Art and art sprung from art; the subjects of creation and trans-creation. The relationship between the two is often a complex matter. I am admittedly a chronic tamperer; I have a deep-seated penchant for fiddling, and tinkering and other such pursuits, and so that relationship is something that I have given great consideration to.
Thus (and as I often have at least one foot sunk deep down into the issue), I've decided to reiterate some of my thoughts on the matter. First, I wholeheartedly acknowledge and validate the intimacy between creator and work. It is a thing that I think should be valued and respected (not the least reasons for which being that doing otherwise is usually paying someone a very poor turn). Any foray into the realm of the re-imagined or re-mixed should be done treading lightly, hoping to be harmless and intending no offence. The forayer, after all, with the full heft of the value that they place in their own project, is deeply beholden to the original maker, who provided the founding shape and clay. Besides, it's really just plain old courtesy.
Having said that, I think that original artists have a near equal responsibility to allow their work to multiply beyond them; a near equal responsibility to give that work a measure of freedom to roam and pollinate. It isn't always easy; virtually any genuinely created work is carved from a little piece of soul (I think that I might have mentioned intimacy somewhere previously), but it's just such an overwhelmingly positive thing to do. It is like the difference between locking a single rose behind a veil of glass for viewing (and nothing more) and allowing a flowering field, full of shapes and colours, to flourish out in the open and under the sun. Indeed, I see the original artistic work like a thrown rockthat instigating build-up; that release; that first, arcing flightand its validly derived counterparts like the following, rippling splash out in a poolthat dancing liquid and light, spreading out beneath a heaving shower. The latter may be tied indelibly to the former by substance and act, but the two are also quite richly complimentary and distinct, like two different creatures resting on the same root, the second sired by the seeds of the first.
That doesn't mean that artists should perforce be okay with simply releasing their work to whatever mutilations and abuses might happen to come. The initial artistic vision is not something that should be taken lightly or trampled upon. The integrity of artistic work should be kept intact and its authorship should be honoured. Again, it really comes down to a matter of respect. Due respect (even when it is situated in a communion of contrasts) should always be given to the founder and vision of that from whom and which a later work descends. To do otherwise is to slap the face of both the person and the thing that has given rise to echoer's own creative accomplishments. (Note that I leave all questions of remuneration and compensation beyond the scope of this piece. I'm dealing solely with art in its own province here, as a thing in and of itself.)
There are dubious edges and murky lines in the matter, no doubt, and there will always be a measure of sensitivity, if not outright contention; indeed, the very nature of inspiration and new ideas (and even the relationship between the artist and others) flows and foams throughout, and is itself more a thing of questions than answers, but the key point is that art upon art, and from art, whether in broad strokes or fine shades, is a great thing if respect and artistic integrity are maintained. Indeed, our branch with flowers shouldn't mean the rejection of a later branch with leaves. I don't think that the world (nor the initial branch) is made a better place for that sort of thing, when the precedence of the first excluded the chiming of the last. Both are wonderful. Getting there might not always be a smooth path, and it is certainly subject to weeds (although we would have had the weeds anyway). Still, we are people and we are artists; with but a little dialogue, a little effort and a little decency, we can offer out that single tree and together fill out the breadths of a forest, full of ever-new depths and twists of light and sound and life.
As a final, related point about the rightful stance of primary authorship with respect to (more inwardly pointing) external influences and responses, I personally think that it comes down to the artist valuing their artistic work for its integrity, merit and effect; to the artist being invested in crafting the best work that is possible; essentially, to the artist being interested in creation over ego. Thus, if one hears a particularly compelling idea or critique, theretofore all un-supposed, then perhaps consider said idea or critique. Otherwise, create as you will with a will to create (high-flown and bright-lit as your reach will go) and let whatever comes be great as it might. (And that's my two shiny cents on the matter.)
And now, to make this post a truly insupportable length, here's a little something that I fiddled with recently (because why not jump right in with an example). I've long loved John Godfrey Saxe's poetic version of The Blind Men and the Elephant. It's clever, fun and has something salient to say. (Its subject kind of tangentially fits with the general theme of this post, too.) I've also long been cognizant of the fact that it's just a little clumsy in parts, namely in the dubious repeat usage of certain words and phrases (which I still find a little strange, as Mr. Saxe seems like he had the general talent and skill to get around such things). In any case, prompted by those standing points of personal dissonance, I finally decided to take a whack at giving the poem a little stir through my mind to see what might come out in the wash. What follows (more an example of small tinkerings and shadings than a full work of trans-creation) is what resulted. I think that it's gained a little extra smoothness and colour, though possibly at the expense of some parallel form.
The Blind Men and the Elephant
Originally by: John Godfrey Saxe
(With modifications by me)
There were six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each, by observation,
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against its broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"Proceedeth not, the rest of you;
This Elephant's a wall!"
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried: "Ho! What have we here?
So very round and smooth and sharp,
To me, 'tis mighty clear.
This martial seeming Elephant
Can only be a spear!"
The Third approached the animal,
And chancing there to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
At once began to quake
And cried: "This ghastly Elephant
Is awfully like a snake!"
The Fourth, who'd reached an eager hand,
And felt about the knee,
Said: "What this sturdy beast is like
Is very plain to see.
'Tis clear enough this Elephant
Resembles most a tree!
The Fifth, who grabbed upon the ear,
Said: "Ev'n the blindest man
Can tell what this was made to be;
Deny the fact who can.
This manufactured Elephant
Is certainly a fan!"
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then seizing on its swinging tail
Was brought to moan and mope:
"This dreary little Elephant
Is nothing but a rope!"
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
And each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong.