Author: Cassidy Neuner

Music plagiarism charges discredit artist creativity 

Roughly 8 months ago, the psychadelic rock band Tame Impala posted a screenshot on their Instagram of a messege threatening a lawsuit from Samm Culley of the band Skull Snaps over their song “Eventually.” Culley claimed that a drum sample from their 1973 song “It’s a New Day” was taken by the band, without his permission, and used in “Eventually.” Having listened to both songs, there is a certain similarity that I can’t deny. But was the drum sample intentionally lifted by Kevin Parker – the creative force behind Tame Impala, as well as it’s frontman and used in his own song? It seems doubtful to me. Now another case, involving one of the most famous songs of all time, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” is also being called into question for its originality. A representative for the band Spirit is suing Led Zeppelin for allegedly stealing the opening chords from their song “Taurus.” Furthermore, Spirit claims that the two songs evoke the same feeling and atmosphere.

It’s this claim that confuses me. Can an artist actually justify taking legal action against another artist because their song brings out a similar feeling in the listener? In essence, that is like saying that if both a Beyoncé song and a Kanye West song makes me want to dance, there is probably some sort of legal infringement tak- ing place, and one of the artists should consult their musicologist immediately.

How is any artist ever supposed to write a song, book or script without it having some similarities to another song, book or script? It’s become increasingly difficult these days to come up with something truly original, and, in most cases, the artist probably doesn’t realize that what they created wasn’t entirely as new as they first thought. There is too much content out there for any one person to consume, let alone to scour it for some vague similarities to anything else that exists.

Because I personally respect Tame Impala and Kevin Parker so much, I have to assume he had no idea that the beat he used in a very small segment of his song was anything like that of Skull Snaps’ song. Further, it’s unlikely that he heard the drum sample on that specific song anyway, as there has been evidence that it was used by several other artists before “Eventually” was even released. At the very least, Parker was a secondhand thief.

In the case regarding Led Zeppelin, however, there could be reason to believe they stole the opening chords: Led Zeppelin and Spirit toured together in the 1960s, making it hard to argue that Led Zeppelin had never heard the song “Taurus” before.

Alhtough I’m no musical expert, the two chord progressions do sound remarkably simi- lar. As such, I would be hard pressed to argue that Led Zeppelin took absolutely no inspiration from the band that they toured with.

It’s interesting to consider whether these cases have more to do with an artist’s bruised ego than the actual music itself. Who has ever heard of the band Spirit before? Who hasn’t heard of the band Led Zeppelin? It’s not unbelievable that a relatively unknown artist would want a modi- cum of recognition, even if they don’t actually win any money.

Cassidy Neuner ’18 (neuner1@stolaf.edu) is from Carmel, Calif. She majors in history and political science.

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Free speech and safe space advocates clash

By Cassidy Neuner

Staff Writer

On March 29, subscribers to St. Olaf Extra received an email from Anders Wahlberg ’17 in which he expressed his frustra- tions with St. Olaf ’s “incredibly broad and overreaching” poli- cies regarding speech on campus and “the ridiculous concept of safe spaces.” Wahlberg closed the email with a call to other stu- dents who feel similarly to join his student organization, which “will offend people” and “will violate the sanctity of St. Olaf’s safe spaces.”

Within days of the email being sent out, Nikki Lewis ’18, Udeepta Chakravarty ’17 and Cynthia Zapata ’16 organized a rally in response. The rally was held in the quad on April 1 dur- ing chapel time and drew many students despite the cold tem- peratures. Both the organizers and representatives from safe spaces on campus spoke to the crowd.

“It’s always very hard when marginalized students on cam- pus are trying so hard to make it clear that there’s issues at St. Olaf, and then emails like that go out,” Lewis said, “with so little regard to the fact that a lot of students on campus are subjected to hate speech and sometimes even hate crimes on this campus. So just sending out an email like that, what are you thinking?”

Chakravarty agreed. “What we are trying to do is to validate

the fact that we all believe that safe spaces are required for peo- ple who have marginalized identities or who have had traumat- ic experiences, and it is important for us to protect that,” he said.

Wahlberg’s email indicated that it wasn’t that safe spaces should be attacked, but that the mentality of safe spaces has not been contained in those safe spaces.

“By all means there should be safe spaces on campus. But making the entire campus a safe space is a threat to academic discussion and places people’s feelings above free speech. I don’t think there is a single issue that is ‘above debate.’ Classrooms, above all else, should not be safe spaces,” Wahlberg said.

“I think that there is a confusion between what a lot of people have been writing about in terms of safe spaces, as students de- manding that classrooms and the college campus be a safe space for students, and safe spaces as they exist for people with com- mon identities or common experiences to associate freely and then talk about their shared experiences,” Chakravarty said.

There has been a history of incidents on campus regarding marginalized people, such as last year when a display put up by the Gender and Sexuality Center about preferred pronoun usage was vandalized.

neuner1@stolaf.edu

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Deep End APO play to lampoon Shakespeare

On Friday, April 1 and Saturday, April 2, Deep End APO will present the first of its three spring shows, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield.

“It’s about three actors – that we’ve chosen to use the actor’s names, so it’ll be Christian [Conway ’18], Tara [Maloney ’19], and Tom [Reuter ’17] – trying to put on all the complete works of William Shakespeare within 97 minutes,” director Sara Albertson ’18 said. “It’s a slapstick comedy about how things go wrong, when people misinterpret things, but it’s a show that brings a lot of awareness to what Shakespeare is actually like.”

But don’t be intimidated if you don’t consider yourself a Shakespeare connoisseur.

“If you are a Shakespeare fan you’ll pick up on some of the little jokes in there, but by the by you will have a good time if you know even nothing about him,” Conway said.

“I think normally people are driven away from Shakespeare because of the content and the language within the show, but I think this is a really good, accessible way to get introduced to Shakespeare and to learn a little bit about his shows,” Albertson said.

Prepping for the show was no walk in the park, especially for the actors involved.

“There’s a lot to memorize, like each of us probably has about 30 pages of memorization, because there’s only three people on stage,” Conway said.

Albertson described the lively theater scene on campus, but how such an active community can create scheduling conflicts.

“I love it, because the St. Olaf community has so much theater and performing arts going on next month … but it’s also taking up so many weekends, so it’s hard to fit them in and encourage people to come to our show but not having them sacrifice going to another show for it, it was a really hard scheduling thing,” Albertson said.

Deep End APO is a student run theater organization on campus that sponsors student submitted productions, and encourages students of all backgrounds and experience levels to get involved in theater on campus.

The show will be performed in the Larson Blue Room at 7:00 p.m. on April 1 and 2, and tickets go on sale Monday, March 28 for a dollar each.

“I think it’ll be a good time, definitely gonna get some laughs out of it … these actors are gonna be putting in so much work too, and I think it’s gonna be an awesome thing to watch it all come together,” Albertson said.

“And it’s just silly, and fun. It’ll be really funny,” Conway said.

Complete Works is just one of Deep End’s three shows this semester, so keep an eye out for The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare and Woman in Mind by Alan Ayckbourn in early May.

neuner1@stolaf.edu

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Dr. Hamzawy on Egypt, exile and elections

On Tuesday, March 1, professors and students from both St. Olaf and Carleton crowded into Viking Theater for Dr. Amr Hamzawy’s lecture entitled “Egypt Since 2013: A New Autocracy or the Same Old One?” Hamzawy was an elected member of the first Egyptian parliament in 2011 after the revolution, and he served as a member of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights. He is currently a visiting scholar at Stanford University.

The lecture, which was organized by Professor of Religion Jamie Schillinger and Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Ibtesam Al Atiyat, focused on the state of Egypt’s political regime since the country’s revolution in 2011 and the military coup that followed.

“Wide segments of the population took out to the street – rediscovered the street as an arena for politics, rediscovered the street as an arena for staging peaceful, positive activism against an autocratic government and rediscovered the street as an arena for leveling demands which were very concrete,” Hamzawy said. “Egyptians took out to the streets on January 25, 2011 to demand an end to human rights violations.”

The protests in Egypt lasted for 18 days before President Hosni Mubarak announced he would resign as president. In 2012, Egypt held its first popular election since Mubarak took power over 30 years before.

In response to the popular elections, Hamzawy raised serious questions about Egypt’s future.

“So, how come after such a moment of peaceful, nonviolent mass mobilization with very concrete demands not driven by ideology, not driven by questions of religion and politics, how come this country has been backsliding in recent years to stand where it is now? Where it is now is quite to the opposite of what people demanded,” he said.

Egypt elected Mohamed Morsi to the presidency in 2012 and experienced a brief period when democracy seemed possible for the country. However, in July 2013, Morsi was ousted by a military coup. Hamzawy argues that the autocratic government that follwed is even worse than Mubarak’s regime.

“If Egyptians demanded a stop to human rights violations and human rights abuse, the last two years have been in fact the worst years in the long history of the Egyptian Republic since the 1950s,” he said.

The new military autocracy has been very effective when it comes to silencing the opposition.

“We have, for the first time in Egyptian history, Egyptian diasporas outside of Egypt,” Hamzawy said. “Intellectuals, opinion makers, writers and academics who were forced to leave Egypt because of the repression committed by the regime.”

Hamzawy himself was forced to leave Egypt when Morsi was removed from office in 2013.

“I was banned from travel for a year. I did not have the intention of leaving my home country after my travel ban was canceled by a court ruling,” Hamzawy said. “But I was threatened, indirectly and directly, and I was left with no options but to leave. So I had to leave. I left the American University in Cairo as well as Cairo State University, which banned me from teaching for opposing the military autocracy as well, and I came to Stanford. And my story is by no means tragic when compared to real tragic stories of many Egyptians.”

Hamzawy stressed that young Egyptians, who represent 60 percent of the population, were the main champions for democratic reform, but the military autocracy was quick to discourage them.

“This led young Egyptians to feel disenchanted, not to walk away, but to basically leave aside the ballot box, because it was a simple conclusion. If what we took out to the street to demand is not happening, but exactly the opposite is unfolding, why should we mobilize and go to the ballot box?” Hamzawy said.

Hamzawy continues to try to answer the question of why Egypt failed to democratize through his studies at Stanford and is currently working on a book exploring Egypt’s political upheaval.

neuner1@stolaf.edu

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Frisbee controversy

This past semester the St. Olaf women’s ultimate frisbee teams officially changed their names to Tempest and Vortex after being told that their prior names, Durga and Shanti, were offensive to Hindu culture.

Senior co-chair of Celebrate South Asia! Hamsitha Dontamsetty ’16 initially approached the team when it was brought to her attention that both the names and symbols it was using were offensive to some people on campus.

“Durga is the name of a goddess, a pretty important and powerful goddess in Hinduism,” Dontamsetty said. “We thought it was pretty disrespectful that they had the name of the goddess on t-shirts.”

Not only was the name of the team problematic, but so were the symbols that emblazoned the team’s frisbees.

“It was really the Om symbol on frisbees that we thought was most offensive, because those frisbees touch the ground and are thrown around, and that’s not okay,” Dontamsetty said. “The Om, which is probably the most sacred and important symbol in Hinduism, represents a lot of things. It represents the three trinity gods that we have. It represents the first sound that the universe made when it was created. It’s a prayer; you could say it’s a prayer for peace on earth.”

At the heart of the issue was that the frisbee team was appropriating Hindu symbols and names.

“We completely understand that the frisbee team didn’t know, and that’s where the cultural appropriation part comes in. They didn’t understand the significance of what it means to us,” Dontamsetty said.

“It was something we’d thought about the last three years, but kind of fell on the back burner,” St. Olaf women’s ultimate team captain Emma Keiski ’16 said. “Then we had representatives from Celebrate South Asia! come and speak to our team. And then everyone was really receptive to the idea of changing the name once we knew why it was perceived as offensive.”

Both sides quickly reached an understanding, and the frisbee team members made every effort to remedy the situation, even though it required a lengthy and expensive process on their part.

“The cost of getting new jerseys for all 40 girls in the program was upwards of $2,000, so we had to raise money for that, which we thought would be out of pocket, but the school’s been really helpful, like SOC has been giving us money and we had a GoFundMe campaign and raised about $1,300,” Keiski said.

As for coming up with a new name, the frisbee team created a public document on which both alumni and current students could make suggestions, and then the team voted on them, eventually landing on Tempest and Vortex.

Not everyone was happy with the name change, namely alumni who had played under the previous name.

“They mentioned that the alumni were kind of upset about it, which I understand because it’s a huge part of their time at St. Olaf, and they have t-shirts and frisbees and all this stuff with the names on them and so it’s very sentimental to them,” Dontamsetty said. “So I think that’s why they’re kind of resistant to the change.”

Ultimately, Dontamsetty and other advocates for the change found current players receptive and willing to listen.

“I really appreciated that they reached out to us and wanted to understand why it was offensive rather than just saying this is what it is and it’s going to stay this way,” Dontamsetty said.

neuner1@stolaf.edu

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