“I think my attitudes about the past are very traditional. You can’t ignore history; you can’t escape it even if you want to. You might as well know where you come from, and you might as well know that everything has been done in some shape or form.” – Frank Gehry
An architect & a designer were having a discussion over a building. The architect mentioned that it resembled something he had previously worked on. The similarity was uncanny. The designer said that he’d read that the building’s architect had mentioned his work as an influence.
The architect sat back in his chair, put his hand on his chin and stared into empty space for a while.
“Yeah, this guy’s kind of tweaked my designs and made it better I think!”.
He went on to pick apart what he admired about the building. He even went on to pick apart the gables and how he hadn’t done anything like it himself.
His reaction was so admirable. Some people would’ve probably felt like their work was being ripped off. Instead of going off on what the other designer “stole” from him he emphasized what the guy brought into the mix.
In the process he probably got some inspiration as well that he’ll bring into other projects. It develops his taste which will only make his work even better.
There’s no real point in trying to overly protect one’s work. Sure, if it’s a carbon copy and people are blatantly profiting without asking for permission and/or compensating you it’s one thing. If it’s inspiration (sometimes a fine line), showing gratitude over the fact that others are moved or influenced by your work will benefit your own wellbeing!
Another benefit is that we don’t get stale with our work. If we start believing that we’ll only ever have ONE good idea we’re painting ourselves into a corner. We need to realize that as creative beings we have an unlimited capacity for finding new ways of developing our craft. The only thing stopping us is that feeling of comfort which comes when we think we’re set.
Examples of this can be found in other fields as well. There’s a really influential producer (who shall remain unnamed!) who doesn’t like to share their insights, even going so far as covering up the mixing console when other people come into the control room.
I understand why they do it. During the producer’s heyday their signature sound got emulated more or less by everybody in pop. This probably stung a bit since they’d worked on building a sound for something like 3 years. As soon as the first single hit the radio everybody wanted it. In their mind a “subpar” version of the sound was being delivered.
Now, as a person you have to respect their wishes of course, but I don’t feel that this is the best way to move music forward.
I have no doubt that some of the producer’s predecessors heard the songs on the radio and thought: “That person totally ripped me off! It’s just a subpar version of my stuff!”.
We’re always building on what’s come before and sometimes it’s just what the world needs at that exact moment. Some people are bound to jump on the bandwagon and there should be some friendly “competition”, that’s the best way to have rapid iteration.
When we try to outperform eachother while still staying true to our own identity we’re slowly making ourselves and, as a result, the world too. Naaaw! Isn’t that just precious?
Take a look at your influences, who do you admire? Why? What is it about them that makes you feel that way?