The changing same: manifesting your influences

banksy gleaners

Bansky’s take on Gleaners by Jean-François Millet

Alfred Hitchcock called style self-plagiarism, a repetition of your own imposed motifs, themes, and methods of delivery—predictable and therefore banal. DJ spooky acknowledges that us young composers fall into that cycle of repetition, if not tapping into our own experience, then the products of others: “The same track? The same beat? Day after day, night after night…it would be like some kind of living death if that were to happen in DJ culture.” (017) It’s interesting, then, that he refers to this same as entropy—a type of chaos—and its antithesis, the changing same.

I think of the changing shame in terms of a diaspora—but of information and media instead of peoples—that “represents a seamless convergence of time and space in a world of compartmentalized moments and discrete invisible transactions.” (021) In traveling, physically or metaphorically, through different mediums and samples and versions and iterations, you begin to identify not with one particular form but instead the “sonic collage.” (024) To me, this seems like heart of the changing same: an interaction with the archive, or otherwise preexisting material, a visceral response to it, then a unique reproduction rooted in your own experience. DJ Spooky puts it in terms of sounds. He writes, “Any sound can be you: that’s the idea of the nomad idea.” (024)

Just like a sound wave through the air, an idea in all its manifestations (images, texts, videos, chirps and whistles) is part of a data cloud ubiquitous and accessible to all. He writes that the creative process is the systematic dismantling and re-conceptualizing of these ideas. And because no “immaculate perception” exists, individuality is just our method of actualizing that abstract process of reconfiguration. (033) We get our license as creators by understanding our role as gleaners, sifting through archives and unearthing only what we deem useful in conveying our own individual message.

Digital media composition, therefore, becomes a type of literature review. But our citations aren’t condensed in a bibliography, but instead living and breathing throughout what we create, implied as odes or homages to sounds, images, narrative arcs, theatrical tropes, and every other bit of sensory intake we’ve knowingly and unknowingly absorbed as sons and daughters of the technological mushroom cloud. So do you think it’s an exercise in manifesting all your influences, or just a more comprehensive form of self-plagiarism? Who’s more of an artist, Banksy or Jean-François Millet? Probably depends on which century you ask.

-BM

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