Coldplay vs. Joe Satriani :: A Melody Comparison

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Click for the full comparison

Click for the full comparison

Joe Satriani v. Christopher Martin et al. (Coldplay) is back in the news now that laywers for Coldplay and Capitol Records have filed their responses to Satriani’s copyright infringement claim. They list nine defenses, including the tack that Satriani’s song “lacks originality and is thus not protectable by copyright”.  This was the argument of our previous post on the case, where we provided several songs, spanning decades, which share the same melodic structure as the tunes under litigation.  Still there were those partisans who were unconvinced and claimed that if we would only transcribe the two melodies — the chorus of  “If I Could Fly” and the opening verse of “Viva la Vida” — we’d see that they are note-for-note identical and that Coldplay’s collective goose is cooked.  So for those interested parties who can read music, click the image above for the two transcribed melodies in approximate alignment.  It should be noted that Satriani’s excerpt was originally in B-minor and has been transposed to F-minor to match the key of “Viva”.  Other analyses have pounced on the similarities of the phrases’ starts and the fact that there are some note sequences that are the same or even reverses of one another.  But I think there is one rather large difference between these two melodies that overshadows those parallels:  Satriani’s phrase is nearly a measure longer than Coldplay’s.  The red arrows in the image above indicate where the first phrase resolves in each case.  “Viva” has already moved on to pickup notes into the next phrase while Satriani is still finding his way to F, home plate in this key.

Let your ears confirm it for you.  With all production stripped, you can clearly hear how the phrases begin the same but diverge in the third bar with Satriani’s melody (stereo right) lagging behind Coldplay’s (stereo left):

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If Satriani’s case truly hangs on that initial three-note sequence —  long, short, long; five, six, four — I imagine it will be difficult to argue that one of his predecessors is not more deserving of that copyright:

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April 12, 2009 11:55 am

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