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DJ Spooky Response – Remixing the Way We Use Technology

Something from the first week of class came to my mind as I read this week’s blog post prompt. The idea of the changing same really reminded me of the film we watched in the first few days of class, particularly the part where the filmmakers traced the roots of the Verve’s song “Bittersweet Symphony”. I remember listening to this song as a kid, and really liking it—I still do. But before viewing the film, I had never considered how completely recycled and in a way un-innovative its melody and beat is. I think the words say something unique, but the melody and beat don’t do anything different. They are essentially a slight variation on what’s already been done, or in other words, the changing same. What does differentiate this version of the song from other, past versions is its more electric reverberations and strong base. In other words how it was produced. It’s a long cry from EDM, but simply as a byproduct of the era in which it was made, it incorporates the sounds made possible by new technology and digital music production. In that way, this song demonstrates how technology is now part of music production at its core, just as it’s a part of everything in our society and culture.

This musical example is just one of many that relates to DJ Spooky’s point that future generations will “have technology as a core aspect of their existence” (16). The technology in the song is not tied to its meaning or a deliberate artistic choice. It is simply included because technology is fully indoctrinated as a core part of the music producing process. DJ Spooky proposes we will see similar inclusions of technology in all aspects of our lives. He compares technology to the food we eat, the air we breath, and the languages we speak. He discusses it not as an accessory to our lives, but as definitive of our cultural and social constructs.

I also really enjoyed when he got into speaking about “the machinery of culture as an organizing system”. I interpreted this to mean that the technologies and machinery we use are definitive of our culture. It’s an idea similar to “the medium is the message”—similarly, the technologies we use directly and absolutely dictate the way we operate within our society. DJ Spooky says this idea is not one that should be feared or resisted, but instead embraced. He conveys that we think about the possibilities allowed by new technologies in a stiff, restrictive way, writing “it’s not so much new ways of hearing that are needed, but new perceptions of what we can hear” (17). DJ Spooky sees the possibilities of technology, specifically tied to music production, as limitless. He asserts that we shouldn’t limit our utilization of technology to what we already know to be possible.

In terms of thinking about the archive, this reading got me thinking that our class archive might be mostly valuable because of the way we are documenting ourselves. The technologies and methods we are using say a lot about our generation and the era we live in. In our digital work, we talk about our lives and the lives of others, but future generations might see the methods by which we went about doing so as more indicative of what our lives were really like.

DJ Spooky’s avowal that we need to be utilizing the technology around us to their full potential got me thinking, how (if at all) do songs, books, poems, or any other creative work depreciate in value over time?

Elements of Remixing

Before I begin discussing the changing same, I want to take a step back to a few passages before this discussion. I feel the underlying element of understanding the changing same stems from what DJ Spooky says about technology’s core existence. “Future generations won’t have a ‘dependency’ on technology. They will have technology as a core aspect of their existence – as much as the languages we speak, the air we breathe, and the food that we eat are all aspects of technology.” (16) When I think about this passage, I compare it to my younger cousins and the technology they use. I have an eight year old cousin that knows  more about her iPad than I do, and I’m 22. Technology is something inherent, something that’s part of human beings, and something that they can feel deep within their soul – it’s already programmed into them.

After I began wrapping my head around that aspect of the text, I then approached the changing same, which he defines as ‘offering iterations of versions and versions of everything, all change all the time.’ The way I’ve been thinking about it (in the most simplistic way) is it begins with something – the original source. Then, over time new creations are made from tweaking the original source in the most minute way. Based upon who the audience is and changing tastes, this can have infinite options. Or can it ?

I feel that DJ Spooky wants to convince and empower the reader to be constantly creating, remixing, DJ-ing, sampling, and repeating. “Rhythm science makes possible…tries to convey a sense of how conceptual art, contemporary technology, and timeless idealism might function today.” (20) This passage brings things full circle for me when considering remixing and archives. DJ Spooky wants us to visualize creatively, interact with technology and reflect on past principles. Archiving and remixing follow the same pattern – you start with an idea or source, use the appropriate outlet for your creation and make the archive or remix with influence of the past. Is the process that simple? Or is it the synergy and interaction between these three elements that truly makes an archive or remix?

– LH

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