (Genesis 4:21). Centuries go by and the Renaissance leads to Baroque which leads to the classical eras of Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven which then finds Strauss, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Rachmanifnoff leading the way into the Romantic period. Music began to change in the 20th century and with the literally became electrifying. The amplification of instruments finally brought us a truly faster growing development of music. Southern Black Gospel influenced blues and jazz musicians which inevitably reached the ears of young white men around the world and slowly Rap, Country and Rock and Roll was created.

Musical styles don’t evolve in one straight line. Music itself evolved as the intertwining branches of one tree. Every artist from Little Wayne to the Bee Gees to Elvis Presley to Metallica can trace their musical heritage back to the same basic tree. Edgar Bronfman Jr. (CEO of the third largest music production company Warner Music Group {formerly known as Warner Bros Records}) said that, “The history of the music industry is inevitably also the story of the development of technology. From the player piano to the vinyl disc, from reel-to-reel tape to the cassette, from the CD to the digital download, these formats and devices changed not only the way music was consumed, but the very way artists created it.” As the evolution of our society and the advancements of technology, our music has evolution of musicchanged. So I call back the question, is music just a cheap mimic with small implementations for improvement or is the homage a slap in the face to the original. I hear older generations always say things like “music back in my day was…” or “I just can’t listen to that mess y’all have now”.

Music tastes changes but there is no doubt that it is all timeless. I can sit back and listen to Beethoven’s “5th Symphony” with Daniel and we both be enthralled as if it were 1808. We can even be happy as we listen to “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen and not to take a TARDIS back to 1978 to appreciate it. I have no doubt to believe that in another 100 years, someone will be teary eyed listening to the beauty that is Bach’s “Prelude in C minor”; that in 50 years someone somewhere will be tapping their toes to “Blue Suede Shoes” by Elvis Presley; or regretfully I know that someone somewhere will have the bad enough taste to listen to “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga. I am hoping that that song fades in the back file in the annals of the library of music. A man can only dream.

To be continued in Imitation is the greatest form of flattery: Part 2…

But until then.

Love, Peace and Chicken Grease, 




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