Sunday, April 10, 2011

Blog #10: Remix and RO

The remix I've chosen is not one that has any penetration into pop culture whatsoever. In a pretty popular and influential video game from 1998 that has probably garnered more top spots on "best video game ever" lists than any other, there's a little musical ditty based off of a little three-note musical theme called "Song of Storms." In the game, the player has the option of using it to cause the weather to change. It's identifiable as one of the playable songs, but its penetration into any culture, be it video gaming, music, remix, or otherwise is pretty minimal. The song is one of the uncountable themes originally composed and arranged by the prolific game-musician Koji Kondo. Though I've been away from the gaming culture for a very long time, the legacy of that man's music still resonates strongly with me today.
This remix is more of a sentimental, mindless jam session by a dude with a screen name than it is an actual remix, but hey the definition of remix is loosely defined anyway and doesn't really matter for the scope of this assignment. It's got a simple chord progression played on acoustic guitar to open, and continuously backing it throughout. The main theme recognized as the "Song of Storms" is then introduced, played on an additional guitar. He repeats the theme until no longer necessary, then throws on an electric guitar overlay for variety. Then he continues to break down with a long, multi-part solo that goes in a completely different direction.

What I like about this remix is that it still feels very loyal to the Song of Storms. An unfortunate reality of the original material is that it's roughly eight bars of music, and it's really hard to make a fully realized song out of only eight bars of music. He repeats as necessary, because the body of work it comes from is by its very nature repetitive. But you can only repeat an eight-bar theme a couple of times in a musical work. He lengthens it by adding a long instrumental session in the same key, pretty artificial and obviously unrelated to the original work but it sounds good and adds character. I love that. Anyway, before I get too deep into discussing musical merits of song remixing, I'll just go straight into lessig.

This ties into the notions of RW culture Lessig discusses. In his section RW, Revived he mentions how the internet and other technologies are changing our culture's access to tools that allow us to remix media. He uses the example of throwing Beatles' works over Cronkite broadcasts and distributing the result to tens of thousands. That would be difficult before the internet and other technologies allowed us to do such things on an amateur level with almost no budget. I feel like SAiNT 420's remix of Song of Storms is a great example of this as well. Using digital recording technology that's pretty available, he can record himself play some acoustic guitar, and using an established online community (OCRemix), he can distribute it to anyone in the world that wants to hear it.

Lessig discusses many things in RW, Revived and a lot of them are relevant to the presence of this remix. The idea that remix promotes community and education is true of SoS. OCRemix, the website, project, and internet community dedicated to the remixing of video game music, is the vessel that SAiNT420 used to project this remix. It is the very epitome of a strong, benevolent community. Further, the OCRemix project has made me, and I'm sure thousands before and after me, a lot more informed as to the ways of musical theory, transcription, editing, producing, creating. That's not to mention the whole body of knowledge that is digital information sharing, copyright, file management, computer programs, compatibility, etc. As well as the "goods" of remix that Lessig describes, SoS and OCRemix represent the idea of alternative media taking precedence in popular thought. Video games and the internet represent huge amounts of RO consumption, and people playing video games then actively deciding to research gaming communities on the internet is representative of the beautiful romanticized notions of RW that Lessig lauds.

Conclusion: OCRemix is a project that could only be born of a culture that embraces the RW creativity Lessig describes, and SAiNT420's remix "SoS" is an example of a remix that shows people's active interest in RW culture.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Blog #9: Collateral Damage

Lessig's key argument in the introduction as I see it is that we are far too hostile with our approach to copyright infringement, with the rhetoric of "war" we invoke against piracy. He claims that copyright law is outdated and that our approach to certain behaviors is unreasonable, unfair, and useless.

Lessig describes the RW culture as one of divergence, one where all parties have agency and active creation of content is done by all. RO culture is one of complacency with professional creation. Individuals rarely create and a select few are chosen by popular culture to make content. It's important to Lessig because he feels that the current copyright laws suppress and even criminalize most acts of creation by amateurs, and vastly promote RO culture. He shares the romanticized view that RW is superior and ideal.

He brings Sousa into his argument because he feels that Sousa's promotion of "amateur" creativity and limiting the reach of copyright were very useful and can have profound implications in today's landscape of creation. Lessig feels that the copyright laws no longer apply to today, because a new generation of "infernal machines" promotes a RW culture, and copyright restricts it.

Blog #8: something or other about Freud and rhythm and disc jockeys

I'm going to abandon all pretense here and just address this prompt in a straightforward way:

In the Rhythmic Cinema section, quotes I enjoy:
"[Surrealists] found that freedom in the abandonment of the roles that they, like everyone else around them, were forced to play" (80).
I've grown to love almost anything that's counterculture, and what better way to be counterculture than to live life devoted to going against the grain of your standard packaged capitalist societal notions like these surrealists do? Live life without boundaries.

Rhythmic Space
"We live in a world so utterly infused with digitality that it makes even the slightest action ripple across the collection of data bases we call the web" (89).
I wholeheartedly agree with this quote because the web is incredibly connected. There's so many connections online, the hyperlink structure is so complex that anyone can see something online. It's kind of haunting to know how international our presence is.

Errata Erratum
"all in all, the creative act is not performed, by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act" (97).
This quote speaks volumes to me because I love music and find such to be incredibly true. A song's meaning is most certainly contingent on the user's interpretation. I've had so many discussions with other musicophiles (?) that have interpreted songs I like in so many bizarre ways that I can't see them as self-contained works any more. They are incomplete until their audience has been reached.

The Future Is Here
[referring to live music versus recordings]
"The two are mutually conditioning, and this cycle will only intensify throughout the twenty-first century" (101).
This section is an afterthought where he breaks down the idea of live music and non-live music, an interesting discussion that's always been present in the music industry. Live music is offered as a more authentic and wholesome music experience, but that does present problems to DJs.

The Prostitute
"I don't know of any artist who really thinks everything is locked down" (109).
This has multiple meaning to me. First, there can be some contention as to whether or not a DJ is an artist in the typical musicianship sense of the term. Secondly, he refers to the idea of content and music being locked down and static. He's both assuming the validity of DJing as artistry and offering a novel idea to the concept of music ownership and fair use.

The song I've chosen is Chiddy Bang's All Things Go, which samples Sufjan Stevens' Chicago.
I wouldn't even necessarily call this a sample. It seems to me a sample is a direct rip of a piece of a track for use in a separate song. This uses the same melodic structure and progression, as well as a rip of the chorus' lyrics, but not the song directly. I guess what is and what isn't a sample is a little loose in definition anyway. The interesting thing about this sample is that it takes a beautiful ballad from the prolific alt/indie-folk god Sufjan Stevens and completely re-tools it as a sentimental hip-hop tune, accessing different sensibilities and appeals throughout. It breathed new life into a song I love, and gave me a new window of vision into the hip-hop culture that I know so little about.

This has implications with what Miller's talking about a lot. A huge amount of his literature refers to convergence culture, and the digitality of songs making access greater. The digitality of music enabled this huge genre crossover and the re-appropriation of an indie classic into the world of hip-hop.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blog #7: a whole lotta things

First de Bourgoing lays out a lot of tenets of contemporary hip-hop culture, especially in LA.
Some of them:
 -artists are using the internet to give themselves a unique identity and spread it around
-artists are involving merchandise with their name
-artists are being more active in perpetuating their attitudes
-collaboration is key (really no better way to say it; not trying to directly rip off her article here...)
-hip-hop artists are good story tellers
-women don't get as much credit as they deserve
-hip-hop has a deep oral culture and history surrounding it, and is very dynamic
-a lot of hip-hop artists are using twitter and social networking to spread themselves and thus a lot of hip-hop culture is reflected online.

She ties in technology with a lot of it, the sample-culture of hip-hop and how they use it to give shout-outs to one another.

Second de Bourgoing is really saying that the internet is helping make rappers well-known, and taking advantage of the internet to better achieve the tenets she outlined. It's the subtext behind her entire essay, and it's what we've been talking about thus far. The whole idea of the internet revolutionizing communications- and various cultures taking advantage of that.

Third Miller says quite a lot of things about rhythm science. What I've taken from his book is that rhythm sciences, dj-ing, and writing have a profound impact on our culture and touches briefly on the idea of copying, sampling, borrowing, stealing, the implications of that in hip-hop and culture in general. For example the copyright mentality we have has been around for a very long time- he gave the example of St. Columba in sixth-century Ireland getting flack for copying a manuscript, which is relevant to today.

Lastly I can see the course material moving in the direction of "rights" and information. Who owns what, what about copies? Who owns them, and who has the right to make copies? And sampling- using another's work in a re-organized context with a different impact. Is that copying, what right do they have to re-iterate someone else's information as their own?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Blog #6: Convergence vs. the Third Order

Jenkins' introduction is about the various ways our media is changing. The way we access it, what it means to us, the services we use, and the conglomeration of multiple media are all topics he covers. His take-home point is that businesses need to learn to keep up or face "declining goodwill and diminished revenues."

There are many implications in the digital age for what both Jenkins is talking about. Almost all of the media, services, content that Jenkins refers to can and is digitized. Video, images, text, conversation, and more can be converted into a digital form and let loose into the world of the Third Order of Order. There may be no unifying device, or "black box" that all of the media is centralized through, but there is a central platform that all of it is stored on, a central source that more and more devices are able to access. That platform is the home of the Third Order, the internet. Cell phones, computers, game consoles, and the giant stack of black boxes Jenkins refers to can mostly all interface with the internet. More consistently today the services of yesterday are being hosted online and streamed to the world.

A statement Jenkins makes near the end caught my eye, and it would probably give Weinberger a fit. "There will
be no magical black box that puts everything in order again" (24). If everything is miscellaneous, the idea of a black box should never be to put everything in order. Weinberger might argue that this convergence our culture is experiencing would benefit from being miscellanized, let loose on the internet to be tagged, reordered, and subject to the Third Order. Essentially while companies are trying to keep up with the ways media is converging, they might consider the miscellaneous and not amalgamation into a single black box.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Blog #5: using the implicit

What Weinberger is trying to say on page 170 is that there is an intangible, extraordinary amount of implicit meaning that we all depend on and take for granted. For yet another example, knowing what a book is requires you have basic understandings of the publishing system, human activity, information distribution, the act of writing, and a whole bunch of other things that aren't necessarily obvious. How this relates to bits and digital data is that when a humongous volume of digital information is collected, there is a lot of implicit meaning to derive from that data. When humans collectively contribute to something, purposefully or otherwise, a whole lot of data is accumulated. Weinberger's point is essentially that this data can be used by whoever has access to derive implicit meanings and make use of them. The example he provided is that when a store clerk digitized her logbook, she could see a whole lot more implicit meanings that weren't available in the paper form, like certain periods of time where milk and beer sold more often than others. This was possible because the level of control we have over ordering our digital content is greater than physical content. And we can make algorithms that draw on data in different ways to make new meanings. Weinberger's example of that is the idea of a computer finding out where an arts festival is not because it's tagged with the location but because it shares similar metadata with other websites that do contain locational metadata, and it draws implicit meaning from tag associations (such as golden gate bridge with sf and california).

The song I chose was Why Worry by Dire Straits.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

February 10th "Tweet"

I didn't want to limit myself to 160 simple characters but I don't want to do a ridiculously critical write-up either when the original assignment was a twitter post anyway. So here are my slightly-less-abridged three-main-points of Weinberger:
  • The Web and digital data in general has some serious epistemological considerations for us all
  • The physical world is limited; the digital world virtually limitless. He presents a dichotomy throughout about the digital "world" versus the physical world, limitations, possibilities.
  • The power of this new connectivity of the third order of order is in our hands. So is the responsibility.
That's my take on it. Sorry you couldn't just get away with a 160 character tweet. #dtc356.