2005 06 29 Remix Rewind Regurgitate


The current issue of wired magazine arrived the other day (I thought my subscription ran out 5 months ago) with the cover saying something about ‘Remix Now!'. I’ve been hearing how ‘remixing’ is the new buzzword, which makes me quite nauseous.

I’m not certain who started this, but it’s an unfortunate terminology. I think of remixing in the audio world, where singles were remixed to increase their playing time for the dance environment. This eventually evolved into increasingly disparate remixes moving further and further away from the original track in question. The mixes would bring in influences from a variety of musics and cultures (Ex. Bill Laswell, Aphex Twin, and dozens of others). But this ‘remixing’ has been around forever; composers often quoted/borrowed/modified from other composes, writers quoted/borrowed/modified the works of other writers. This is nothing new.

Vladamir Ussachevsky’s ‘Wireless Fantasy combined a sample of Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’ with a sample of the first transatlantic radio transmission by Marconi. An entire school of electronic music was devoted to this sort of ‘ReMixing’. Music Concrete, developed by Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henri used tape and phonographs to create new forms of music. Burroughs sampled text and reorganized it, college freshmen photoshopped their roomates faces on porn photos. It’s all been done.

The trick in the modern age seems to be repackaging something that’s been around forever and call it something new (is this branding?). You see this often in the world of ‘Business Books’ where common sense is repackaged and resold as a ‘Brand New Business Methodology that will Transform Visionary Infomediaries and Administrate Market Driven Paradigms that Adhere to the Highest Standards of Quality’, which usually just translates into treating your customers well and not being an ass.

The argument could be made that the newness of this relates to the availability of tools to aid in this repackaging, but what is easier than and pen & paper? Digital tools can make this easier, but sometimes too easy. How many of the so-called ‘mash-ups’ can be listened to more than once (if even once). It’s just more easy-bake culture.

This repackaging bothers me since it shows such and obvious disregard for history and culture. This has always been here, it’s a part of humanity, it’s how we evolve ideas. There is no ‘Intelligent Design’ in creativity, it’s more like the hobnobbing of differences that transform into new concepts.