– Or In Which Emily Links You to Many Things –
I doubt I’ll ever pay someone to do a remix again, because there’s some amazing stuff just coming out of bedrooms.
– Trent Reznor
When I am displeased with how a genre is handling itself, I endeavor to write what I would like to see out of said genre. This, according to the video series Everything is a Remix, is remixing – the process of copying, transforming, and producing something new based on the work of others. In this instance, I am taking a genre, which has certain conventions and tropes associated with it, and reusing or transforming the tropes associated with that genre.
But what is the actual argument here? What is Kirby trying to say – because he certainly sounds negative. Well, that’s an issue of delivery, and we’ll return to that.
The point Kirby attempts to make over the course of four videos is that everything is the product of people accumulating ideas, playing around with them, and rereleasing those mashed-up and revamped ideas into the world as original products. This concept applies to music, movies, books, inventions, tv shows, and a myriad of other things that comprise our digital and physical culture. The problem is that American society has all but made remixing impossible by condemning copying.
Don’t get me wrong, simply reproducing someone else’s work without crediting the original creator is wrong (like, disgustingly wrong). However, as the remix videos point out, we learn by copying. Hell, that’s how genres become genres; someone writes a fringe story that doesn’t quite fit current conventions, someone else writes based on that fringe concept, and suddenly we have an All-Vampire young adult section at our local bookstores.
It is my belief that remixing – in it’s true, transformative role – fundamentally changes the concept behind the original work. It’s why the song The Warning by Nine Inch Nails sound completely different from The Warning [Stefan Goodchild Remix]. The remixed song conveys a different message; even though it contains the same lyrics, it tells a different story*. And if you change the story, you haven’t reproduced an exact copy. The story, for me (if you’ve been paying attention), is key to the ‘originality’ of something.
(As it happens, Nine Inch Nails runs an official remix site in which they release the tracks of all of their songs and encourage fans to remix to their hearts content. Trent Reznor has also released a nine-part album [four parts of which were free] to the world so that anyone could remix and change those tracks.)
I’m not going to get into an argument about copy right law here – though I want to, because copy right law is the most ridiculous thing – because Part 4 of Everything is a Remix makes the argument better than I can. What I will say is this – without remixes in music, we would have never had the ‘golden age’ of hip hop. We wouldn’t have an alternate interpretation of Year Zero (an album that went so far into storytelling, it created a universe). We wouldn’t have Star Wars or Star Trek or Stargate. Society would have missed out on countless books loosely based on life, on genre, on problems with fantasy.
Let the world remix, because we’re missing out on that kind of originality.