Nine – Inspiration or Adaptation?

Blog The Week, College

This blog post is just my thoughts on adaptation and inspiration, and why I’ve chosen to create a work inspired by The Willows, instead of an adaptation. I have also included my first audio blog (below), which is just a few minutes of my morning – perhaps try listening and reading at the same time, it’ll be less boring.

As I have tried to make clear from the beginning of this project, my piece is not an ‘adaptation’ of a story (The Willows) it is a piece inspired by the story. For me to truly understand and accept this has proved difficult; the most common question I find myself asking is, ‘What is the difference between an adaptation and an inspiration?’ Now, to define that might sound easy: an inspiration is a personal link to a piece of work, an idea that comes to you when or after experiencing the work, it’s more immediate than an adaptation and there isn’t necessarily a perceptible link between your final piece and the original; to counter that, an adaptation is – or should be – carefully considered, your final piece is a different version of the original story, and time is taken to ensure there is a direct link between the two. Furthermore, an adaptation has a certain responsibility to stay ‘true’ to the original work; as opposed to the inspiration’s responsibility to be independent from the original – if only to avoid claims of plagiarism. However, it’s not always that simple, and almost all compositional adaptations are examples in which a clear narrative link to the original work is only perceptible after a level of analysis that would – most likely – reveal any inspirations the composer had during the process of creating the piece. Which is why so many concept albums fall into the ‘loosely based on’ category; for example, Pink Floyd’s Animals is ‘loosely based on’ George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and saying it’s an adaptation would be inaccurate – although it’s conceptually similar, and the connection between the two works is clearly perceptible when listening to the album, there is a certain freedom Roger Waters exercises beyond that commonly accepted when adapting a work.

For me the choice was easy, I wasn’t going to restrict myself to adapting the story – partly because I knew it’d be so difficult to do so. This choice was made a little easier by the age of the story; legally I have the right to plagiarise it as much as I like, as it’s in the public domain – which is actually one of the reasons I am such an advocate for less strict copywrite law, it removes the element of fear when working with existing material, which for me at least allows for a more creative workflow. Having decided to just let my inspiration flow, after reading and studying the story, I’ve been able to take incredibly abstract things from the text – for instance the river intensity graph mentioned in blog ‘Eight‘.

Despite choosing such a loose way of representing and appreciating The Willows within my piece, it’s been difficult to know what is reasonable to lift from the story, and what is practical. All I wanted to capture from the story was the feeling of sublime horror I experienced reading it, and this meant I had to isolate that and lift that from the text. In attempting to do this I have experimented with isolating each part I can see: I’ve taken words from the text, thinking perhaps its essence might lie in its linguistic techniques; I’ve tried replicating its pacing, but I’ve get to create enough material to do so properly; I’ve tried using the series of events, but doing so is clearly lacking the essence I’m trying to reuse. I’m yet to find a way of isolating the feeling, and perhaps I need to go about it differently, maybe achieving the same feeling the text elicits – using sound – requires coming at it from a different perspective.

I’m yet to find a solution, but I’m just going to keep making things and thinking about how to say the things I want to say – maybe it’ll all click. Thanks for reading.


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