Sunday, August 8, 2010

An Open Letter to Win Butler, Régine Chassagne and Owen Pallett

I'm forced to write this open letter to all three of the "composers" credited with the film score to the 2009 Warner Bros. movie "The Box". I've never personally seen a film score credited to more than one person, but then I've also never heard a film score containing such blatant plagiarism!

I'm referring to a musical theme that occurs twice in the film, by my count.  It's simple, starting with a major triad on a piano.  As soon as I heard it, it instantly called to mind another theme that's very dear to my heart.  When I heard the second chord and realized it was identical to this beloved piece I was already waiting in anticipation for the third.  Sure enough, when the third chord was revealed I was incredulous!  All told, I realized the chord progression of the entire 8-measure theme only differed from the one I know and love by a single chord.  Just one.

To what pre-existing theme am I referring?  "Life and Death" by the GREAT Michael Giacchino, one of the most-used musical themes from The Show Television Was Created For, LOST.  This piece has been the background to many a tear shed around the world ever since September 2004.  The Box came out in 2009.

I really, really wish I knew which of these credited composers was behind the heist so they could be exposed for the charlatan they are in front of the entire musical community!  Perhaps they were all three in on it together?

Regardless of who the perpetrator(s) is/are, I find it difficult to believe that no one sitting in the scoring sessions for that movie - no producer, no musician, no audio engineer - noticed and made comment to the fact that the music was practically identical to a piece from a show that averaged 15.5 million viewers each week!  A ridiculously stupid and obvious theft if ever there was one.  Emphasis on stupid.  I mean, how reckless do you have to be to steal one of the most beloved musical themes from one of the most beloved television shows of all time?  Stupid. 

Shame on whichever of these composers perpetrated this crime.  Shame on the cooperating composers for not calling them on it.  Shame on the producers of The Box.  Shame on Warner Bros for releasing the movie with stolen music.

The Box was a surprisingly great movie.  I liked it.  I liked it a lot.  It was existential and promoted altruism, the reality of the spirit, noetics, and putting the good of All before the good of Self.

Too bad the composers couldn't do the same.

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Perhaps in many cases this is true.  However, this is not imitation.  This is plagiarism.  This is theft.  It's blatant.  It's dishonest.  It's ugly.

Win Butler, his wife Régine Chassagne and Owen Pallett owe a public apology to Michael Giacchino.  Furthermore, they owe Michael Giacchino money.  They should be forced to give him every red cent they received for the score to that movie!

Well, maybe not all of it.  We should probably save some for whatever other composers had their material so flatteringly imitated!

For your benefit, if you haven't treated yourself to the masterfully simple "Life and Death" by Michael Giacchino, I've embedded a YouTube video I found containing the piece.  I would have provided a clip from The Box for you to compare the two, but I was unable to locate one.

Update Dec. 17, 2010:  I am not alone in this!  Here's a forum thread where others have noticed the same thing: 


  1. You know you can hear the ode to joy theme in many a composition?

    Mozart used it.

    Plenty of other too.

    After all, when it comes to music, you are limited, and I would bet that most possible chord progressions have been used already.

    Win Buttler and Régine chassagne are the co-leaders of the band "Arcade Fire", Owen Pallett goes by the stage name of "Final Fantasy" and used to be a member of "Arcade Fire", and is now on tour with them, as extra violin player. You should hear those bands' pieces of work, as it is impressive and for the most part honestly original.

  2. I guess this makes you a Plagiarist Apologist, huh?

    I understand there are only 12 notes in western music and if you're going to stay within a key you're really limited to around 8. Obviously, chord progressions are going to get repeated. Living in Kansas, I hear it all the time; there hasn't been a NEW country song written in 30 years.

    That said, there's similar...and then there's all-out theft. It's not just the chord progression, RL. It's the instrumentation, the arrangement, and the overall tone of the theme that is pretty much exactly like Giacchino's piece.

    Arcade Fire might have brilliant music and it might be as original as you say, but I'm not writing about that. I'm only writing about this one theme in this one movie that sounds practically identical to something previous.

    And for the record, I guarantee I will personally make sure I never write a melody that resembles Ode to Joy.

  3. You just sound like a pissed off Lost fanboy. Grow up.

  4. You're right. I AM a pissed off LOST fan boy - and proud of it.

    But I'm not JUST a pissed off LOST fan boy.

    I'm an ardent fan of Michael Giacchino. I'm a composer myself, and I there are codes about this sort of thing (not to mention laws).

    And there's a little something called PRIDE IN ONE'S WORK - something I wish these three would have taken.

    You love "Life and Death"? Me, too! Want to write something in the same vein? Awesome! Do it!

    But don't replicate it and call it yours.

  5. I've heard Film and TV Sound-alikes in music libraries that are further removed from the original.

  6. And you don't need to post anonymously, Workshop. I'm a peaceful guy. I'm not flying over to the UK to confront you personally or anything.

    Take some pride in your opinion. Stand up for what you believe and put your name to it.

    Otherwise, you're just a troll.

  7. Yeah I get your point.

    But you being a Lost fan, and me being an Arcade Fire fan, differences in opinion are bound to be, haha.

    I believe it is a case of coincidence here. I doubt they built the soundtrack based on Lost's.

    But hey, who knows. Interesting enough to allow myself some investigation, I'll get back to you about it!

  8. (Spoiler alert for those who haven't seen The Box!) In the interest of helping you in your investigation, the music to which I'm referring is playing during the scene when Cameron Diaz's character is shot dead by her husband toward the end.

    The "Life and Death" theme often made appearances in LOST without the melody; only the left hand chords were played - exactly as you'll hear it in that scene from The Box.

  9. sorry guy, they are completely different. a similar sound, yes, but nothing more than that. there is no theft, as a composer you may need to get your ears checked.

  10. Dude, it's a simple motif. There's not much there to create confusion. It goes beyond a similar sound, it's a straight up nearly identical progression. Period. I sat down at a piano and worked it out myself to make sure I wasn't off base.

    Maybe you should try the same.

    Sounds to me like you're another Arcade Fire fan sticking up for their heroes. I get that. Take your emotion and loyalty out of the equation and compare the two with an open mind.

    This isn't subjective, Jimmy. It's quantitative.

  11. Well Giacchino is guilty of one of the most blatant examples of plagiarism in recent history. The theme from UP

    compared to this tune by Alberto Iglesias

    Can you post examples of the Box example? I'm curious because I love Arcade Fire. Thanks!


    it really is quite different... it's a film score, don't they all sound vaguely similar but when you listen closer, it becomes apparent they are different?


  13. It IS possible, you know, that Richard Kelly used that on purpose. As in, he directly took the LOST theme and used it deliberately. If Butler, Chassange, and Pallett took it and claimed it was their own, then it would be different. An original score doesn't have to be ALL original, you know. You can use other songs in it/

  14. Have you SEEN the movie? I'm not talking about them having some song on the radio in the background. I'm not talking about the use of a popular song to augment a sequence in the film. I'm not talking about a sound TRACK. I'm talking about an "original" film SCORE. The piece to which I'm referring isn't Giacchino's piece EXACTLY. It's like one of the film and TV sound-alikes you find in music production libraries.

    You can NOT use someone else's piece as part of an original film score. It DOES have to be ALL original, contrary to your supposition. That's what they were paid to do and what they were given credit for.

    Face it, they're freaking thieves. You don't have to like it!

  15. I just Stumbled Upon this post but as someone who loves Arcade Fire (and really, who doesn't?), this surprises and disappoints me.

    Can you provide a link to the portion of The Box in question? I'd wanna hear this for myself. If it really is just about identical then yes, we've got a plagiarism problem. If it's just identical chord structure, however, then that's a tougher nut to crack, because chord structures get repeated all the time--at least in pop/rock music. Maybe not so much in the world of film and TV scores.

  16. Tim JG, I honestly searched quite a while to find a clip from the movie with the theme in question. Regrettably, I wasn't successful.

    [SPOILER ALERT] If you rent the movie, it plays in the scene where Cameron Diaz's character is shot. It's toward the end, although I know there's a scene earlier in the flick where it first plays - I just can't recall which scene.

    In my less-than-humble opinion (I'm not very humble when it comes to music), the tone and timing is so similar to Giacchino's Life and Death theme as to make it virtually unfathomable to me that it ISN'T a case of plagiarism.

    I'd literally never heard of Arcade Fire before watching the movie and tracking down the perps. I'm afraid discovering them this way has tainted the jury, and I am closed off to appreciating their other music.

  17. You just can't admit you're wrong, can you? Ever heard a cover of a song that didn't sound exactly like the original? There's such a thing as making it your own: adding in effects, changing arrangement, and generally adding in your own things. This is NOT plagiarism, musically or otherwise. Plagiarism would be taking the idea pretty much wholesale, and making a minimal altering to it, then pretending no one would notice. It's like sampling without asking for permission. Besides, there's such a thing as having an artist do multiple versions of the same song. Brian Wilson did Good Vibrations on Endless Summer, as well as doing so on Smile. Both are different then each other. It is entirely possible that the LOST theme has multiple versions done by its composer. Hell, I would be surprised if it didn't.

    Also, to take this further.

    A. If you haven't heard Arcade Fire before this, then you have obviously not been paying attention to rock music for the last eight years or so, to my last count.

    B. Seriously? Your paranoid accusations prevent you from moving on from this? Do you really think Giaacho cares whether or not this actually happened? If he did, there would already have been a trial, and he would NOT have called you or any other fanboy to testify.

    C. Again, if you can't move on from this thing that I am becoming more and more convinced didn't happen (you sir, judging by your blog, are a combination of a frat boy, Oliver Stone, and Jesse Ventura). There's been FAR worse things musicians have done without anyone generally caring: James Brown was abusive to his wife. Dr. Dre almost killed a woman for asking him a question, pretty much every nu metal group encouraged being an asshole. Why this happened? Because (with the exception of the nu metal) they were able to create art.

    D. Why? Why on earth would Win Butler, Regine Chassange, and Owen Pallett need to plgarize? Their work is very original, and they've been plagiarize before. Common logic defeats your purpose.

    E. Ever read anything about Richard Kelly (The director)? The man's a fan of pretty much every thing unnatural under the sun, LOST included. He'd have caught this in no time, so why would he let it slip?

    F. The budget for this movie was around 40 million, last I checked. There's no damn reason they couldn't have used the original theme. They have the money, and there's no reason for an imitation (To correct you, a cover of an instrumental work that is not quite a cover and not quite an original work is called a "Jimmy Hart Version") plagiarism would make no sense. Its not like the 400,000 or so dollars they would have saved would be used for anything important. 1% of a budget gone for licensing does not mean lives are threatened.

    G. If your LOST obsession is so powerful that you're still concerned about this than your head is so stuck up your own ass you are in very critical danger of choking on your own mouth.

    I don't expect you to listen to these. You believe in chem-trails and support the 9/11 truthers (who are idiots). To be honest, I really don't care what you do next. Maybe you'll go back and watch the movie and find yourself mistaken. Maybe you'll move on, dismiss this as a silly little coincidence, and begin to enjoy Arcade Fire. What's more likely, though, is that you will continue to stay obsessed with this, like all your little theories, and never accomplish much of anything with your life. Honestly, I don't care anymore. I'll be listening to Funeral, thank you. So good bye, chemtrail boy, if we ever meet I hope we can come to a logical understanding and laugh at this before I put a kick me sign on your back.

  18. These are very strong words for someone without the balls to post their name. God forbid we have an open and honest conversation about this. Also, you're very condescending and attacking. Why don't you love yourself, brother? : )

    I promise you I would admit I was wrong if I truly thought I was. I've seen that part of the movie twice now and remain convinced. Whatcha gonna do, right?

    You're correct in that the Life and Death theme has several variations. Some with the corresponding melody, some with only the underlying chord structure, some with different instrumentation. But the core is still the core - and that's what these Arcade Fire folks STOLE.

    You're wrong about me paying attention to rock music. It's a huge part of my personal identity and has been my <a href=">Raison D'etre</a> - not to mention how many people even know of my existence. Obviously I just missed Arcade Fire. They're clearly very popular. I know they just received a Grammy. Their fans used to make up a significant amount of traffic on this blog just because of this post. So do their detractors. I don't know who it is, but someone keeps searching Google using the keywords Regine Chassagne Ugly. I promise it's not me.

    Because I have moved on, friend. The only reason I ever come back to this post is because it's received a new comment. I will respond to all comments. It's my nature. I engage openly and honestly. You should try it, it's invigorating. And FUN!

    It doesn't matter to me if Michael Giacchino is bothered by their plagiarism. Their plagiarism bothers me - or did. So I wrote about it. You didn't have to read. (But I thank you for doing so) As for what dastardly deeds have been committed by other musicians, I'm not interested in discussing them on my blog. I invite you to start your own if you need to get these things off your chest.

    No frat boy here, bro. LOL An old school metalhead is who you'll find - although clearly I am willing to examine the possibility that the official story line for many events have been lies. If that makes me Oliver Stone or Jesse Ventura so be it, I guess. I do not need your categorizations to define my sense of self. You're welcome to think of me what you will. I promise you're barely in the ballpark.

    I don't need to know what the movie cost. I don't need myriad reasons why plagiarism shouldn't have occurred. All I need is my ears and my sense of music theory - something I started studying by choice at age 8.

    In truth, my LOST obsession - which I proudly admit - is not so strong that I'm still concerned about this topic. I was when I first wrote the post, obviously. Now it is simply an amusement that my post still concerns YOU. Seriously, I'm over it. There are bigger, BETTER, much more important things going on here on planet Earth to waste my time thinking about thieving indie rockers.

    I do believe in chemtrails, because I see them all the time. I recognize the difference between a contrail and a chemtrail. I don't support 9/11 Truthers - I AM A 9/11 TRUTHER! I guess you think I'm an idiot, and that's up to you. You think my head is stuck up my ass. I think your head is stuck in the sand. There - we're even, buddy! LOL

    I don't need to accomplish anything with my life other than to experience life. It would be nice to grow spiritually, and that is my focus these days. If a lifelong accomplishment mattered, I'd like it to be that I raised my kids to be open, honest, peaceful, accepting of other viewpoints, and confident enough in their opinions to use their real names when giving them.

  19. I should check my HTML before posting, eh?

    Raison D'etre

    This is a song I wrote about why I do music. I'm guessing the French Canadian Arcade Fire kids will know what the title means.

  20. By the way, Anonymous, are you willing to post using your actual identity and call these United States Military Officers for 9/11 Truth idiots?

    If this is truly your opinion, I challenge you to do so.

  21. Oh, Bravo. Bravo, Bravo, Bravo.

    Bravo. WHY did I come back to this blog? WHY did I even bother? I think I might be a masochist, because that's the only explanation I can think of at the moment. That, and as a studier of the mind, I find yours particularly fascinating.

    Also, it turns out that reviewing my evolutionary chart, I discovered that the two subspecies of humanity we belong to are natural enemies. It's time we fulfill nature, Bravo, let's rock.

    First of all, you didn't discuss half my points, so that's a few strikes against you right there. Second, let's talk about Jungian psychology for a few minutes, shall we?

    Jung was a psychologist who was an apprentice to Sigmund Frued. When he was examining mental patients, he found one of the patients he was studying thought of the sun as the same way ancient pagans did: A giant phallus, which produced the weather. The inmate was a grammar school dropout, never had any libraries in previous confinements, and had almost no reading ability. Upon reading Frued's work, he found that people had come up with the same Oedipal complex Frued had at the same time, and even earlier. Jung concluded (rightly) that the human mind comes up with the same ideas over and over. That's NOT plagiarism.

    Next, think of one thing you seem to disregard so much: LOGIC. Think about MOTIVATION, COMMON SENSE, and REASONING. As mentioned in my earlier points, they've got no reason to plagiarize based on motivation, common sense, and reasoning. No one else has posted anything about Arcade Fire plagiarizing except you, and trust me, I checked for a LONG time.

    Now, Chemtrails: Are you SURE you're not thinking of Contrails? Because those are real. Vapor trails that infect the population with what's inside them are not real. At all. It's true that there are some harmful elements in contrails, and that if you're a bird that your probably shouldn't goddamn fly through it, but by the time it disintegrates and hits the ground, it can't do any lasting damage. Not from the height it's at. As for the supposed signs, these are based on personal experience on anecdotes rather than hard science (another thing you disregard). As for 9/11 truth, that is a subject with arguments so utterly illogical and ridiculous, that I've all but given up on trying to explain the myriad of things that are completely and utterly incorrect about their arguments. As for those soldiers, life's to damn long to bother talking to people who deny logic. That, and the fact that I know several people in the military, current and former, and they all say that those people were morons then and morons now. I don't want to waste the energy. It's why I don't talk to creationists any more.

    But why am I still talking to you, you might ask? BECAUSE, Bravo, I see an intelligent mind in you, and I have faith that you can be redeemed. Or Not, and I could be Wrong. It'd just be another thing I've been wrong about, most of which comes down to my positive hope in human nature. Goodbye, hopefully I'll keep my masochism in check.

    P.S. How the FUCK can you see a chem-trail, let along distinguish one from a regular vapor trail? Can you fly, Bravo? Is that what you are suggesting?

    EDIT: As for why I go by Anonymous, I have the increasing suspicion that if I told you my name, you'd look me up, and the last thing I need to do is explain to my friends why a metalhead is acting petty on my facebook page (I may insult you, but I am being SARCASTIC).

    Also, if anyone DID know about 9/11 ahead of time besides Osama Bin Laden and anyone he told, it was Radiohead, as shown in their 2000 album Kid A.

  22. Welcome back, my anonymous friend - and apparently this may be goodbye, as well. So be it. I'd like to start by expressing gratitude for all the nice things you've said. Thank you.

    I may not address all points. It is not my intention to disappoint. Quite honestly, I'm done arguing my position on the plagiarism issue. I've stated and restated my argument and honestly was done with this before your reemergence. It was something I felt tremendously strong about the night I first discovered it, but it has predictably faded with time. There are much bigger things in the world.

    It is not my view that I belong to any species or subspecies thereof. I am a soul incarnating in a human body and taking part of a human civilization on this planet over this particular time in her history. I find it fascinating how people love to bury themselves further and further into this illusion of separation. Apparently the idea of this race and that race are enough for us - now we have to divide ourselves into subspecies? This is regrettable to a mind who believes All is One. Many books explore the evidence for this truth, but I've found none as cohesive and exciting as the one I'm currently reading, "The Holographic Universe" by Michael Talbot. I would recommend it without any expectations that you'd actually take my recommendation under consideration.

    Another book I recommend is Carl Jung's autobiography. I know well that Jung was mentored by Freud. I know that Jung came to disagree with Freud's dogmatic insistence that his ideas be presented as concrete facts and never questioned. I believe Jung achieved great strides in helping us understand the true nature of our collective reality - an idea that only supports the Oneness of All. Also, whether it's Jung or Einstein or any other person who's made monstrous gains in our understanding of reality, I believe their ideas are still incomplete.

    I also know the story to which you refer - the psychiatric patient who stood before the window staring at the sun, swaying back and forth in time with the penis he saw coming from the sun which he believed created the weather. And I know
    this patient isn't alone. This was an ancient idea from cultures, the ideas removed in time. Here I see yet another example of the interconnectedness of all and the illusory nature of space and time. Guess where I read that story - and within the past week. That's right. "The Holographic Universe" by Michael Talbot. The reason the human mind comes up with the same ideas over and over is we're all connected, and ultimately there is only One of Us.

    I don't know how old you are, Anon. I'll be 38 next month. I remember a time before chemtrails. I've been a sky watcher since childhood - probably pretty normal. I remember lying on my back in the summer grass watching planes as they crossed the sky. Watching their contrails. Watching them dissipate within seconds. I know it was seconds, because I remember I would play a game with myself. I would look at where the plane was and keep my gaze fixed to roughly that very spot as the plane flew on. I would count the seconds until the contrail disappeared. Seconds.

    I don't recall when the transition occurred, but closer to adulthood I began to notice contrails that stretched from horizon to horizon and didn't dissipate. At all. Instead, they just feathered out - eventually looking more like a cloud than a contrail. Huh. Weird.

    It was years LATER that I discovered I wasn't alone in this observation and there was a name for the phenomenon. Chemtrails.

    Incidentally, I still see contrails. I still see planes with contrails in the same sky as planes laying down chemtrails. At least, I do this until the chemtrails spread out to create a thinly, yet completely overcast sky.

  23. 9/11. You know who DID know about it before it went down? San Francisco mayor Willie Brown. The people who placed the orders for the American Airlines put options knew. The Project for a New American Century obviously had some inclination. Two workers for Odigo, an instant messaging service, received warnings two hours before the attack. Some Pentagon brass were warned and canceled flights to New York the day before. Fox News and the BBC reported Building 7 fell 20 minutes before it actually defied the laws of physics and fell at near free-fall speed. You can find video of a live report about the fall of Building 7 while it's STANDING IN THE BACKGROUND.

    There's plenty of visual and chemical evidence that the twin towers were brought down by controlled demolition. The fact that only 5 frames of footage from a single camera aimed at the Pentagon have been released showing no plane only adds suspicion concerning the official conspiracy theory. There were scores of cameras aimed directly at the Pentagon. If a jet hit that building, there is a multitude of concrete evidence to show it. Since the Pentagon sits in full daylight view of anyone who wants to look at it, there is ZERO national security interest in withholding that footage.

    Yet, it's withheld.

    I'm honored that such an obviously studious and intelligent mind as yours sees fit to see the possibility of redemption in my own. I truly mean that. I hope you'll see my gratitude as genuine. However, I'm afraid I've lost any need for redemption in the eyes of anonymous passers-by. I don't need a-savin'. I don't need your validation. If I did, I certainly wouldn't allow myself to hold and espouse views so disparate from the population at large. This is not to say I don't feel a desire for ANY validation whatsoever - I just don't need it from you. I have a very dear wife and a handful of close friends. That's more than sufficient for me.


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