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Book Review of Remix Theory in Mixmag

A review of my book, Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling,  was published on April 11, 2014 in  the German edition of Mixmag. Many thanks Florian Schirmacher for his critical review. It’s in German:

Warum finden wir genau diesen Detroit Beat in so vielen aktuellen Produktionen wieder? Liegt es daran, dass alle denselben Remix machen, weil Spuren im Internet aufgetaucht sind? Oder haben sich die “House-Lover” alle auf dasselbe Sample geeinigt? Der Remix erfährt gerade so eine elementare Wiederbelebung, dass der theoretische Unterbau und das nötige Einbeziehen in einen größeren Zusammenhang zum unausweichlichen Basiswissen geworden ist.

More at http://www.mixmag.net/germany/features/remix-theory

Table of Contents for the Routledge Companion to Remix Studies Available

We have now turned in the manuscript of The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies, and can release the Table of Contents. The reader is due for release around December 14, 2014. The TOC is below:

Introduction Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, xtine burrough

Part I: History
1. “Remix and the Dialogic Engine of Culture: A Model for Generative Combinatoriality” Martin Irvine
2. “A Rhetoric of Remix” Scott H. Church
3. “Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal: Reflections on Cut-Copy-Paste Culture” Stefan Sonvilla-Weiss
4. “Toward a Remix Culture: An Existential Perspective” Vito Campanelli
5. “An Oral History of Sampling: From Turntables to Mashups” Kembrew McLeod
6. “Can I Borrow Your Proper Name? Remixing Signatures and the Contemporary Author” Cicero da Silva
7. The Extended Remix: Rhetoric and history Margie Borschke
8. “Culture and Remix: A Theory on Cultural Sublation” Eduardo Navas

Part II: Aesthetics
9. “Remix Strategies in Social Media” Lev Manovich
10. “Remixing Movies and Trailers Before and After the Digital Age” Nicola Maria Dusi
11. “Remixing the Plague of Images: Video Art from Latin America in a Transnational Context” Erandy Vergara
12. “Race & Remix: The Aesthetics of Race in the Visual & Performing Arts” Tashima Thomas
13. “Digital Poetics and Remix Culture: From the Artisanal Image to the Immaterial Image” Monica Tavares
14. “The End of an Aura: Nostalgia, Memory, and the Haunting of Hip-hop” Roy Christopher
15. “Appropriation is Activism” Byron Russell

Part III: Ethics
16. “The Emerging Ethics of Networked Culture” Aram Sinnreich
17. “The Panopticon of Ethical Video Remix Practice” Mette Birk
18. “Cutting Scholarship Together/Apart: Rethinking the Political-Economy of Scholarly Book Publishing” Janneke Adema
19. “Copyright and Fair Use in Remix: From Alarmism to Action” Patricia Aufderheide
20. “I Thought I Made A Vid, But Then You Told Me That I Didn’t: Aesthetics and Boundary Work in the Fan Vidding Community” Katharina Freund
21. “Peeling The Layers of the Onion: Authorship in Mashup and Remix Cultures” John Logie
22. “remixthecontext (a theoretical fiction)” Mark Amerika

Part IV: Politics
23. “A Capital Remix” Rachel O’Dwyer
24. “Remix Practices and Activism: A Semiotic Analysis of Creative Dissent” Paolo Peverini
25. “Political Remix Video as a Vernacular Discourse” Olivia Conti
26. “Locative Media as Remix” Conor McGarrigle
27. “The Politics of John Lennon’s “Imagine”: Contextualizing the Roles of Mashups and New Media in Political Protest” J. Meryl Krieger
28. “Détournement as a Premise of the Remix from Political, Aesthetic, and Technical Perspectives” Nadine Wanono
29. “The New Polymath (Remixing Knowledge)” Rachel Falconer

Part V: Practice
30. “Crises of Meaning in Communities of Creative Appropriation: A Case Study of the 2010 RE/Mixed Media Festival” Tom Tenney
31. “Of ‘REAPPROPRIATIONS’” Gustavo Romano
32. “Aesthetics of Remix: Networked Interactive Objects and Interface Design” Jonah Brucker-Cohen
33. “Reflections on the Amen Break: A Continued History, an Unsettled Ethics” Nate Harrison
34. “Going Crazy with Remix: A Classroom Study by Practice via Lenz v. Universal” xtine burrough and Dr. Emily Erickson
35. “A Remix Artist and Advocate” Desiree D’Alessandro
36. “Occupy / Band Aid Mashup: ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’” Owen Gallagher
37. “Remixing the Remix” Elisa Kreisinger
38. “A Fair(y) Use Tale” Eric Faden
39. “An Aesthetics of Deception in Political Remix Video” Diran Lyons
40. “Radical Remix: Manifestoon” Jesse Drew
41. “In Two Minds” Kevin Atherton

 

Forthcoming: The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies

I have not posted on Remix Theory for some time. The reason being that I have been editing along with fellow editors xtine Burrough and Owen Gallagher an upcoming volume on Remix Studies. It has been a lot of intensive work, needless to say but well worthwhile as we believe the remix community will value the many contributions that comprise the volume. We hope to have the book published in the latter half of 2014–at the moment the tentative release date is for early 2015.  Here is some information and a link to the official webpage:

The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies

Edited by Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, xtine burrough

The Remix Studies Reader comprises contemporary texts by key authors and artists who are active in the emerging field of remix studies. This rapidly growing field extends from remix culture, an organic international movement that originated in the popular music culture of the 1970s and has grown into a rich cultural activity encompassing various forms of media. The act of recombining pre-existing material brings up pressing questions of authenticity, reception, authorship, copyright, and the techno-politics of media activism. This book approaches remix studies from various angles, including sections on history, aesthetics, ethics, and politics, and presents theoretical chapters alongside case studies of remix projects related to the themes of each section. The Remix Studies Reader will be a valuable resource for researchers and practitioners, as well as a teaching tool for instructors using remix practices in the classroom.

 

The Long Table at Refest at La Mama/Culturehub NYC, November 29, 2013

On Friday January 29, I participated in The Long Table, an open discussion session part of Refest in which about 8 individuals were invited to discuss the state of remix in 2013. The video of the discussion is embedded above. The Long Table was co-curated by Tom Tenney. The event took place at La Mama streamed live and archived online by Culturehub.  I had the pleasure to participate in this event along with Adriano Clemente, David CommanderFabian Saucedo, Jennifer Weber, and DJ Spooky, among others. The discussion began with the copyright dispute over the song “Girls” between GoldieBlox and The Beastie Boys. It moved from there to other aspects of remix. Refest took place at La Mama from November 29 – December 1, and also featured a performance by DJ Spooky which took place on November 30. The video of the performance is embedded below. Many thanks to Tom Tenney for inviting me to participate, a special thanks to the entire staff at La Mama and Culturehub, who do an amazing job at producing high quality events.

Watch live streaming video from culturehubnyc at livestream.com

Three Junctures of Remix Catalog Available

The catalog for the exhibition Three Junctures of Remix, which took place from January 17 to March 15, 2013  is now available for download as a PDF. I would like to thank the entire gallery staff and committee members for making the exhibition possible, especially Trish Stone, Jordan Crandall, Hector Bracho, Doug Ramsey, and Scott Blair. I especially thank the artists Arcangel Constantini, Mark Amerika  & Chad Mossholder, Giselle Beiguelman, and Elisa Kreisinger,  who participated in the exhibition, and were generous in providing interviews now published in the catalog.

–Eduardo Navas

John Cage 3 Compositions for Piano @ 5 (Remix)

John Cage 3 Compositions for Piano @ 5 (Remix) is a mashup of three compositions that last around 5 minutes. After listening to the compositions over the years, I realized that a mashup of the three recordings would follow the principles of chance as promoted by Cage.  The compositions mashed include:

1) Music for Piano 2: 5:21
2) Roots of Unfocus: 5:01
3) Music for Marcel Duchamp: 5:20

This mashup is part of an ongoing series of remixes of John Cage piano compositions.

The recordings were performed by Steffen Schleiermacher, and released in John Cage Complete Piano Music Volume1 & 2, 1998.

John Cage 3 Compositions for Piano @ 4 (Remix)

John Cage 3 Compositions for Piano @ 4 (Remix) is a mashup of three compositions that last around 4 minutes. After listening to the compositions over the years, I realized that a mashup of the three recordings would follow the principles of chance as promoted by Cage.  The compositions mashed include:

1) Primitive: 4:03
2) Music for Piano 1: 3:47
3) Music for Piano 37-52 , Part 1: 4:01

This mashup is part of an ongoing series of remixes of John Cage piano compositions.

The recordings were performed by Steffen Schleiermacher, and released in John Cage Complete Piano Music Volume1 & 2, 1998.

Sound Improvisation at El Chopo Museum, September 7, 2013

Video streaming by Ustream

I recently participated at the El Chopo Museum‘s (Mexico City) series of events titled Bastard Pop. Above is the video archive of my performance which took place on September 7, 2013. The improvisation consists of three major sections. The first is an instrumental remix of Eric B and Rakim’s “Paid in Full” with James Brown’s “Payback.” This one is followed by a remix of John Cage’s  “Music for 5 Pianos,” “Music for 4 Pianos,” “Music for 3 Pianos,” and “Music for 2 Pianos” which together form a sound piece I call  “John Cage Music for 14 Pianos (Remix).” During the performance I doubled the remix and at one point people heard 28 pianos with different sound effects I set up specifically for the recordings. The last part consists of a remix of Kraftwerk’s “Numbers” with MJ Cole’s “Introduction,” a piece part of  his seminal 2step album “Sincere.” The end consists of bass-lines and synth-sounds that I developed with Audiomulch, the software I used for the performance. Throughout the performance I also manipulated the introduction to Laurie Anderson’s “Superman,” which is the last sample heard at the end of the improvisation.

The sound in the space was simply amazing. It is too bad that the videostream went into the red, with the result of sound distortion. At least people online will have an idea about the development of the sound piece. I plan to post a better recording of the improvisation at a later point.

John Cage Music for 14 Pianos (Remix)

John Cage Music for 14 Pianos (Remix) is a mashup of Cage’s “Music for 5 Pianos,” “Music for 4 Pianos,” “Music for 3 Pianos,” and “Music for 2 Pianos.” All four pieces are 7 minutes plus a few seconds long. After listening to the compositions over the years, I realized that a mashup of the four recordings would follow the principles of chance as promoted by Cage. As a result this piece is part of a series of Cage remixes I will be releasing in the near future.

I will be remixing “Music for 14 Pianos” live at the upcoming event on September 7, 2013 at the El Chopo Museum, UNAM in Mexico City, at which point it will become part of much longer performance.

The recordings were performed by Steffen Schleiermacher, and released in John Cage Complete Piano Music Volume1 & 2, 1998.

Preliminary Notes on Analysis of Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia

Detail of Minima Moralia 21 and 22 and their respective remixes

Image 1: Word cloud visualizations of Theodor Adorno’s Minima Morlia, aphorisms 21 and 22 on the left and their corresponding remixes on the right. (Click image for detail)

My first post for Minima Moralia Redux is dated October 16 2011, but I had done much research prior to this date. I had been reading extensively on Theodor Adorno and his work, while also creating visualizations of YouTube viral memes for my post-doc at The Department of Information Science and Media Studies at the University of Bergen in affiliation with The Software Studies Lab in San Diego, now also based in NYC.  As I analyzed meme patterns, it became evident that much of the material that is discussed in terms of remixing in music and video, which is also quite popular across media culture, usually relies on acts of selectivity–meaning that with the ubiquity of cut/copy & paste, people tend to re-contextualize pre-existing material, much how DJs and producers used sampling to remix in dance music culture during the eighties. [1]

Image 2: Word cloud visualization of the first thirty aphorisms in Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia. (Click image to view large file)

Minima Moralia Redux is a type of mashup, itself, of art, writing as a literary act, and media research that explores how data visualization is providing new possibilities for understanding creative processes. The project explores the selective remix, which arguably is quite popular across culture since cut/copy and paste became a common act due to daily use of computers. Certainly this is the type of remixing that most people debate over in remix culture. The selective remix consists of evaluating the source material and deciding what to leave and what to omit, as well as what to add, all while making sure that the source material remains recognizable.[2]  This means that large parts are kept as originally produced while others may be radically different. A tension in authorship develops, as the remixer clearly shows creativity quite similar to an “author’s.” At the same time, the remixed work relies heavily on the cultural recognition of the author and his/her work.  Much has been written about such tensions, but it is my hope that the research I am now introducing here in preliminary fashion will be a contribution to understanding how we come to create works that appear to be autonomous and credited to a single person, and how we can move past such conventions to more productive approaches that do justice to the way culture is communicating at an ever increasing pace.

 

Image 3: Word cloud visualization of the remixes of the first thirty aphorisms in Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia (Click image for large file)

Minima Moralia Redux has various layers of significance. First, I wanted to explore, as I already explained, how the selective remix functions. I decided to do this by embedding myself in the process, as opposed to studying another person’s remix. In this project, I examine each entry carefully, do research on it, and eventually re-write it to make it relevant to issues that are taking place in contemporary times. While doing this, I keep in mind that it is the voice of Adorno that is at play here. This means that I need to make sure that Adorno’s theories remain his.  In other words, it is not necessarily my opinion that is expressed in the remixes, although I do take creative license and adjust– even critique Adorno’s views within his own writing. This is no different than a music remixer who often times will create a different piece of music, one which nevertheless, is not credited to him/her as author/artist, but only as a person who remixed the author’s work. In the case of music this is done in the commercial sector for increasing sales, but in remix culture, it is done because people may simply love doing it, and/or are fans of the artist/author.  Taking this approach with Adorno’s work, I argue, is only fair given that Adorno himself believed in revising one’s view on life and the world. In the 1960s, he admitted that some of his critical analysis in Dialectic of Enlightenment, which he co-wrote with Horkheimer, no longer stood their ground in 1969. He considers the book “a piece of documentation.” By this Adorno and Horkheimer let the book be part of history. [3]  Based on this critical position on his part, it is very unlikely, for instance, that in 2013, he would use the word “savage” as he did when he wrote aphorism 32.[4]  The result of this approach in Minima Moralia Redux is a new text that is clearly still in large part Adorno’s, but which I hope resonates with the language and issues of the twenty first century.

I rewrite each aphorism  one sentence at a time, evaluating it word for word. I study the history of particular words, and evaluate the sentence’s relevance during the times when the book was written. I then consider how it may be understood and at play in contemporary times. When I rewrite the aphorisms I am conscious of the way remixing functions in music and video, and apply it to writing to see what the results may be. At the same time, I become immersed in the creative process based on intuition as I am also interested in exploring aesthetics.  I use two translations for the rewriting of each entry. The first is by Dennis Redmond, available on Marxists.org, and the other is the official English publication of Minima Moralia translated by E. F. N. Jephcott for Verso Press. I combine parts from both sources, while adjusting sentence structure, and I add and delete material to come up with a statement that is relevant to contemporary times.

For the word cloud visualizations I use Many Eyes, an online resource developed by Martin Wattenberg for IBM. The clouds are useful to evaluate how often words are repeated in the original entries. The visualization of the original text appears at the top of each blog entry. The main section of each post consists of the remixed text with a link to the original source available on Marxists.org. At the bottom is a thumb image of the same visualization along with a second visualization of the actual remix. These thumb images are presented with each post to provide a quick understanding of how key terms are reused and others omitted, while others are added in accordance to the principles of selective remixing. The reader can click on each thumb image to view a detailed version and compare them. I provide two visualizations of aphorisms  at the top of this entry (image 1).

The visualizations expose the constant usage of particular words, and when comparing the original entries to the remixed versions, it becomes evident how selectivity is at play. For instance, one can notice in aphorisms 21 and 22 that some of the words that are more pronounced in the original entry are still repeated often in the remixed versions, while others disappear and others are added (larger words means more repetition, smaller, less frequent). This is similar to how remixing functions in music as well.  I am also evaluating sentence structure and actual number of word repetition for each visualization. I will be releasing a concrete analysis of all this in the future in connection to viral memes, as well as a set of YouTube video mashups. The latter research I have not made available online at all, but two of the videos part of this research can be found on page 106 in my book Remix Theory.  My research of the selective remix as found in the thirty entries that I share on this post is part of my examination of selectivity in other forms of online media production. The idea to look at how remixing functions in text developed out my research in analyzing video. My findings so far have been that there are patterns that certainly crossover among image, music and text, which enables the viewer or reader to sense how remixing is at play in particular pieces.

So far I have remixed thirty-five aphorisms, and provide visualizations of thirty of them as part of this post. Image 2 offers an overall sense of the originals, and image 3 a comparative sensibility of how they were changed after they were remixed.  The process behind the production of each remixed entry takes quite some time to perform, so it will be a while before I can release my final version of this project. This brief entry should at least provide some details on the process that makes Minima Moralia Redux possible.

Below I provide a two column comparative visualization of the first thirty aphorisms (image 4). On the left are the original entries, and on the right appear the remixes. Examining one next to the other provides an idea of how different patterns are at play within and across the originals and the remixes, while looking at them as a large group gives a sense of the aesthetics of writing as a creative act–something that certainly cannot be fully measured, but one could hope can be appreciated.

Image 4: A two column comparison of the first thirty aphorisms of Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia and their remixed versions. Comparing each aphorism with its corresponding remix shows the process of selectivity that takes place in remixing text, which is deliberately performed, in this case, along the line of music remixing.

 

[1] I go over much of this in my book: Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling.

[2] If  too much material is omitted, then the remix may start to lean towards other types of remixes which will not be discussed in this instance. See chapter three in Remix Theory.

[3]Mark Horkheimer & Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), xi -xii.

[4] See my remix, which is an extensive critique of Adorno’s conflicted bourgeois position, by using his own words: http://minimamoraliaredux.blogspot.com/2013/06/minima-moralia-32.html

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