Good point by Doctorow on intellectual property as regards music:
The parts of musical composition that Europeans reify – melody – are eligible for copyright, but the characteristically Afro-Caribbean elements – complex polyrhythm – are not. Hence, the Beatles could appropriate R&B progressions and rhythms to make new music out of, but woe betide the hiphop artist who samples the Beatles to make a new composition today. The Beatles worked with unimproved nature (R&B), while samplers are stealing the property of the Beatles’ record label.
Musical “styles” are in their rhythms and their harmonic progressions; it seems odd that anyone can play “in a style” and make original music, but can’t play an existing melody in another style and call it original.
Part of a bigger article about property rights, “Terra nullius” and John Locke.