In the visual arts, the idea of combining "found" elements from various media into an original work was popularised in the early 20th century by Georges Barque and Pablo Picasso. In music also, a collage combines elements from different existing pieces.
A musical collage is not a medley, in which different songs are made to fit together; rather the individual parts should retain the distinct flavour, and the result could sound chaotic. Collage works, in which different strains by one composer are interlaced, have existed for centuries: Battalia (1673) by Bohemian-Austrian composer Franz Biber (1644–1704) for example, superimposes several tunes in different keys, and the Second Symphony (1910–16) by US modernist composer Charles Ives (1874–1954) at times superimposes so many different tunes that two conductors are necessary. Collage emerged as a common technique among the avant-gardists of the 1950s and 1960s; one of the most prominent examples of that period is the third movement of Sinfonia (1968) by Italian composer Luciano Berio (1925–2003), in which many works appear over the steadily sounding third movement of Mahler's Symphony No. 2. In popular music, probably the most groundbreaking example is the song "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" on the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) by the Beatles, in which producer and arranger George Martin (1926–2016) spliced in cut-up snippets of fairground organ recordings to supply a circus atmosphere.
In electro-acoustic music, composers in the musique-concrete tradition, beginning in the early 1940s, would create works by combining sound objects from daily life. In hip-hop today, the sequencing of brief sampled sections from preexisting recordings to create new works is standard, although, the result is not as chaotic as an avant-garde collage.