June 15, 2005

Mashups and Ives and Everything All at Once

I've recently been listening to some excellent mashups, most notably found through the Radio Clash (at least I was, before it turned into a gay audioblog - since issue #29). I've been into mashups since they first started coming out, and it's been easy to notice the increasing slickness in the combining of the tunes.

Elsie pointed out to me after hearing the Clash Killers that this was the first completely successful (iho) post-modern art form. That all the pieces had maintained their integrity while allowing for a new content layer to be created. This got me thinking as to why I was enjoying them so much. It wasn't just the raw humor of hearing Abba plus Echo and the Bunnymen, it was something else, something Ivesian.

Living in a big city, I've always enjoyed the all-at-onceness of the sound experience. The halal meat market blaring Umm Kulthum over a car's subwoofer beats with the police improvising a car siren solo on top. (Some cops should really become noise artists - they do the weirdest things with their sirens). Being forced to experience a sonic space in this way, has gotten us all used to parallel musical streams as a part of our daily experience.

The simultaneity of this new art form in its paradoxical at-onceness can allow for a thrilling artistic exposure of parallelism - unparallelled since Ives. As we all have heard, Ives' father would forceably expose him to exprerience multiple brass bands simultaneously, make him sing in parallel keys, etc. This experience is now a part of our daily lives.

I realized that this parallellism of musical streams has been a musical interest for years of mine. My music has always tried to force a melodic layer to the middle and the bass line to a melodic theme. Its an area, that many artists have explored, certainly, from Ockeghem's simultaneous use of chanson in his secular works to Bach's quodlibet in the Goldberg Variations. Of course one could cite Cage and the other Chance-aholics in this vein also, but I find the intentionality of the musical parallelism to be the key to its enjoyment. The skill of finding the right moment to bring in the hook after absolutely the 'wrong' chorus can be amazing and a real commentary on our audio experience today.

Obviously, the hooks, the choruses, all function potentially as symbols, which can be a source of amusment (Abba and Echo for example). This symbolic mixing is something that not many composer's have taken advantage of. One thinks of Stockhausen's Hymnen, a monumental failure of symbolic musicality but an amazing one nonetheless. Hymnen is a mashup in that context of course. (Even given the ring modulations - today's pop mashups employ bandwidth filtering frequently to bring in new elements).

Posted by jeff at June 15, 2005 02:17 PM | TrackBack

As usual, I find another interesting topic on this blog. As a dj , I too enjoy mashups. In fact, the most enjoyable part of playing music for me, is the moment a new song jumps into the previous song. A perfect mix (imo) is the one that creates a union (of the 2 songs) where the listener feels that he/she is hearing only 1 song but with a 3D effect ! Almost as if he/she had entered into a new dimension. This union of 2 songs is what I compare to a mashup.
I have asked myself many times why I enjoy these mashups (mixes in my case)? Why do they make me feel like dancing ? why do they make me wana drink more, or how do they create so much energy ?
The only thing I know for sure is that this art of mixing is extrermely creative.
Perfecting and understanding it (imo), could result in a greater understanding for music and maybe someday music’s role in our world.

Please keep sharing your thoughts :)

Posted by: rami at June 22, 2005 04:03 PM

Pardon my plebian ignorance, but what is a " mashup "?

Posted by: Robert Jordahl at June 27, 2005 06:25 AM


Posted by: jeff at June 27, 2005 01:15 PM

hi jeff

don't know if it counts as a mash-up

but have you heard this....


music by a group of electronic musicians intent on recontextualising the classic album

elsewhere you can check out new music @ www.audiobulb.com

best wishes


Posted by: ai at July 8, 2005 04:00 AM