When it comes to versions of songs, there are two options: the original and the cover/rearrangement of it.
Some people prefer the originals, while others find how a different artist or arranger reworked the song into new.
In classical music, you sometimes see other prolific composers rework other’s pieces. As for jazz, it is very common – in fact, a standard – to play covers from the fake book. And rock music has many people doing covers of each other’s tunes.
But, one thing that strikes me odd is when I see a rearrangement of a spiritual in a classical context.
On the outside, it may seem like nothing is wrong… but I want to bring to the table to idea of cultural appropriation.
With spirituals coming from an African American background (especially during the times of slavery and segregation), the music has a weight of history behind it. Reworking the spiritual into a piece that sounds like music from the classical era is – what I consider to be – an act of white washing. To take a piece of history and rearrange it to sound like Western music is like taking cultural identity away.
So does that mean that different races cannot cover each other’s tunes? I’m not suggesting that, but I am saying to consider the history behind a piece of music before deciding to rearrange it into a different style or for a different purpose.
Just thinking out loud..