The Greatest Conversation

Remixing, the New Clapping Along?

Posted in New Music, Video by Brian Park on October 4, 2009

majorlazer

This is going to be an extra nerdy post.

Everyone and their dog has a DAW, or some sort of audio editing program, and anyone who doesn’t has access to things like LoopLabs (online mixing software). Cashing in on this, lots of artists are hosting remix contests; Joe Kid with a cracked copy of Ableton downloads the stems of a track (sometimes even paying to do so), remixes it, enters it in the contest, and spreads the hell out of the track because he asks all his friends to vote for or listen to his version. The marketing potential is huge, and as we saw with the Depeche Mode remix contest (over a thousand people entered, each paying either $4 or $22), they can even make the artist money directly.

But this whole scenario means huge changes are ahead for music, both on the creative and consumer end; ultimately, it means the line between artist and audience is blurred.

This blog is called “The Greatest Conversation” because when I was thinking about what I really love about my favourite pieces of music, it occurred to me that the best pieces tend to be just beyond my understanding. I don’t know quite what I love about them, but I know that they’re something special; it’s like listening to some people have the greatest conversation on some topic that you’re interested in, but only vaguely understand.

In keeping with the conversational metaphor, remix culture extends the conversation to anyone. Anyone can respond to someone’s musical statement, whether the original artist wants responses or not. Artists who accept this and use it to their advantage will be the most successful.

One thing I’ve noticed is that remixes tend to reinterpret the original song temporally or spatially, rather than simply respond to it. Your music gets updated to suit different kinds of clubs, venues, houses, stereo systems, or moods. Your lighthearted indie number gets chopped up and reused as a dubstep anthem, or as a laid back house track, or a 1990s rave track, etc… Rather than playing new melodies that respond to the original melodies, the original melodies are moved in time and space to suit the vision of the producer.

Yes, that incredibly boring and unoriginal remix is the one that won the Depeche Mode contest. Apparently it’s “tech house” or something.

A way more interesting spatial and temporal shift is the Chewy Chocolate Cookies remix of Major Lazer’s Pon De Floor. The original is annoying as hell, and fucking awesome. The remix is still both of those things, but it’s chock full of every ’90s rave cliche possible. Very gimmicky, and a great way to go viral.

Okay, sorry ’bout all that. There are a ton of remix contests out there that look interesting, but are mostly producing shit. For example, the Marcy Playground one, or the NASA one. I’m convinced that there is subtlety and originality in remixing somewhere, but the rise of remix culture is definitely going to make those things rarer. Please, lets respond to music rather than just reinterpret it. Remixing is going to be the new clapping along, but it could also be the new singing along, in harmony.

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2 Responses

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  1. roberto clementes said, on October 5, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    “…the best pieces tend to be just beyond my understanding. I don’t know quite what I love about them, but I know that they’re something special; it’s like listening to some people have the greatest conversation on some topic that you’re interested in, but only vaguely understand.”

    Dynamic vs. Static quality. Pirsig even includes a music based example in his introduction to the concept in Zen and the Art..

    How quickly you young pups forget.

  2. Brian Park said, on October 6, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Aw crap, now I need to dig that out again. I bought it, AND Lila about a month ago.


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