Le Boeuf sur le Toit

Yesterday, I came across this performance of Milhaud’s ‘Le Boeuf sur le Toit’ at Google Video. I actually ended up at Google via Daniella Thompson’s excellent Brazilian music blog (permalink to video)1.

I ran into her blog a couple of years ago while dissecting Milhaud’s ballet for an Everything2 entry (and Milhaud’s bio). Thompson’s sidenotes are essential in understanding ‘Le Boeuf’: which musical pieces Milhaud borrowed and where they are exactly played in the piece. You may want to keep those two links handy while watching (and listening) that video mentioned above.

So, the main question is, was Milhaud a copycat or was he simply inspired by Brazilian music? To answer that question one should look into how copyrights laws (and particular the ones that cover music) have changed over the last century. Think of it this way: In modern times, Milhaud would have just been a mixer, using samples of other musical pieces with a recurring theme from his own hand.

1 02/01/09: The video has been taken down: you may have more luck if you look for the search terms ‘Milhaud Boeuf Bernstein’. That should give you a page with links of the same video but cut up in 3 or 4 pieces.

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