Archive for March, 2010

css.php

Protected: Class Notes – March 24

March 24th, 2010

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Montage, Filmmaking, Queering Macho Culture, and Mashups

March 17th, 2010
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smYwygReJdU&feature=related

Scorpio Rising (1964)

I suppose I just want to add to everyone’s lovely examples the idea that mashups aren’t really anything new…filmically they are the spawn of montage, meaning the juxtaposition of normally alienated sound and image or image and image…classically with the Communist/Soviet montage of Eisenstein.  Prior to that the idea of remixing is probably as old as tales themselves, as old as oral retelling/remixing.

The above clip is from a great gay filmmaker, Kenneth Anger.  He took straight iconic imagery and pop songs and queered them as well as gave them a savage, sinister angle.  He mixes in a movie version of Christ’s life, seemingly innocent comic books, various iconic images, old horror movies, and Elvis’ Devil in Disguise (taken off of the YouTube video for copyright violations).   These items are juxtaposed in a way which deliberately queers the eye of the watcher.

A Remix: Woman Hold Ya Head and Cry

March 17th, 2010
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ibgXeOHIMY

This is a remix of songs of three musical icons in Black communities in both the USA and Jamaica. All three are deceased but continue to engage the imaginations of various publics the USA and Jamaica. No doubt the creator of this remix saw similarities among all three men: black, male, coming from oppressed classes, music that dealt with themes around violence, machismo, and also the interrelatedness of Reggae and Hiphop music, the latter being influenced by or arising out of the former. Even though Bob is from an earlier generation and Biggie and Tupac are from a later one, there is a continuity in terms of the issues addressed in their music, more so Tupac with this concern for the sufferings of black youth in American society. Bob was equally interested in liberation struggles of the poor in Third World countries. This remix creates a space with respected artists from different generations and culture meet and dialogue about issues of concern in Bedstuy, Brooklyn, especially the killing and dying of the young, black male. Even more important, I think the remix highlights the suffering of black mothers who lose their sons to violence, to the streets in untimely deaths. Tupac and Biggie too, died untimely deaths and their mothers publicly grieved and mourned. In using Bob’s song from the 70s, the remixer is able to create a new product and connections across many years and generations, highlighting that things have changed but in many ways are still the same.

Everything sounds better autotuned

March 17th, 2010

The Gregory Brothers’ “Autotune the News” was a minor sensation last summer (the one linked above got some airplay on broadcast media; I found out about them when they were featured on Rachel Maddow’s show). Their stuff works through a sort of arbitrary juxtaposition and decontextualization; they take segments of video and audio that were originally created in purportedly serious contexts — news reports, debate shows, c-span — and craft them into a catchy, funny song, without much regard for the original political content of their material (or rather, through a deliberate and carefully maintained disregard of the political content).

In interviews the Gregory Brothers have noted that the decision of who is or is not frequently featured on Autotune the News is almost entirely driven by whether the figures’ voice can be autotuned into something catchy sounding, so for example Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, who apparently have voices that are easy to make soulful, show up much more often than croaky-voiced Dick Cheney, Keith Olberman gets about ten appearances for each one by Rachel Maddow, and, if one were to judge by Autotune the News, Katie Couric is the only network newscaster in America. Although occasionally political commentary / content from the AtN creators will slip through (for example, the line “I thought this bill was about the climate” in the above video), this is always brief; the political point of AtN is that it’s possible to read news broadcasts as being a series of manipulatable sounds rather than as “serious” political discourse. Frequently AtN episodes will start with the AtN creators green-screened into a Sunday debate show set, shouting “BORING!” over the original, pre-autotuned audio; the twin messages I see here are that:

  • The political discourse on television is so debased (or whatever) that turning it into a song is actually more useful than listening to it, or, alternately,
  • The content doesn’t matter, or at least the raw lulzy fun of repurposing something serious is valid no matter how important the content is

Although the Gregorys are most known for the AtN series, one way they thwart readings of their work that focus solely on the “American political discourse is lame” message is through some of the other videos they have on Youtube, featuring autotunings of acknowledged “great speeches” (for example, they’ve done autotunings of JFK and MLK Jr. speeches).

Mommy Dearest, Hillary Clinton (Music Video – ABBA)

March 16th, 2010
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhXAbQjzYxE

This video takes us back to the Democratic primaries of 2008, reminding us of the plethora of political statements on YouTube available at that time (thanks John).  It is a typical remix, I think, using clips from political speeches, movie scenes, and a soundtrack that goes along with it.  In this case, the author obviously paints a negative view of Hillary Clinton, equating her to the crazy character Joan Crawford from the movie Mommie Dearest.  The author also uses ABBA’s Mamma Mia as the soundtrack.

The author has given a lot of thought to the different “cultural references” that goes into this remix.  Mommie Dearest is an early 80s film that is relatively well-known, famous for the crazy self-absorbed mother who abuses her child.  Mamma Mia is also well-known in American culture.  In this video, the opening lyrics “I’ve been cheated by you since I don’t know when” is blatant statement against Hillary, although the original did not have this intention.    All of these are mixed with several clips of Hillary’s interviews, speeches, and appearances (note also the repetition of certain excerpts for emphasis)…a perfect example of “something new that didn’t exist before” from “mixing symbolic things together” (p. 75).

Remixing, I think, takes the expression ‘taking things out of context’ and exploits it to create something new, in this case, to make a political statement.  In other words, the original intended meaning of the sources has been explicitly taken out to say something new … and this is where I agree with Lessig, namely, this kind of expression should not be a legal issue and should be encouraged…

Marley, Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac remix: Woman Hold Ya Head

March 16th, 2010

Bob, Tupac & BiggieThis is a remix of songs of three musical icons in Black communities in both the USA and Jamaica. All three are deceased but continue to engage the imaginations of various publics the USA and Jamaica. No doubt the creator of this remix saw similarities among all three men: black, male, coming from oppressed classes, music that dealt with themes around violence, machismo, and also the interrelatedness of Reggae and Hiphop music, the latter being influenced by or arising out of the former. Even though Bob is from an earlier generation and Biggie and Tupac are from a later one, there is a continuity in terms of the issues addressed in their music, more so Tupac with this concern for the sufferings of black youth in American society. Bob was equally interested in liberation struggles of the poor in Third World countries. This remix creates a space with respected artists from different generations and culture meet and dialogue about issues of concern in Bedstuy, Brooklyn, especially the killing and dying of the young, black male. Even more important, I think the remix highlights the suffering of black mothers who lose their sons to violence, to the streets in untimely deaths. Tupac and Biggie too, died untimely deaths and their mothers publicly grieved and mourned. In using Bob’s song from the 70s, the remixer is able to create a new product and connections across many years and generations, highlighting that things have changed but in many ways are still the same.

debate deja vu

March 15th, 2010

This video comes from Comedy 23/6, which is a part of the Huffington Post.  Watching the Presidential debates in 2008, you may have gotten the sense that you were hearing the same lines over and over again.  This is to be expected to some degree: each candidate has talking points, perfectly pitched to be the most effective.  But heard over and over again, these lines lose their sincerity.

This video shows that your feelings of deja vu were justified.  While each debate is supposed to focus on different issues, the candidates made the same points, over and over, in exactly the same way.  This video certainly drives home the point that each debate was no different from the others, a point that could not be made (at least not so well) by watching each debate separately.

The feeling of deja vu is not the only feeling this video evokes.  You get the sense that the candidates are simply feeding you lines to convince you of their points.  But once you see (as the video shows) that they are just lines, repeated over and over, you cannot help but to question the integrity of the candidates.

March 15th, 2010

I was not familiar with the mash-up concept until doing the readings for this week and after browsing for a while Youtube I choose this video because of its political message. The strength of the video is derived from the combination of all its parts, which when pulled together as a group comment on each other and give new meaning/significance to the original music/images. As Lessig describes in his defense of this type of sampling: ” Their meaning comes not from the content of what they say; it comes from the reference, which is only expressible only if its the original that gets used. Images or sounds collected from real -world examples become “paint on a palette.” ” (74) In this case the real footage of the Katrina devastation along with images of Bush in which he appears smiley and removed from reality, flying high in his plane, are reinforced by the Hip-Hop song which is extremely critical of his actions in a very direct fashion. Given that the Hip-Hop song is an original one, although it does have sampling within it, I am not sure if the song is indeed a Mash-Up like the work by Girl Talk would be. The song along would make a political statement but when  paired with the images, it also speaks to and is critical of, the ways in which the media portrays minorities and contribute to reinforce racist stereotypes. The target of the political criticism in the video incorporates both Bush and the media simultaneously by combining all the different elements into one stream.

Rick Astley Nirvana Mashup

March 15th, 2010

DJ Morgoth (audio), Thriftshop XL (video), “Never Gonna Give Your Teen Spirit Up,” 2008. Video, uploaded to YouTube, color, sound; 3:53 min.

This seamless mashup of Rick Astley’s 1987 pop hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” and Nirvana’s grunge anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991) was released in the middle of 2008, when the practice known as “Rickrolling” was becoming popular among mainstream internet users.  Rickrolling began as a simple prank on the cult imageboard 4chan: a user would click on a misleadingly-named link and find herself watching Astley’s original (unoriginal) video. But it quickly evolved into something much bigger. It was unarguably a meme – millions of users worldwide were rickrolled – but, beyond this, rickrolling became a disruptive countercultural act, mobilized on- and offline for protest or lulz. In February 2008, the song was broadcast at anti-Scientology demonstrations by the group Anonymous. In April, the New York Mets conducted an internet poll to select an eighth-inning singalong song – five million voters wrote in “Never Gonna Give You Up.”  In November Rick Astley, whose career had been lackluster since the early nineties, was voted MTV Europe’s “Best Act Ever,” and rickrollers in the UK attempted to resist the entrenched dominance of a TV talent show by pushing his record to the top of the Christmas singles chart.

As the meme peaked, though, its subversive power eroded. YouTube rickrolled its users on April Fool’s Day, and at the 2008 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Rick Astley unexpectedly performed (or rather lip-synched) the song from a float, rickrolling 50 million viewers.  Nancy Pelosi even rickrolled anyone who clicked on her tour of the Speaker’s Office  when the Congressional YouTube channel launched in January 2009.  Encyclopedia Dramatica has thus declared it an “old meme.”  

The mashup melds seeming antitheses – eliciting outrage from some Nirvana fans who find it disrespectful to the memory of the lead singer, Kurt Cobain (he committed suicide in 1994). It was “Teen Spirit”, though, that propelled Nirvana to mainstream success; their album Nevermind ultimately went 10x Platinum, outselling Astley’s debut by five to one. The mashup can be read, perhaps, as comment on a culture that eats its young, and elegy for those young, who from this distance seem equally innocent, and lost.

Note that in spite of objections by the copyright holders both video and audio remain widely accessible on YouTube and file-sharing sites.

March 15th, 2010
Need help with the Commons? Visit our
help page
Send us a message
Skip to toolbar