Long gone are the shocking days of the unauthorized remix. Z-Trip’s work is done as mashups have gone from underground to the driving force of mainstream radio (at least here in Los Angeles). Even the video game DJ Hero only makes sense in a post-mash up world. Cultures no longer clash, but rather swirl together in a land where almost everything can co-exist lovingly. Internet Utopia. When everything is a webpage and no wikipedia entry is really any more accurate than the other, things start all feeling the same. And while it is nice that the completely boring pop divas of the 00’s have been slightly one-upped by Lady Gaga, we all know very well that Gaga’s glam doesn’t represent the common citizen any more than Beyonce’s overly insured legs. Meanwhile, 13 year old female singers are swinging on stripper poles for daddy and most can’t tell that ethics, in the least, are at least changing without a sound. In a world becoming the porn version of itself, the music category known as Tween is a strange pilot indeed. Perhaps Die Antwoord will save our souls the way Nirvana did, but in the meantime Sickboy points out the necessary obvious by creating Tweencore. Hard to call this satire or critique, but more just a breakcore essay on the State of Indifference.
As my esteemed colleague Brian rightly points out, the blatant and unauthorised appropriation of corporate-owned music recordings, as a musing or protest against perceivably draconian copyright laws is now an old tradition. However, these dusty scrolls of commerce designed to protect the musician, are still being used to control and exploit in ever more devious ways. And not just creators, but also appreciators. In an age where music blogs go missing in the middle of the night, and these hallowed texts are wielded to draft a bill that will essentially turn digital Britain into a police state, Sickboy’s sentiment is all the more relevant.
Although the music industry’s attitude towards illegal sampling and alleged plaigarism seems to have mellowed out since many of the infamous court cases, we still see examples of record companies flexing their legal muscles in order to make a quick buck. The idea that a band can be sued for unconsciously using a traditional riff embedded in a national psyche, in a track they wrote 32 years ago, when the original composer of the riff never sued them in her lifetime, is very difficult to define as anything other than exploitation. To me, it is indicative of an industry brought to its knees by uncontrollable free exchange, desperately trying to re-assert its control.
(this one is especially LOL given the napster incident)
As plunderphonic pioneer John Oswald argues in his essay Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative, respectful and adaptive plaigarism has been one of the main driving points of musical development since the year zero. And, as as there is no means for the muscian to adopt the system of quotation marks when referencing the work of others as there is in written language, by conspicously borrowing or homaging the recorded musical ideas of others, one is asking for trouble. If not the same troubles of old, then most certainly a snub from Auntie and other institutions. Of course there are some who do just outright steal the ideas of others, and everybody’s got to make a living, but use of other people’s work in our own compostions offers a path of inspiration and learning that our present system restricts. In his own words;
Professional developers of the musical landscape know and lobby for the loopholes in copyright. On the other hand, many artistic endeavours would benefit creatively from a state of music without fences, but where, as in scholarship, acknowledgement is insisted upon.
Written 25 years ago, his thoughts are propetic of the Creative Commons attribution license, a freer form of copyright law which enables this to happen, and something we shall be dabbling in very soon. In fact, my co-collaborator’s own Foot Village have already taken a very large step into this area with their Chicken and Cheese covers project and Anti-magic remix kits all licensed under CC available for you freely remix and sample, with the only priviso being that you let them hear the results.
V/VM’s nihlism is sorely missed. Not having much internet in 2006 meant that I missed the V/VM 365 project, another pioneering Creative Commons project. 365 was an epic daily track giveaway with with intention of each piece being freely remixed of sampled by anyone and everyone. Given that some of source material for these tracks was copyrighted material, re-licensing it in this way creates an interesting conundrum. If one is to take a part of someone else’s record, tamper with it in some way, then relicense it under their own CC attribution, does this mean one is still liable to be sued? Now that we have the technology to retune every single note in recorded music so that it can become an entirely different compostion, will anyone even apply conventional copyright law to sampling any more? Is ‘Goodbye’ a Spice Girls song put through some effects, or is it an original piece?
My issue here is that, as Brian mentions, we now live in a culture where audio recycling is commonplace. And, as the laws that are supposed to prevent this haven’t changed, then we can only assume that a blind eye is being consistantly turned, especially given the promotional virtues of the remix and mash-up. It is seemingly only when the coffers of the mainstream music industry are under actually under threat, or revenue can be generated from a court case, that this law is now applied.
My research into this whole area is in its infancy, but to put one’s money where one’s mouth is, I would like to credit the original piece I sampled for my track Jealous Swingers, you can find all the samples from 4.25 in. Can I suggest to others that they sample this too? Can I license my own edited stem of this under Creative Commons for anyone else to sample instead? There’s only one way to find out.
This is my quotation marks BTW. I dearly love this song.
Although the V/VM 365 project was seen as a failiure by creator Leyland Kirby it was an awesome example to us all, and hopefully another prophecy of things to come. I doubt we will ever see the Beatles back catalogue enter the public domain, but we as creators of any kind are at least offered a different path by Creative Commons. And given the amount of unrecorded copyright violations that must now occur every second of every day through sampling, edits, remixes, and filesharing it is, perhaps, time for a bit of a rethink into this whole area that’s a bit more positive than Mandelson’s lockdown.