May 072011

Cool video on the remix and Zeppelin. Part two is all movies. Very neat.

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.


  12 Responses to “Everything Is a Remix”

  1. Interesting — funny how some stuff ends up in court — (i.e. George Harrison and My Sweet Lord) and other stuff skates.

  2. tonyola

    Yep. There’s an old saying – “You are what you steal”.

  3. I’m interested in seeing #3. I thought it took a curious turn in part 2, but it pulled it out in the end and touched on something I’ve thought for a long time, which is that sampling = influence + technology.

    Just a couple of weeks ago I had a long conversation with a buddy who is a huge Dylan head, all the way back to whatever-old-guy, up to Ray Wylie Hubbard and Slaid Cleaves. He described the threads that go through the lyrics of these guys, themes, whatnot. Stuff that comes from gospel and pieces from hillbilly. It’s a short jump from these to the samples used on dance records. It just so happens that folk guitar guys copy with a guitar and voice, which are the instruments of the genre, and DJs, whose instruments, such as they are, use the records they play. They perpetuate the style with parts of the records the same way folkies and other copyers do with snippets of past songs. In a way, though, DJs play the only pure folk music, since they typically do not put anything through the speakers but the records they bring. A DJ’s set is usually all pre-existing music. I’ll stop there.

    Led Zeppelin sampled with the technology of copyright. The Beatles sampled before they didn’t, then did again in a different way. Even samey bands like Mountain are like an electronic musician who only ever uses a few samples.

  4. Anyone interested in the history of sampling and the remix is advised to check out the excellent doc “Copyright Criminals.” Even if you only have a fleeting interest it’s an entertaining movie which gets to the heart of “Is sampling an art in itself or not?”

  5. tonyola

    There’s a very important difference between the two types of ripoff artists. While Led Zep and the folkies borrowed songs and riffs from older artists, they still played the actual music themselves, thereby re-imagining the songs and imparting their own interpretation to the stuff they stole. On the other hand, the samplers and DJs are using the actual source recordings as part of their creations, not bothering to re-play or re-create the older music. It’s like two things you can do with the Mona Lisa: 1) you can draw or paint a copy of it; or, 2) you can take the actual image and alter it or cut it up.

  6. ladymisskirroyale

    And Kurosawa based his movies on those of John Ford and the plays of Shakespeare.

    Last night, Mr. Royale, my parents and I were at San Francisco Ballet’s production of “The Little Mermaid.” This was not the disneyfied story, but instead based on darker elements from the original HCAnderson. The production reminded me of The Black Rider, a theater piece by Robert Wilson and Tom Waits, which was in turn influenced by German Expressionism (Vile, Brecht). The lighting, sets, choreography and costumes of TLM were all done by one man, John Meumeier. We kept noticing funny little references to more recent cultural icons, such as the Droogs in A Clockwork Orange, but most notably, the fright wig and white facial makeup of Pris from Bladerunner.

    Mr. Royale and I end up spending a lot of time playing “spot the influences” in movies, music, visual arts (he is a painter and makes direct references to other paintings or cultural artifacts in his work) etc. But that’s because we enjoy doing that and because our minds work that way. I know plenty of people who get very irritated when I say, “oh, that’s the riff used in…” or “that reminds me of…”

    Thanks for posting the clips. And I’ll be interested in taking a look at Copyright Criminals.

  7. These videos are pretty cool, but as I watched pt 2, on the movies, I started thinking of that thing people say, you know, “There are only X amount of stories in the world.” We see how this applies to books and movies; maybe music tells its own stories and maybe there’s a more or less finite number of musical stories too.

    The other thing that loses me is the liberal use of the term “remix.” He gets so broad with it that it loses meaning. At a certain point all the arts are simply a MIX of materials, no? We don’t talk about food in terms of “remix.” Mexican food, which seems to consist of the same six ingredients folded in different directions, may be a type of food remix, but no one gets sued for it.

    Personally, the whole notion of managing and making money off creative works is mind boggling for me. I really wish all arts functioned like the world of painting, in which you sell the master one time and that’s the end of that. Then the buyer gets to make money from it or display it or whatever. It goes without saying I’m not very good at making money off art.

  8. machinery

    To me it gets to how much someone messes with the stuff that came before. So I don’t mind the Beasties stealing Zep’s drum track, but I do get annoyed when (my wife especially) when you hear Will Smith, for example, using an old Commodore’s song almost in its entirety, but just throwing new lyrics over it. That’s just plain lazy.

    Funny admission here: my ad agency almost got sued for using a rip off of a song by the Unicorns, a defunct Canadian band. We sent the scrap to a music guy and he ripped it off pretty closely. When the commercial went on the air (in the NY area) suddenly there was an article in Stereogum with the Unicorn video side by side with the Commercial we did. Calls from lawyers, re-doing the music, and embarrassment on our part ensued. Legally, the song was changed just enough. But creatively, we were totally in the wrong. We just got lazy, which is the worst crime of all.

  9. I agree with you regarding the nothing-but-rapping over a pre-existing work thing, machinery. Like you, I’m usually not bugged too often by pieces of music being reworked, whether through sampling or playing the part live. I actually get a kick out of making the connections.

    I didn’t know about that near-legal suit you had. Very interesting. Glad to hear it got cleared up before any big damage was done to any participants.

  10. Interesting stuff. Nobody creates in a vacuum. I think Coltrane said “There’s only 12 notes…”

    I agree with Tonyola about there being a distinction between playing your own stuff and just using samples. I’m not sure one is any better than the other. I’ve heard a lot of unimaginative sample-based music but I suppose the same can be said for almost all blues music written after about 1962. If P Diddy wants to phone it in by taking the backing track from Every Breath You Take or Kashmir and then just saying “Come on, yeah come on!” over top of it, more power to him, as long as he pays for the sample and receives no critical praise for his laziness.

  11. ladymisskirroyale

    BTW, Mr. Royale, a high school art teacher, showed both videos to his students today. They were enthralled and the videos got some interesting discussion going. I guess if we start with the next generation and get them part of the conversation then maybe we’ll see more unique mixes or references in the future.

  12. machinery

    As an art teacher he would have a field day with Shepard Fairey and Banksy is my guess …

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