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Osvaldo Golijov: Thief? Collaborator? Genius?

Osvaldo Golijov working hard to meet his next commission deadline

Seems like it’s been a while since we had some Golijov bashing (and defending) on our site. What do you think about this story about a Eugene Symphony premiere, with its disturbing allegations of extended theft of another composer’s work?

The reporter doesn’t mention that Golijov’s m.o. these days is to collaborate with pop/folk musicians, making the question of authorship in works such as Ayre particularly murky. Nevertheless, if nearly 50% of the work is music by another composer, shouldn’t that composer get a conspicuous co-credit on the composition? Golijov does credit his collaborators, but you usually have to dig down into the program notes or CD credits to discover who else helped write the music on which Golijov’s name is so prominently displayed.

Read Bob Keefer’s story about the controversy here.

Comments

Comment from J. Ralph
Time: February 20, 2012, 9:10 pm

Doesn’t appear to be “bashing” so much as laying out the facts. Either Tom Manoff and Brian McWhorter are correct or they aren’t. If they are correct, then Sidereus has been presented as something that it isn’t.

It really doesn’t matter what the agreemeent might be between Golijov and Ward-Bergeman. And it really doesn’t matter what one’s views are about “collaborating” with pop/rock musicians. What matters is that Golijov was commissioned by 35 orchestras to compose a piece (a significantly longer piece than delivered, by the way) and it appears that what he delivered was not composed by him by any reasonable definition of the term. Since these orchestras have been making such a big deal to their constituents about premiering a new Golijov composition (Ryan Fleur has been particularly articulate on this front), then one would expect them to be none too happy to discover that he didn’t really compose it. Sadly, some are coming to his defense with various degrees of hair-spiltting. How can they, unless they feel it is okay to sell their patrons a false bill of goods? I’m not sure this is a good example of how to win new friends to the concert hall: people tend, long term, not to like being fooled, either by composers or by symphony orchestra executive and marketing directors.

Comment from Christian Carey
Time: February 21, 2012, 2:05 am

My take: If the article makes a spurious accusation, the commissioning organizations should ask the two composers involved to discuss the genesis of the piece. Put out a video of their conversation. If there’s truth to the allegations, ask Mr. Golijov to return or split the commission and give co-credit to both composers in future performances. Use it as a “teaching moment” about the pressures that exist for creative people. Either way, Golijov’s reputation could be repaired if this is handled expeditiously. Acting as if it’s a non-story and making Golijov unavailable for comment won’t cut it.

Comment from J. Ralph
Time: February 21, 2012, 3:51 am

Check out the following development: http://www.registerguard.com/web/newslocalnews/27644580-41/golijov-music-sidereus-composer-bergeman.html.csp.

Looks like Mr. Golijov has done this sort of “borrowing” before.

Comment from P.Futin
Time: February 21, 2012, 5:32 am

If you listen to http://www.wnyc.org/shows/newsounds/2011/dec/05/ from c.44 mins you will see not even the borrowing is original – his WNYC commission ‘Radio’ is pretty much the same piece as Sidereus in a different orchestration.

Comment from Nickitas Demos
Time: February 21, 2012, 12:47 pm

Sounds like the two composers (Golijov & Ward-Bergeman) had an understanding about the use of pre-existing music in “Sidereus.” It’s important to note that Ward-Bergeman is not crying foul – at least not in public. This may simply be a matter of Golijov not fully disclosing his use of materials in the orchestra work. Yet, I find it a bit concerning that others are beginning to come forward claiming similar “borrowing” procedures. Is it piling on or is there a disturbing pattern emerging? Not enough data yet for me to draw a conclusion one way or another. Although, I think we should err – at least initially – on giving Golijov the benefit of the doubt. If it is truly plagiarism and if it is discovered that this is part of larger pattern, it will all come out soon enough. I do agree with Christian Carey however that Golijov may well need to address this issue soon. Being too busy on another commission to comment doesn’t sit well.

Comment from Todd
Time: February 21, 2012, 2:55 pm

Decide for yourselves folks:
Barbeich by Ward-Bergeman:
http://www.myspace.com/music/player?sid=40575619&ac=now

Sidereus by Golijov:
http://www.instantencore.com/work/work.aspx?work=5056243

On listening, it’s actually pretty clear.

Comment from Sid Ereus
Time: February 21, 2012, 3:50 pm

it’s pretty shocking that “RADIO”, commissioned by WNYC, is the same piece as “Sidereus” and “Barbeich”! How can that be?! Forget “Barbeich” for a second, how did nobody of the 35-orchestras commissioning “Sidereus” figure out that the material was exactly the same as “Radio”?

by the way, here’s a more direct link to “Radio”:
http://www.wnyc.org/shows/soundcheck/articles/music-hub/2009/dec/31/ethel-robert-glasper-roy-nathanson/

Comment from Christian
Time: February 21, 2012, 3:54 pm

Nikitas,

Thanks for your comment.

If you accept a commission from 35 organizations, it really doesn’t matter that you have an understanding (which I assume might mean a financial arrangement) with another composer to appropriate his materials. If this was indeed basically a transcription instead of something that transforms the borrowed material, it shouldn’t have been passed off as the work of a single author.

Having listened to both pieces, I think that Mr. Golijov has some explaining to do, to the commissioners, any grant-giving organizations involved, his publisher, and his colleagues at College of the Holy Cross. If the problem is part of a persistent pattern, which is what is beginning to emerge in the media reports I’ve thus far read, there could (and should) be consequences relating to all of the aforementioned parties.

A big tell, to me at least, that there’s some substance to these allegations: they come on the heels of other late and unfinished projects. Even the piece in question was delivered substantially shorter than was agreed upon in the terms of the commission. When you factor in that >50% of it doesn’t appear to be original work, that’s a big problem.

Comment from Charles Noble
Time: February 21, 2012, 3:56 pm

Seems like Ward-Bergeman and Golijov had an agreement in place, according to a conversation W-B had with Alex Ross:

As it turns out, Ward-Bergeman knew what was happening. In a subsequent e-mail to Bob Keefer, he wrote, “Osvaldo and I came to an agreement regarding the use of ‘Barbeich’ for ‘Sidereus.’ The terms were clearly understood, and we were both happy to agree. Osvaldo and I have been friends and collaborators for years. I don’t have anything else to say about the matter.” Indeed, Golijov and Ward-Bergeman have worked side by side on various projects, including film scores, and “Barbeich” emerged from one such endeavor. The music has also gone by the name “Patagonia,” and was played by Chicago Symphony musicians in 2010, in a Golijov arrangement. (You can see a video of a rehearsal of “Patagonia” in Madrid last year, with Ward-Bergeman among the musicians and Golijov supervising in the foreground.)

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/02/osvaldo-golijov-sidereus.html#ixzz1n32rV0al

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/02/osvaldo-golijov-sidereus.html

Comment from Christian
Time: February 21, 2012, 4:17 pm

Charles,

It really doesn’t matter if Golijob and Ward-Bergeman agreed to something. Did the commissioning organizations get what they paid for and agreed to? A new piece by Osvaldo Golijov? Whether you look at it as appropriation of “Barbeich” or reconfiguring “Radio” and “Patagonia,” Mr. Golijov took a lot of money from these organizations and didn’t deliver what he promised. If a scientist did that, they’d be compelled to return grant money and have their academic integrity questioned. Why should it be any different for a composer who is a college professor?

Comment from Andrew Rudin
Time: February 21, 2012, 4:24 pm

THIRTY_FIVE orchestras commissioned the piece? Good Lord…. what is the going price these days for 9 minutes of Golijov (or maybe 4 1/2)?? How do I GET me some of that??

Comment from BipperBali
Time: February 22, 2012, 11:07 pm

You all know this is small beans either way right? Just because 35 orchestras chipped in money doesn’t mean it’s a lot of money in total.
And te speculation about this that is flying around is laughable. So big deal, some collaborators worked on a piece and one person got credit. I believe that’s the case with 95% of rock songs. Has Mick Jagger ever written a drum part? No but he’s credited as songwriter all the time.
And that melody rip off that Coldplay did a couple years ago was a direct lift on a song that sold millions. The allegations that I’ve heard that DG was happy to sell records of the “Golijov brand” with others writing the music is nothing but laughable. Ayre and Oceana – I’m sorry to ruin the illusion for people- but it probably sold 3,000-5,000 copies.

None of this is high stakes so let’s everyone relax.

Comment from BipperBali
Time: February 23, 2012, 5:01 pm

And I love how it’s a bigger crime that InstantEncore posts this Sidereus performance illegally.

Comment from BipperBali
Time: February 23, 2012, 5:04 pm

And Ward-Bergman’s piece sounds like a Yann Tiersen rip off.

Comment from MishMosh
Time: March 7, 2012, 4:49 pm

Both Golijov and Ward-Bergman could be in violation of mail fraud and perhaps their publisher as well. Orchestras that feel they were defrauded (due to lack of transparency with the original copyright holder i.e., not receiving an original composition) may wish to pursue the issue further with the United States Post Office. USPS defines Mail Fraud as “to intentionally deprive another of property or honest services i.e., U.S. Mail is used to further a scheme”.

Orchestra Management could make a charge on “Misrepresentation of Product/Service”. There is more info at the Untied States Postal Service. https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/investigations/MailFraud/MailFraud.aspx