Listening: Mashups

You flick on the radio and the low opening drum riff of the Dandy Warhols' Bohemian Like You begins but then as soon as the guitars kick in you hear the opening lyrics of Mousse-T's Horny (don't try to pretend you don't know it) come in over the top - Horny, horny, hornyhornyhorny.


You keep listening and even though the juxtaposition is bizarre, the song actually really seems to be working. The rhythm/beat/tempo/vibe of the Dandy's music and Mousse-T's lyrics (the rest has been removed) mash together perfectly - and I should probably add quite hilariously. Finally when the trademark Dandy Warhols' Whoo Hoo Hoooo chorus thingy tops off a line of I'm horny, hornyhornyhorny you know you're listening to something interesting. (Not to mention having them singing And I like you, and I like you and I like you I like you I like you)

But in case you're not yet convinced - take a look at this.

Ok, so we're in the world of the MashUp - what's it all about?

The wikipedia entry on mashups is (unsurprisingly) quite rich - here's the primary definition (I'll leave the rest for you to explore - but I really do encourage you to do so)

Mashup, or bastard pop, or bootleg, is a musical genre which, in its purest form, consists of the combination (usually by digital means) of the music from one song with the a cappella from another. Typically, the music and vocals belong to completely different genres. At their best, bastard pop songs strive for musical epiphanies that add up to considerably more than the sum of their parts.
In short, the mashup has a loooooong history - from classical composers borrowing from traditional folk tunes centuries ago to djs mixing up Orson Welles War of the World broadcast with music tracks to the modern day where digital technology has made it possible for virtually anyone to have a crack.

I've even had a brief toy with it (with horrendous results) but plan to come back to it one day.
If you're interested, check out this site - http://www.paintingbynumbers.com/bootcamp/
for some handy hints.

(Damn and I thought this was going to be an easy post - the more I read the more I want to talk about. I think the best thing to do is to give you some links here and you can peruse at you leisure.)

At one point I was having a bit of an internal dialogue about the whole - is this art or is it just lazy/stealing? - thing but I had a few thoughts that put me in the "it's art" team.

I mean, the history of music is one of artists learning from those who have come before, taking inspiration and often times copying and changing. Listen to the main riff in Smells Like Teen Spirit - now listen to Boston's More than a feeling - more than a little similar no? (And yes, Kurt admitted taking inspiration from that song).

Now let's take a bit of broader look at the history of art in the 20th century. We've got the Dadaists who turned art upside down and made the point that the art aristocracy was bloated and inbred and you can take a urinal and stick it in a gallery and make it art. Pop Art and Andy Warhol carried on this tradition by taking images and icons in the world around them and effectively remixing them to create something which depended on the work of others but which was special and unique in it's own right. It became as much about the ideas and the intention as it did about the actually work itself.

So yeah - it's about the ideas I guess and the way you can use juxtaposition of two things to create a third. (This is just the same as editing in a film - say you have an image of a child in a playground and then you have an image of a gun - you can't but help create a meaning which combines the two).

As to the matter of infringing on copyright - well you just know that this is a matter blown out of all sensibility by the moneymen who have no interest in the art at all. Instead of taking the commonsense view that exposure is good and could well inspire someone to go out and investigate the source of mashup (ie go out and buy Bohemian like you and/or Horny), they are determined to wring every last cent of every last 1 and 0 of their artist's music.

I think there is probably a case to be made for making some kind of payment to the original artists if you're going to be making money from their work - and giving them full credit if you aren't making money (it's only manners) but beyond that, the sky should be the limit.

Anyways, enough of my prattle - here are some links for you to chew on.

2 Many DJs - http://2manydjs.free.fr/
The Kleptones - http://www.kleptones.com/
Bootie USA (Best of Bootie 2006) - http://www.bootieusa.com/

And one more clip.