The Instigator
reddj2
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Suitecake
Con (against)
Winning
8 Points

What's wrong with not writing your own songs?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Suitecake
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/25/2011 Category: Arts
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,632 times Debate No: 14925
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)

 

reddj2

Pro

I will attempt to prove that there isn't much wrong with not writing your own songs
Music and/or Lyrics

this is my first debate by the way
burden of proof falls to my opponent
I thank my opponent ahead of time for accepting this debate
Suitecake

Con

Cheers for the debate. Let's begin.

Preliminary: I'm not certain why the burden of proof would be on my end. For that matter, I don't think there's a compelling reason to think it's on your end either (other than the particular phrasing of the resolution, but then, I don't much care for arguments on semantics). Let's address the themes, and see where that goes.

To set up my argument in this debate, we must be clear what we mean by 'wrong,' in the context of the resolution. I will not be arguing that persons who do not write their own songs are morally vapid, or ignorant, or prone to abusing small dogs. Rather, I will be arguing that, in general (all things being equal, strange exceptions being ignored), persons who write their own songs participate in music as art to a greater degree than persons who simply perform songs that others write.

I assume, from the language of 'writing your own songs,' that the debate was originally intended to regard modern, 'popular' music (such as pop, or rock, or metal, or what-have-you; the sorts of things typically associated with tours and radio play and celebrity status, if one is good enough). With this assumption, I argue that bands/singers who do not write their own material are neither participating in music according to the current of the times, nor are they legitimate with regards to the 'soul' of their performance.

First, the current of the times. Since the advent of the confessional, autobiographical singer-songwriter (Townes van Zandt, Tom Waits, and Bob Dylan should be considered at the forefront of this class), the emphasis upon the song has been the message and music behind it, rather than individual performances. To be fair, jazz is a significant exception to this rule, as jazz is solely concerned with the performance rather than prior composition (though, as the performer composes the song on-the-spot, this offers no points to my opponent). Music is expressed through the performance, but the way in which it is recorded on the page, or in the mind of the hearer, is abstracted from any true performance. The piece has a substance and existence of its own. Giving life to this substance and existence is not as great a creative endeavor as creating the substance/existence in the first place.

Second, legitimacy. The strength behind a communicated message is that it directly flows out of a person's life. Now, as someone without much musical ability, I can only express myself through performances of songs that other people have written. But there is an element to performance that is removed from talent and technique. No one will perform 'Howl' like Allen Ginsberg. No one can. Others might 'do it better,' but there is something about Allen Ginsberg's performance that cannot ever be replicated. It's one of those elements in art that is difficult to express and delineate (because, as with nearly everything in art, the moment you delineate it is the same moment it steps outside of that definition and reasserts itself elsewhere). For our purposes, however, it can be called 'legitimacy.'

Thus, the performer who does not perform her own songs is not a continuation of the current of the times (which has consistently applauded those persons who wrote great music, rather than those persons who were great performers; the success of and critical response to Leonard Cohen is a perfect example of this disparity), and lacks the legitimacy that comes from performing one's own music. For this reason, while covers are at times beautiful (Jeff Buckley's cover of "Hallelujah," for example, is without peer), they are not the purest height of music, which is an endeavor not merely concerned with the performance, but with the composition.

Postmodern stance: the value of the singular perspective, the narrative, the legitimate story
Debate Round No. 1
reddj2

Pro

Thank you for accepting this debate
and sorry for the way it was worded.

Ok here I go
You argue that " bands/singers who do not write their own material are neither participating in music according to the current of the times, nor are they legitimate with regards to the 'soul' of their performance"
Who is to say that a person who writes songs for other people isn't in-tune with the world.
"soul of their performance" What if the person who writes song cant perform the song he has written?
Like what if he's written a song reserved for someone with better singing ability or musical prowess.
Take a look at an composer , He may write every note of a piece yet cant play every instrument required for set piece.

Also who says good songs have to be deep?(but that's another debate)

Look at the film industry should we say that actors aren't connected to the "current of times" just because they read from a script written by another?
My stance : Performers can breath life into a piece just as much as a writer can, especially when song was written for that persons unique voice or talents
Suitecake

Con

To address your arguments in order:

I didn't say that a person who writes songs for other people isn't in-tune with the world. I claimed that persons who do not, generally, perform their own music are not in-tune with the musical texture of the last forty years, nor do they embody the call for legitimacy so prevalent in most musical genres today. You'll notice that, practically without exception, the persons who perform their own music are those who are considered game-changing, genre-defining, classic; be they Bob Dylan or Aerosmith.

The question of a person who cannot perform the song they have written lies outside of our current debate. That said, the brilliant composer who cannot perform the song she has written has nevertheless participated in a greater creative act than the brilliant performer who cannot compose the songs he performs.

The analogy of the film industry is quite muddy; the celebrity of the actor in this culture is astounding, and even those high-profile directors and screen-writers are nowhere near as famous or applauded as upper-level actors. Further, because of the time commitments in the film industry, it is rather difficult for a person to excel at both screen-writing and performing. I would nevertheless maintain my claim that the screen-writer who puts to pen a brilliant script has participated in a greater creative act than the actor, who merely embodies that script. The actor's performance may be emotional and heart-breaking, but it simply would not exist without the initial creation on the part of the screen-writer (and, in nearly every case, without the influence of the director). The actor's performance is not directly creative in the same sense that the screen-writer's is.
Debate Round No. 2
reddj2

Pro

" You'll notice that, practically without exception, the persons who perform their own music are those who are considered game-changing, genre-defining, classic."
There is an exception...Ella Fitzgerald. Many of the songs she sang weren't even written for her, yet she made them her own, and you felt every word or sound. And, if you compared her interpretation to others', she would blow them away... as a singer, not songwriter. And others are Patsy Cline ,Frank Sinatra ,and Leann Rimes

" persons who do not, generally, perform their own music are not in-tune with the musical texture of the last forty years"
Once again, who says writers who don't perform are not "in-tune" with the musical textures of the last 40 years. What's the difference between a songwriter who performs and a one who doesn't? Look at Cole Porter, he generally wrote for others. Performing wasn't his talent, but he recognized it in others. A song that is never sung can never be "heard". It takes a voice to bring it to life and endear to people.

"the brilliant composer who cannot perform the song she has written has nevertheless participated in a greater creative act than the brilliant performer who cannot compose the songs he performs"
The argument wasn't who's more creative but that there is nothing wrong with being the instrument to a great lyric that you didn't write. Otherwise, no one would go to the opera to hear a great diva or tenor sing their interpretation of these compositions.

My final stance is that performers breath life into songs whether they write them or not. Many singers have great depth of feelings but were unable to put it to paper. When Patsy Cline sang "I Fall To Pieces", you felt in her voice that she meant it. When Ella Fitzgerald sang "A Tisket-A Tasket", you felt it, however whimsical the lyric. She made you want to hear the whole nonsensical piece. When a group of singers came together to sing "We Are The World", it was beautiful. All compositions are just pieces of paper without singers to sing them, and honorably interpret them, so what is wrong with that?
Suitecake

Con

I'll close with a response to quotes from your post, in similar fashion.

== "There is an exception...Ella Fitzgerald. Many of the songs she sang weren't even written for her, yet she made them her own, and you felt every word or sound. And, if you compared her interpretation to others', she would blow them away... as a singer, not songwriter. And others are Patsy Cline ,Frank Sinatra ,and Leann Rimes" ==

I'm not, in any way, suggesting that there are not competent/great/brilliant performers who did not write their own music. What I am instead arguing is that there is a legitimacy in the act of writing and performing one's own music that is wholly absent when one performs another's work. Emotion and successful performance are not wholly tied to that legitimacy.

== "Once again, who says writers who don't perform are not "in-tune" with the musical textures of the last 40 years. What's the difference between a songwriter who performs and a one who doesn't? Look at Cole Porter, he generally wrote for others. Performing wasn't his talent, but he recognized it in others. A song that is never sung can never be "heard". It takes a voice to bring it to life and endear to people." ==

I'm not diminishing the act of performance. I haven't, and won't; to impute that claim to me is to miss my central point. To write music is to create. To perform is to interpret. The person who originally wrote the music is most in-tune with the original purpose of the music, as it was his/her purpose in the first place. Other interpretations/performances may be more successful, or more technically proficient, or both, but there is a deep connection between interpretation and original purpose that expresses itself solely through the original creator, and this deep connection should not be ignored.

Again, the trend in music is to affirm this deep connection (particularly in the confessional, singer-songwriter genre that is so prevalent outside of mass-produced, digitized pop stardom). The rapper is compelling because, it is supposed, his/her story is fundamentally true; it is, in a way, autobiographical; it is not merely an interpretation on a foreign piece of music, but it actually emanated from their very soul.

== "The argument wasn't who's more creative but that there is nothing wrong with being the instrument to a great lyric that you didn't write. Otherwise, no one would go to the opera to hear a great diva or tenor sing their interpretation of these compositions." ==

And, as mentioned earlier, in order to avoid this debate being a banal skip around the capacious definition of the word 'wrong,' I outlined exactly what I meant by 'wrong.' It is 'wrong' insofar as persons who perform their own music participate in music as art to a greater degree. In this way, the performer who sings the music of others is, all else being equal, a lesser artist than the performer who performs her own music.

In this context, the question of the creative act is wholly important and relevant.

I've said my piece. Thank you for the argument.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by reddj2 6 years ago
reddj2
Yeah but Im Lazy:D
Posted by InsertNameHere 6 years ago
InsertNameHere
Uh...no. You made the debate so I'm pretty sure the burden of proof is on you.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Chrysippus 6 years ago
Chrysippus
reddj2SuitecakeTied
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: It being Pro's first debate, I didn't take away the conduct point from him for the "burden of proof" thing; learn how these things work before trying that in future, though. Con's writing was better, and he put forward thoughtful and coherent arguments for his position. Pro did not, relying mainly on rhetorical questions. That tactic can work, if you know what you are doing; but it was not convincing here. No sources were used.
Vote Placed by Scyrone 6 years ago
Scyrone
reddj2SuitecakeTied
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Reasons for voting decision: It was reddj2's first debate, and you could see it within him that it was. Hopefully your future debates will be better. Instead of thinking with emotion and feeling and responding to it, think more of your opponents thoughts on the matter. Also, burden of proof falls upon those trying to prove something is true, which if we accepted your original line (at reddj2) then it would rely on you. Nice job all round though, I thought Suitecake won this one though.