Rearrangement/Derivative Work Question
Date: June 24, 2012
Hello friends. I've explored these forums searching to see if this issue has been brought up before, and the closest I could find was a string of several conversations made over two years ago by the same person regarding a men's choir. Therefore, I'd like to propose this question for consideration...
It regards taking an existing choral piece and "rearranging" it for a different set of voices. For example, converting an SSA piece to SATB, or TTBB to SSAA, etc...
I've seen the phrase "derivative work" come up several times. It seems that this clearly would fall under that. At the same time, I have also seen postings saying that there is certain amounts of room allowed for "editing or simplifying" music to suit your specific scenario.
It puts me in a conundrum as I continue to explore this. I am sure many of us have struggled with finding the line between creating a "derivative work" and merely "editing and simplifying" an existing work.
For example, I could take an SSA piece and re-arrange it for SATB. Naturally, three parts would have to become four, so there would be some additional "composing" going on. That sounds like a derivative work to me.
Example #2- I take an SATB piece and re-arrange it for SSAA. Theoretically, let's say that the only change I made was taking the original TB parts and displacing them up an octave to become the new S2 and A2 parts in a new score. (This probably wouldn't work flawlessly in practice, but it's a theoretical example). This involves me creating a NEW SCORE in a music notation program.
Example #3- This would be the same as example #2, but instead of creating a new score, I simply hand the SATB score to an SSAA choir and tell the S2's and A2's to sing the original TB parts up an octave. No new scores are being created.
The question with these examples is, when does something cease to be "editing" and become a derivative work? And can something be classified as a "derivative work" when the original score is used but the singers perform it in a "creative" way?
Would one then simply contact a publisher and request permission to re-voice an existing work (by only displacing octaves) for use in public performance or worship?
I would be very grateful for any help or advice on these hypotheticals.