#17 – “DJ Spooky’s Pretentious Ramblings”

Paul Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky quotes a lot of people in his “In Through the Out Door” essay for Sound Unbound; after all, as a DJ, quoting (one form of “sampling”) is his bread and butter.  He closes his essay with a gorgeous excerpt from Don DeLillo, and I think he’d like to believe that his “far out” writing style sounds like DeLillo’s lucid prose.  But it actually ends up sounding more like someone else he quotes earlier in the essay: George Clinton.  That is, a stoner rattling off pages of faux-“meaningful” nonsense that doesn’t make much sense outside his own head.  At least with the P-Funk mastermind, it was not meant to be taken as serious scholarship — Miller, on the other hand, is dead serious about things like “an ecosystem of hunter-gathers of moments suspended in a culture founded on a world where information moves only because someone invented and shared it.”  Read into that as much as you want.  The problem isn’t that I’m glossing over it too quickly.  It just doesn’t mean anything.

I’m really interested in this stuff, so I was disappointed that Miller’s essay was such a gigantic pile of horseshit.  I thought his online interactive remix experiment might redeem his writing, but it was almost equally pointless in its willful obtuseness.  For one, the web design was simply awful, and most of the interface didn’t even really let you remix anything at all, but merely change the size and velocity of various rotating discs.

Let me point you attention towards a couple of much more compelling pieces of remix creativity on the internet.  Kutiman is a youtube artist who creates music consisting only of elements pulled from other youtube videos, mostly of people playing an instrument solo.  He creates remarkably coherent music out of these patchworks; here’s one of my favorites, titled “I’m New”.  If you visit his own website (linked to in the video’s description), you can use an interactive interface to see all the original videos from which he culled his samples.

This next example is very near and dear to my heart.  I think it’s one of the best examples I’ve seen of how digital media can foster creativity and inspiration in unexpected ways.  The site is called “in Bb” (as is b-flat, the musical note), and in building it, the creator asked people to submit brief videos of them playing something simple, ambient, and non-rhythmic in the key of bflat.  As you can see, he then pasted his favorites into an array of videos, all on one page, that you can overlap, creating your own beautiful, textured remix.  It’s definitely worth checking out.