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Was Michael Hoenig a fraud?

KolonKuKolonKu Member Posts: 87
When Baldur's Gate I and II came out, composer Michael Hoenig seemed to come out of nowhere and gave us two soundtracks of amazing quality and depth.

However, I've recently stumbled upon cases indicating that Hoenig got "inspiration" from elsewhere. When BGEE1 came out it was revealed on this forum that the battle music "Attacked by Assassins" greatly resembled the intro of an old series called "Lifeforce" from the 80s (?) as the following comparison reveals for those who haven't yet heard it:

Attacked by Assassins:
youtube.com/watch?v=Mgfwq5SBQ3Q

Lifeforce intro:
youtu.be/eaam5Eso1hU?t=10

As far as I remember this was merely recieved as an interesting sidenote and not a huge deal. However, the music played when the character enters the town of Brynnlaw sounds very similar to a 17th century composer called Henry Purcell and his "The Fairy Queen" suite. Compare the following clips:

Brynnlaw:
youtube.com/watch?v=vX1SdEWa1pw

The Fairy Queen Suite:
youtu.be/0QDu-lM06Ac?t=1813

The same can be said about a track played when visiting certain houses (referred to as "Crooked Crane" in the BGII OST Youtube video:

The Crooked Crane
youtu.be/W80tmfVcQCo?t=996

The Fairy Queen Suite:
youtu.be/0QDu-lM06Ac?t=1701

With this in mind, the question has to be whether there are other yet undiscovered similarities out there and if we've wrongly accredited Hoenig for several of his compositions. What do you guys think about this?

Post edited by KolonKu on
NoonSylvus_MoonbowbooinyoureyesProontlunarSharGuidesMyHandtypo_tilly
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Comments

  • UnderstandMouseMagicUnderstandMouseMagic Member Posts: 1,764


    Any chance you could turn the above ^^^^^ into proper links?
    You'll get a lot more response and they are worth listening to and comparing but currently it's a PITA to do so.

    OK so that said, thanks for finding this, yes it's all a bit naughty.
    Using Purcell, well fair enough, out of copyright and the more people who listen to Purcell the better.

    The Lifeforce steal though, that's bad.
    Mancini wrote the original and it's better IMO. Should really be credited.

    Like the way in the comments on the YouTube originals somebody has mentioned Baldurs Gate though. There's a lot of fans around, any obscure reference and they turn up. :D

  • KolonKuKolonKu Member Posts: 87
    Sorry for links, couldn't embed videos without the essential time stamps disappearing. Possibly a bug.

  • tbone1tbone1 Member Posts: 1,813
    manero said:

    Who cares

    Uh, those of us who have created works that can be stolen? I recall one project that we wrote in C++ instead of Java because it would be more difficult to be disassembled and re-written by hackers in ... certain nations.

    Well, one nation.

    ThacoBellbooinyoureyesStummvonBordwehrPhototoxin
  • KolonKuKolonKu Member Posts: 87
    manero said:

    Who cares

    I'm sure there is a forum where you can discuss Barney & Friends, but make sure to try and refrain from posting here while you're still searching for it.

    Raduziellaptopman666
  • InKalInKal Member Posts: 96
    Not really a fraud. Check out Led Zeppelin for example

    https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.music.led-zeppelin/7-VdOyul_cI

    overall nothing new

    BG and BG2 music is amazing by the way, even if stolen. ;]

  • xzar_montyxzar_monty Member Posts: 546
    edited March 19
    @InKal: Plagiarism doesn't stop being a crime simply because other people have done it and got caught as well. Led Zeppelin is a very good example: at least some of the original writers of some of the well-known tracks are now receiving their monetary due.

    The Lifeforce steal might warrant a lawsuit and could spell trouble for the plagiarist.

    ThacoBell
  • ArdanisArdanis Member, Developer Posts: 1,089
    What do you guys think about this?

    I think about the stunning shots of nude Mathilda May in Lifeforce...

    ArunsunProont
  • tbone1tbone1 Member Posts: 1,813
    InKal said:

    Not really a fraud. Check out Led Zeppelin for example

    https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.music.led-zeppelin/7-VdOyul_cI

    overall nothing new

    BG and BG2 music is amazing by the way, even if stolen. ;]

    Zeppelin stole so many other people’s music that it even made Willie Dixon a sympathetic figure


  • JoenSoJoenSo Member Posts: 501
    edited March 20
    Without knowing the background here, I'd say it could be a lot more complex than just Hoenig being "a fraud". Rearranging classical pieces of music does happen a lot. Like the Vivaldi piece in the civic festhall in Planescape Torment or the electronic version of Purcell's music in the intro to A Clockwork Orange (though I think/hope that Purcell is credited as much as Wendy Carlos is there). And it's also common for composers to basically make references to earlier works without intending to plagiarize them. Like the variation of the medieval Dies Irae chant heard at the climax of the Lion King for example.

    Variations of the Sea theme in Heroes of might and magic IV can be heard in several games and other media. Someone at the Heroes Round Table forum once asked the composer about it and got the answer that it's probably because they used audio samples from the same catalog. You can read the old thread about it here for more details and the composer's answer. So what they are doing there isn't actually plagiarizing, just a different kind of composing that builds on snippets of music that already exist.

    But as I said, I don't actually know anything about how Hoenig worked on these games. Though those are two really good arrangements of the parts from Purcell's The Fairy Queen and I'm glad they exist.

    ThacoBellProontSkatan
  • UnderstandMouseMagicUnderstandMouseMagic Member Posts: 1,764

    I'm not so concerned with plagarism so much as not being informed what is being plagarised.

    For me it would be very nice/helpful to have the source credited so that I can explore the original, possibly find other pieces of music that I might enjoy, listen to the differences ect.

    I can't be the only person who has heard bits and pieces of something then had to go through a long search to find what's been sampled and ended up finding something that I really enjoy listening to.
    Happened quite recently, the song sampled sounded interesting, had to search for it through a "song lyric". Luckily managed to find it and I was right, it's a great song that I now listen to regularly and some of the artists other work.

    Plus although I have an absolutely appaling memory for names of tunes, the tunes stick and it's infuriating to come across something I know I've heard before perhaps in a different form, the sample reminds me that I like that piece of music, then I can't trace the original.

    ArdanisProont
  • JoenSoJoenSo Member Posts: 501
    I totally agree with you there @UnderstandMouseMagic

    To add to what I wrote above there's also accidental plagiarism. Like Flaming Lips who wrote the song Fight Test and realized a tiny bit too late that it's almost identical to Cat Stevens' Father and Son.

    And Roger Waters from Pink Floyd thinks that Andrew Lloyd Webber has plagiarized parts of Echoes in The Phantom of the Opera. Which I find kind of funny since it's basically just a chromatic scale. I played the same melody on the piano when I was five years old before I had heard either of them. Plagiarism in music is just a very tricky question.

    ThacoBellProont
  • laptopman666laptopman666 Member Posts: 283
    edited March 21
    sadly i believe it was Steve jobs who once said "good artists borrow, and great artists steal" as in, all good creators get some of their ideas from someone else's work, we are a race of explorers and inventors, we wouldn't have gotten anywhere if we hadn't copied off each other, that being said, if the music was stolen and it can be proved that could turn into an interesting legal battle...

    tbone1
  • xzar_montyxzar_monty Member Posts: 546
    @laptopman666: The original quote is "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal", by T. S. Eliot in The Sacred Wood.

    It is indeed true that nearly all good creators get some of their ideas from someone else's work. What distinguishes a good creator from a hack, though, is the capacity to turn someone else's idea into their own.

    For example, West Side Story is essentially Romeo and Juliet, but it's been reworked enough to make it work and not look a mere sham or forgery. That's very different from blatant musical theft.

    laptopman666Proontsemiticgod
  • ArunsunArunsun Member Posts: 1,508
    Music is all about interpretation and rearrangement. The same music sheet will sound very different based on who plays it but you would still recognize the song.
    Now, as to where the limit stands between what's allowed, and what's not allowed, what's fair and what isn't, the law is not really clear. Here's a document made by an attorney that sums everything up:
    https://www.tmea.org/assets/pdf/southwestern_musician/MusicalArrangementsCopyrightLaw_Jan2011.pdf

    But then again, reality doesn't necessarily match this exactly, and it essentially boils down to whether you are somehow earning money on the back of the copyright owner, and not benefiting them. Videogame music covers that earn money from ads on Youtube are theoretically illegal, for instance, because they broadcast a copyrighted piece of work. But the game studio that owns the right would be totally counterproductive in suing the arranger. If anything, the arranger advertises the game, eventually earning the copyright owner more money, so one may see that as an unofficial advertisement agreement, a win-win situation.

    Michael Hoenig's case is quite different from that though. He totally had the right of taking Purcell's work, slightly rearranging it, reinterpreting it and claim the rights on that. My opinion is that he still should have credited Purcell, but it's not a must-do, legally speaking. The steal on Mancini's work, however, definitely was a steal since Mancini's work is not 100+ years old. So unless a deal was made between Michael Hoenig and the copyright owners on that work of Mancini, this was stealing.

    As to whether he is a fraud or not, well it's not like 100% of his work was actually stolen. The major part of it wasn't. He's treading on thin ice, that's for sure, and he was not fair play on everything. He did appropriate things that weren't his, but IMHO there's a major difference between having done 90% of what you pretend you have done, and having done 10% of it, and until the contrary is proven I will consider Hoenig to be in the former case - that is, not entirely fair, but not a barefaced fraud either. Eventually pretty much every music made today is somewhat of a rearrangement of bits of music made centuries ago.

    ThacoBellProont
  • xzar_montyxzar_monty Member Posts: 546
    Arunsun said:

    Eventually pretty much every music made today is somewhat of a rearrangement of bits of music made centuries ago.

    This is not true, unless you mean that the "bits of music" are the twelve notes from A to G# and pretty much all music is a rearrangement of them. That is correct, of course, but that would also be nonsensical and tantamount to claiming that all written English is nothing but a rearrangement of the letters from A to Z and thus nothing new can effectively be said.

    Now, the music of the past centuries is indeed influential, and much of pop music is just a recycling of cliches even by its own standards. But your claim is still much too strong.

  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 4,973
    @xzar_monty "thus nothing new can effectively be said."

    I mean, this is still true to a degree. Movies and books STILL use tropes and story structure that is older than print.

    Proont
  • xzar_montyxzar_monty Member Posts: 546
    It is true to a degree, that is completely correct, but to what extent it is true is a different question. Movies and books do indeed use tropes and structures that are older than print, but that is not the only thing they use. I believe mainstream books and movies may give one a false impression of what's going on. I mean, as far as I know, there has been nothing even remotely interesting in mainstream movies in about 30 years, but mainstream movies are not the only movies.

    The structural viewpoint can be used to make statements that are completely true but so general that they also fail to say anything interesting. For instance, it would be true to say that all human lives are structurally identical in the sense that they consist of birth and then a series of inhalations and exhalations followed by death. That's it. This is true, but does anyone think it's an interesting structural analysis?

  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 4,973
    @xzar_monty let me know if you find anything completely unique. I want to see it.

  • xzar_montyxzar_monty Member Posts: 546
    I didn't claim there's anything unique around. (You don't need to say completely unique or very unique or anything like that - the word unique doesn't really support qualifiers, for obvious reasons.)

    Unique art would, in any case, almost certainly be meaningless, as there would be no norms concerning its reception. The trick is in contravening such norms just enough and in such a way as to raise interesting questions about them, not abandoning them altogether.

    My main point is that it's fallacious to say everything is just a recycling of old ideas, or that if this claim is made in such a way that it is correct, it is also made in such a way that it's too sweeping a generalization to actually say anything interesting. And I am happy to concede that certain forms of art definitely seem to be only in the recycling business - this is why (in my view) there hasn't been anything interesting in mainstream movies for decades, and very, very little of interest in pop music, too. (Although I do find it both charming and fascinating that approximately every two years or so, someone manages to write a very good pop tune with the age-old C-Am-F-G chord progression.)

  • ifupaulineifupauline Member Posts: 404
    edited March 31
    I don't get it really, even if those are similar in some ways they are completely different tracks. I make electronic music and it is almost certain that anything you "create" will follow an existing pattern and that precious melody we think is new and "ours" will only differ a bit from what has been already made. There isn't much "new" things around if nothing at all "Was Michael Hoening a fraud" that's a bit disrespectful taking in account the data you are showing us.

  • xzar_montyxzar_monty Member Posts: 546
    @ifupauline: I don't know what kind of electronic music you make, so there is no disrespect intended here, but that happens to be a style of music where some subgenres really only consist of the same ideas. This is painfully apparent at the gym, if they happen to have electronic music on (as, by chance, was the case today). There's really nothing there, it's all crap, and the same crap, too.

    Please remember: this does not apply to all electronic music.

  • KolonKuKolonKu Member Posts: 87

    I don't get it really, even if those are similar in some ways they are completely different tracks. I make electronic music and it is almost certain that anything you "create" will follow an existing pattern and that precious melody we think is new and "ours" will only differ a bit from what has been already made. There isn't much "new" things around if nothing at all "Was Michael Hoening a fraud" that's a bit disrespectful taking in account the data you are showing us.

    Did you even listen to the examples? This is way too similar to be a coincidence.

  • KolonKuKolonKu Member Posts: 87
    edited April 7
    Might get a lot of opinion on this, but electronic music, if you're talking trance, dub, even hip-hop, tend to be much easier to copy musically than almost any other genre. Very simple in structure, melody and pace. This is completely different.

    Ardanis
  • SharGuidesMyHandSharGuidesMyHand Member Posts: 2,157



    Any chance you could turn the above ^^^^^ into proper links?
    You'll get a lot more response and they are worth listening to and comparing but currently it's a PITA to do so.

    Here's the first two:





    CLEAR cut rip-off IMO - very disappointing.

    typo_tillyxzar_monty
  • xzar_montyxzar_monty Member Posts: 546
    If you take that one to court, I don't think there's any doubt what the outcome will be. Extremely disappointing.

  • xzar_montyxzar_monty Member Posts: 546
    Stunningly articulate and helpful contribution, that.

    ThacoBellSharGuidesMyHandbob_veng
  • UnderstandMouseMagicUnderstandMouseMagic Member Posts: 1,764



    Any chance you could turn the above ^^^^^ into proper links?
    You'll get a lot more response and they are worth listening to and comparing but currently it's a PITA to do so.

    Here's the first two:





    CLEAR cut rip-off IMO - very disappointing.


    Thankyou for doing this. :)

    I wouldn't say it's disappointing because I would never have heard the "original" and that's a great piece of film music, well it's Mancini so expected.

    What's wrong is the way so many of these good compositions for film/TV are disregarded and forgotten. Or used without proper creditation. They don't seem to be catalogued much where you can easily trace them.

    It's very gratifying when the opposite happens though. Theme music for the old Robinson Cruso TV series, wow, that's been really picked up and appreciated which is great to see.

    Worst example of this is adverts, it's all very well when you can recognise the piece, but how many times do they use something, especially composed more recently, and it's a hell of a task to trace something when you want to hear the whole piece.


    ThacoBell
  • AstroBryGuyAstroBryGuy Member Posts: 3,042
    edited April 9
    KolonKu said:

    When Baldur's Gate I and II came out, composer Michael Hoenig seemed to come out of nowhere and gave us two soundtracks of amazing quality and depth.

    When Baldur's Gate was released in 1998, Michael Hoenig was already an Emmy-nominated composer (for the TV series "Dark Skies") with a credit list of over 20 films and television shows. I don't think someone previously nominated for a major industry award can said to have "come out of nowhere".

    If you take that one to court, I don't think there's any doubt what the outcome will be. Extremely disappointing.

    Actually, copyright has a 3-year statute of limitations on civil claims, so the damages could be limited to sales in the last three years. Probably makes it not worth it to bother.

    Post edited by AstroBryGuy on
    ThacoBellProont
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