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BEYOND THE MASH-UP: A COMPOSITION INSPIRED BY CONFIGURABLE CULTURE BY CAEGAN QUIMBY A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Stephen Miles Sarasota, Florida May, 2012
!! ACKNOWLEDGMENTS First, I would like to thank all of my friends and family for their unconditional love and support throughout my entire life. Without these am azing people, I would never have made it this far along in my academic carrier. Next, I would like to thank New College of Florida and all of my professors for providing me with a high quality education a nd giving me the opportunity to create this thesis. In particular, I would like to tha nk my advisor Stephen Miles, for his support creating this thesis and for al l of his other invaluable cont ributions to my education. I would like to give immense thanks to all the musicians who so graciously spent their time and effort practicing my music and playing in my performance. They all did a fantastic job, and without them my proj ect would not have been possible. These wonderful people are: Dana Ziegler, Andr ew Fishman, Zachariah Eidelman, Timothy Duff, Samuel McCamant, Susanna Payne-Passmore, Erich Barganier, Elliott Countess, Michael Waas, Emily Myers, Heather Barnes Jeanine Tatlock, Joshua Scheible, Jay Beard, David Baker and Jake Elr od. I would also like to thank Jose Carlos for filming my final performance. Finally, I would like to thank Emily Adams, Zoe Rayor and Molly Swift, for their invaluable practical a nd moral support during this past year.
!!! TABLE OF CONTENTS Acknowledgments...ii Table of Contentsiii Abstract...iv Part I: Composition Process.1 Part II: Configurable Culture.41 Part III: My Compositions Relati onship to Configurable Culture.61 Works Cited...68 Score..69
!" BEYOND THE MASH-UP: A COMPOSITION INSPIRED BY CONFIGURABLE CULTURE Caegan Quimby New College of Florida, 2012 ABSTRACT My Thesis resulted in an original musi c composition and an accompanying paper. My composition utilized three native New College ensembles (The NEW Ensemble, The New Cats and Physical Plant) and had four s ections. The first three sections were small separate pieces that I composed specifically for each ensemble and the final section was a "Mash-up" of the first three pi eces; all the ensembles played together, utilizing the same musical material from their initial pieces to from a new piece that co mbined all the initial pieces together. The majority of my paper details my en tire compositional process from start to finish, starting with recruiting ensembles, a nd ending with the final performance. In the second half of the paper, I attempt to give some context for how my composition relates to the recent practices of configurable culture. I hope this final section will give some
" idea of how my composition is relevant to some of the most important philosophical issues that our western musical cult ure is currently gr appling with. Dr. Stephen Miles Division of Humanities
! PART I: COMPOSITION PROCESS Introduction I did not come up with a complete concep tion for my entire senior project right away. Instead, I initially pursu ed certain broad aesthetic goals, which crystalized over time. I am very satisfied with the final results of my project, and I be lieve, that in its own small way, my composition contributes somethi ng original, particularly to the evolution of the recent social phenomenon known as "conf igurable culture". In this paper, I primarily discuss my composition process, de tailing the different obstacles I encountered and explaining how I navigated around them su ccessfully. In the final section of this paper, I attempt to give a little context for how my composition relates to the overall evolution of music, focusing in particular on how it relates to the recent practices of configurable culture (an umbr ella term, which includes mash-ups and all the related pastiche-aesthetic social phenomenon that ha ve only recently been made possible by the ubiquity of the internet and the extremely advanced media production tools now available to anyone with a personal computer). Ad am Sinnreich's book, "Mashed-Up: Music, Technology and the Rise of Configurable Cu lture" gives a very el egant and insightful explanation of how configur able culture is beginning to challenge some of the fundamental assumptions that have been engr ained into our western musical culture for centuries. Sinnreich explains how configurable culture is beginning to undermine five binary relationships that form the basis of many of our assumptions about modern musical praxis. I briefly explain Sinnreich's argument for how conf igurable culture is beginning to bring these binaries into ques tion, and then I look at how my composition relates to each one of thes e five binaries, noting how my composition is similar and
" dissimilar to digital mash-ups (composed from "stolen" samples) in its relationship to these five binaries. In the following section, I start by explaini ng my initial aesthetic goals, and then give a brief overview of how my composition eventually evolved to accommodate all of these goals. Following that, the majority of my paper details my entire compositional process from start to finish, starting with recruiting ensembles, and ending with the final performance. I hope that this journal of my composition pr ocess will not only shed light on what I personally have accomplished this year, but will also be helpful as a resource for someone else attempting to create a composition similar to this one in the future. I have attempted to chronicle my process in a frank and honest manner, noting in particular my "mistakes," in the hopes that another com poser might be able to learn something from them in the future. I hope my final section wi ll give some idea of how my composition is relevant to some of the most important phi losophical issues that our western musical culture is currently grappling with. My Initial Goals I had certain broad aesthetic goals for my composition far before I had a firm conception of what I was doing specifically. I knew I wanted this to be a larger composition than anything I had written be fore, and I wanted to utilize as many musicians as I possibly could. I also knew that I wanted my composition to have influences from disperate genres of music th at were not regularly combined together. Finally, I wanted my composition to be releva nt to important issues that our musical culture is current ly dealing with.
# Forming my final ensemble by combin ing three already existent musical ensembles together allowed my composition plen ty of room to be large, and it naturally helped me to differentiate different genre influences in my final composition by forcing me to write material well suited to thes e ensembles unique indivi dual styles. Finally, by modeling my composition process so closely on the mash-up, I have directly associated my composition with configurable culture, making it very relevant to many important current issues of our curr ent western music culture. Recruiting Ensembles The first step in creating my compositi on was recruiting ensembles. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to utilize native New College ense mbles as much as possible, both because I had no way of paying for professional musicians and because I preferred the aesthetic of utilizing exclusively the talent of my peers (of which there is plenty). I asked most of the New College ensembles I wa s aware of if they were interested in participating in my project, and most responde d favorably. However, I soon realized that I was going to need to limit the scope of my pr oject in order to make it achievable, and so I decided to limit my project to three en sembles. I chose The New Cats, The NEW Ensemble, and Physical Plant, both because th ey are all talented and regularly practicing ensembles, and because they spanned a diverse range of genres and I knew their drastically different instrument ations would force me to write different types of music to accommodate for each ensemble.
$ Beginning the Process From the outset, I knew that I wanted the ensembles to go in and out of complete sync with each other throughout my final com position. In other words, I wanted sections that seemed as though each group was playing separate, almost unrel ated parts, and I wanted other sections where all the ense mbles came together in a harmonious and synergistic whole. Although I had always pl anned on writing the parts for each ensemble separately to some degree, in the begi nning I envisioned all th e players in these ensembles coming together to form one larg e ensemble. This would require that they shed their normal roles in their original groups in order to do what ever would best serve the musical composition as a whole. It was under this pretense that I first began to strategize methods to write a successful composition. Reverse Explosion Method Professor Miles's helpful suggestions led me to my first strategy for composing which was to envision my compos ition as a "reverse explosion". In other words, I wanted the end of the composition to be a complete ly-in-sync and harmonious combination of everyone, and I wanted the beginning to be small fragments of the final combination, scattered and seemingly unrelated with each other. As the composition progressed from start to finish, the seemingly disconnected parts would gradually become more in sync with each other until they finally became comp letely aligned in a satisfying synergistic conclusion. Thus, if you were to run this propos ed composition in reverse, and perceive it as a visual metaphor, it would be an expl osion of a sturdy, well organized musical structure into and bunch of s cattered fragments, no longer connected to each other.
% Therefore, when the composition was played forward, the applicab le visual metaphor would be a "reverse explosion" (which is subtly and importantly different than an implosion). I realized that the easiest way to go about writing a piece of this nature would be to first compose the grand conclusion, w ith all the ensembles playing together, and then tease apart small chunks of the finale and string them together to create the less dense first half of the piece. With this metaphor as an ini tial guide both structurally and aesthetically, I made my first attempt at composing. My Personal Limitations Initially sitting down for the first time to compose music for my thesis, it immediately became obvious that my creativ e process was going to be inhibited by the same personal limitations that it always has. One of these limitations is the difficulty I have fully developing a musical idea that I do not like on a personal aesthetic level from its first conception. When I am fully inspired and entertained by a musical idea from the beginning, expanding and developing it into a full composition is a rewarding process that comes naturally to me. However, when I am disenchanted with the initial material I am working with, the compos ition process soon becomes infinitely more difficult and less enjoyable. Therefore, I real ized that if I did not really enjoy the musical element of my piece from the beginning, I was never going to be able to concentrate on them long enough to create a thesis composition that I was proud of. All of my most successful composition have started with distinctive, original thematic ideas that were musically enjoyable from their first conception and reached my standards of "creativity".
& Being Creative To create something that I deem "creative" I need to think creatively. There is no sure recipe for creativity. I have always felt that I am a creative person and I have been extremely blessed in that my creative activit ies have been supported and encouraged by me peers and elders throughout my whole life. However, if ther e is one thing that I have learned conclusively about the creative process in all my years of creating art, it is that there is no one sure way to be creative. Although I have t hought about it a great deal, and I have spells of cr eativity on a semi-regular basis that I have often retrospectively attempted to analyze, I have never been able to pin point what it is ex actly that lets me be creative and have that "magical moment" of inspiration where I am able to create something that is a little more unique, comp elling and musically synergistic than usual, something that achieves more than the sum of its parts and is not onl y artfully crafted, but which also has a distinctive musical "substance" to it. How I reach that moment where I create something a little mo re "new" than I normally would is something that I have never been able to determine conclusively. It has always been impossible for me to force myself to be creative on the spot and my most inspired moments have always come to me unexpectedly. I do not believe I will ever really be able to change this, and I know from much experience that it is futile and frustrating for me to even try. If I attemp t to be "creative" when I am not "inspired," it can lead to many wasted hours with not hing but un-compelling, unoriginal musical ideas to show for it. However, when the condi tions are right and my mind is working at full artistic capacity, it can sometimes take only a moment to c onceive of something beautiful and compelling without even having to think about it that hard. I have long ago
' decided to not fight my natural creative cycle, but instead to be grateful for its existence and constantly be on the lookout for my most cr eative moments in order to utilize them to their fullest. I knew that to get this thes is project off the ground I was going to need to be more deliberately in charge of my valuable crea tive moments than ever before. I knew that I could not summon my creative spells on command, but I needed to control what I was doing during my precious creative time. I need ed to work on my thesis during these creative spells and not do what I had typically done with them in the past: whatever I wanted to do, resulting mostly in rock songs. Trying to Compose Initial small bouts of avoidance behavior aside (which, it should be noted, resulted in very fruitful, although un-thesis-rel ated musical compositions), I was soon remembering to think about my thesis dur ing the moments when I felt inspired to compose. During my very first round of crea tive sessions (in the fall), I came up with several musical ideas that I thought were pretty good and crea tive. However, as I came back to these ideas and trie d to re-work and expand on them, I soon realized that my personal standards for this composition were going to be much higher than anything I had written before. I felt this way because this composition was my "THESIS" which I felt was supposed to show that I have greatly im proved as a composer while at New College, and because I felt that it had to be three times bigger and better than anything I had ever come up with before in order to do justic e to the three ensembles that were coming together to perform it. Although some of th e musical ideas I was working with might
( have passed my quality standards for one of my rock songs or one of my small school composition projects, none of them seemed qu ite complex or inspired enough to serve as the central idea of my entire thesis composition. As I thought about it more, I realized that making my composition three times grande r than anything I had ever written was not just a self-imposed quality standard, but it wa s also basically a necessity of the "reverse explosion" composition metaphor that I was atte mpting to use as a model. In order for the fragments of the explosion (which would a ppear at the beginning) to each sound unique, the final, unexploded ending (that I was supposed to be coming up with first) would have to be complex enough to contain three very dis tinct creative musical id eas. This seemed a very daunting task, and at th is point I began to feel in creasingly intimidated by my project and I was unsure of how I was going to successfully write a quality composition of this magnitude. Mash-ups A break through moment came in the form of a re-envisioning of my composition process. My inspiration for this change came from listening to mash-ups, which soon evolved to become the main influence for my composition process and this paper. I have been aware of the existence of mash-ups for many years but did not fully appreciate them until recently. I was introduced to some mash-ups in high-school that I thought were pretty entertaining, but I never re ally gave them that much credit on an artistic level and never got into listening to them on a regular basis. This was partly because mash-ups used exclusively "stolen" ma terial as their basis, and this initially made me perceive them as somehow less "auth entic" than a completely "original" song. I
) thought mash-ups were an interesting con cept and I approved of them as a cultural phenomenon that empowers individuals to re -appropriate corporat e pop music for their own creative purposes, but I did no t expect mash-ups to ever be able to inspire me to the same extent as a completely "original" composition could. This personal assumption was severe ly brought into question when I was introduced to two new mash-ups that I liked better than any other mash-ups I had ever heard before and which both became two of my favorite, most-often-listened-to songs of the semester. The first of these mash-ups was a combination of the indie rock band Grizzly Bear's song "Two weeks" and the hip-hop song "It's Bigger Than Hip-Hop" by the rap group Dead Prez created by internet mash-up stars The Hood Internet and entitled "Two Weeks of Hip-Hop. The other one was a combination of the Radiohead song "15 Step" and the jazz standard "Take Five" by Dave Brubeck which was mash-up by on artist named Overdub and title "Five Step". These two mash-ups were both simple A vs B mash-ups, but they both fit their two songs together in such a surprising and yet completely musically coherent and synergistic way, that they bot h achieved a strikingly unique creative aura that was not present in the derivative songs that they each sampled. My obsession with these tracks got me thinking hard about the aesthetic po tential of mash-ups and it caused me for several weeks to be obsessed w ith searching the internet for new mash-ups that might be as good as my two favorites. Although I didn' t find any that I liked better, through my search process I was introduced to the mashup in a much more complete way than ever before, and I began to get a better idea of the full scope and variety of the mash-up phenomenon.
!* The easiest way to sum up most of the ma sh-ups on the internet is simply: bad. This is because there is absolutely no limita tions on who can create a mash-up (other than having to own a computer) and all of the most amateur musicians are free to populate the internet with as many hack-job mash-ups as they see fit. However, among the vast amount of bad material there are many in credible mash-ups that are undeniably artistically inspired and achieve something more than the sum of their parts. I found many mash-ups that I thought we re extremely creative and th ey made me realize that there was more creative potential in the con cept of the mash-up than I had previously thought. Adopting Mash-Up Structure My newly increased appreciation of mashups led me to decide that instead of envisioning my composition as a "reverse explosion" I would structure it just like a mash-up. That is, I would first fully compose three separate pieces fo r each participating ensemble, and then I would disassemble thos e compositions and with the pieces create a final "mash-up" with all the ensembles playi ng together. I felt that this new framework would help me make each ensemble's part soun d more distinct, and it would also help me actually get started on composing. However, this new mash-up structure provided one new, very difficult challenge: I had to make su re that the three pieces I composed, despite their uniqueness, where all capable of ultim ately combining together harmoniously. I realized that I wasn't going to magically stumble into composing three original pieces that just so happened to also fit together pe rfectly without having some sort of system or method to ensure some level of compatibility between the three pieces I was writing. I
!! needed a way of letting each piec e evolve separately and yet al so be confident that a final mash-up of all the pieces was possible. Rhythmic Compatibility Obviously, the two most important elemen ts in making two different pieces of music compatible with each other are rhythm and harmony. However, observing the mash-up at large, exact rhythmic similarity is often of slightly more importance than exact harmonic similarity. Clearly, a ma sh-up will not sound good if its parts are extremely dissonant with each othe r, but pieces with tonalities that are not exactly similar can often be combined to create an intere sting new tonality. On the other hand, it is extremely difficult to mash-up two tracks with no rhythmic similarity (i.e. completely different rhythms and completely different time signatures). With the use of modern music software, the tempo and pitch of tw o tracks can easily be changed with a few clicks to be compatible with each other, but it is no quick and easy task to mash-up a slow waltz in 3/4, a fast punk s ong in 4/4 and a jazzy song in 5/4 in a coherent manner. Most mash-ups are rhythmically coherent in the simplest way; they are created from two tracks in 4/4 time with simple dance/rock backbeats. The simplest, most prototypical form of the mash-up is a co mbination of a sampled pop song with an a cappella rap vocal. This kind of mash-up esch ews any particularly difficult hurdles in creating a mash-up. The non-melodic rap vocal can easily fit with a song in any key and the sampled pop songs tempo can eas ily be adjusted to fit the rap lyrics so that the mashup seamlessly fits together w ithout much trouble. There are, of course, also many mashups that are more adventurous and combine more than two songs, or combine songs
!" which have more complex harmonic structures and require creative problem solving to be mashed-up in an aesthetically pleasing way together. For example, the virtually undisputed ki ng of mash-ups, Girl Talk, uses many different samples in each one of his mashups drawing from a diverse range of sources. Still, even Girl-Talks's mash-ups and other similarly complex mash-ups are still, for the most part, based around combining songs in 4/4 time. It is easy to create a lot of material only using this combinatorial method because the large majority of popular songs are in 4/4, so there is a lot of material to pick from Only rarely do mash-ups include material in strange time signatures, and this is understand able given the added complexity of creating this kind of mash-up and the lack of material to work with (particu larly in the pop idiom). One of the reasons that the "Five Step" mash-up was so enjoyable to me was that it seamlessly combined two songs in the unconve ntional time signature of 5/4. This mashup made me yearn to hear more mash-ups that utilized unequal time signatures, but there are not many more examples of mash-ups th at use complex time signatures to be found on the internet as of yet. I could envision many time signature combinations that were theoretically possible, but which I had never heard in a mash-up before. Still, I was aware that I couldn't get too fancy. If there was no easily recognizable universal b eat, an ensemble of the scale I was composing for would never be able to make it through the entire piece and stay together. I knew that for a live performance to work, there had to at least be some recognizable, recurring "down beat" on wh ich everyone could agree, no matter how divergent the individual parts were. But I also wanted to test the limits of what was
!# rhythmically compatible, and experiment with different overlaid ti me signatures that I hadn't heard before in mash-ups. Time Signature Chart I began experimenting with this idea by creating a char t of all the most easily compatible time signatures; the ones that had downbeats that w ould line up on a regular basis. For example, the down beat of a piece in 3/4 lines up with the down beat of a piece in 4/4 every 12 beats, the downbeat of a piece in 4/4 lines up with a piece in 5/4 every 20 beats, etc. My chart mapped out all the possi ble time signature combinations that had regularly repeating downbeat convergences, and it also included some combinations that used compound time signatures. I began to c onsult my chart on a regular basis, and become familiar with the available options. Initially, I searched in vain for three di fferent time signatures that would all work together simultaneously. The three distinct ti me signatures that converge on a universal downbeat the most regularly are a combin ation of 2/4, 3/4 and 5/4, but all their downbeats only line up every 30 beats, which is a very strange number around which to organize an entire piece of music. I found several combinations of two different time signatures that seemed very compatible, but I soon realized that if I wanted all three pieces to have a unique rhythmic feel, I was going to have to get creative (and perhaps have multiple time signatures in each separate piece), since no simple combination of three time signatures yielded a structure that I liked enough to use as the basis for my whole composition.
!$ I consulted the chart regularly whenever I attempted to start writing my piece. I began to find a few different combinations of two different time signatures that I felt could be particularly fruitful and which coul d potentially lead to tw o very unique and yet compatible pieces. However, the fact that I knew that I needed to compose for not just two, but three ensembles, help me back from committing to any particular combination of two time signatures, because in every case I l ooked at, I was not sure how a third piece could be incorporated. I feared that I could potentially put a great deal of effort into composing two pieces only two to find that adding a third piece was impossible and all my work was in vain. This psychological process kept my composition process in limbo for a while; I was having a problem committing to anything I came up with. Actually Starting to Compose Soon I realized that the clock was tick ing and I was going to need to come up with at least my initial three (pre-mash-up) composition before too long, as I needed get the ensembles practicing my pieces so that they would be good at them in time for the performance in the spring. Although I was co ming up with different ideas for how my pieces could potentially be stru ctured on a regular basis, I knew that I was going to have to commit to just one definitive structure a nd actually start executing it soon or I would never finish in time to have parts ready fo r all the ensembles far enough ahead of time. But as hard as I tried, I still could not seem to conceive of an overall structure that could incorporate three unique pieces that satisfied me.
!% Fully Committing to the Mash-up Aesthetic I came to a point where I realized that I needed to start composing actual music even though I did not yet have a fully con ceived grand plan. I r ealized I was going to have to start getting my hands dirty and start working with definitive musical material in faith that I would somehow be able to ev entually weave the compositions together despite not knowing how they would all fit together from the beginning. As I began to actually commit to doing this, I re alized that this was the only way that I was going to get started composing right away, a nd therefore the only way that this was going to get done in time. I realized that I had still been partly holding on to the "reverse explosion" method (even though I was no longer intentionall y using it as a model), and that it was only now that I was truly committing to starti ng the composition process before the final mash-up structure was conceived that I was fully embracing the mash-up aesthetic as my compositional model. I made the leap of faith and began to try my hardest to commit to definitive material. Although the composition was now theo retically broken up into three much less daunting sections, my usual level of musical perfectionism still held for each piece. Putting my worries aside about how the fina l mash-up would resolve itself, I began focusing on creating three pieces that were uniqu e, enjoyable and true to each ensembles unique musical spirit as well as my own personal composition style.
!& Getting Inspired I listened to some of the music that was most characteristic of the ensembles I was working with in order to get some inspirati on for my pieces but I specifically did not to want consciously model my pieces off of any other particular pieces. I also knew that "listening to music to inspire me to write my thesis" could easily turn into an excuse for not getting anything done and list ening to music all day, and so I kept my "inspirational listening sessions" to a minimum. I also realized that even if I really wanted to write a piece in the exact style of another composer I would have a hard time doing so, seeing as I am only really comfortable composing in my own personal style. I knew I couldn't just magically re-create anything I pleased from th e totality of music and I needed to draw from the musical paradigms that I had had th e most experience with as a musician and composer already. Fortunately, the three ensembles I was working with could each easily be correlated with my various past musical expe riences. The New Cats primarily play jazz standards. Jazz is a very familiar genre to me, having played lots of it with my father and my school jazz band growing up. Although I ha d never fully written out a jazz song before, jazz is a comfortable idiom for me, and many of the song fragments I regularly compose (particularly on the piano) are more jazz heads than anything else. Physical Plant primarily plays psychedelic rock mu sic. Being a founding member, contributing songwriter and the producer of P hysical Plant, it was obviously the ensemble I felt most comfortable composing for and the ensemble th at was clearly best suited to accommodate the genre of music I am most experienced at writing: rock music. The NEW Ensemble is modeled to some extent on a classical ch amber ensemble (no drums), but is also
!' extremely open to modern influences and appreciates complex and/or experimental music. Music fitting for this sort of ensemble was in keeping with the compositions I had composed (for academic credit) while at new college. These compositions have usually been more musically complicated than my ro ck songs, with less us e of diatonic scales, some actual regard for music theory (occasionally), more emphasis on experimentation, and less emphasis on having a catchy pop hook" (although some amount of catchiness usually sneaks its way into all of my compositions, no matter what I do). Drawing respectively from these three different elem ents of my musical experience as the influence for my pieces, I finally began to actually compose. Starting the New Cats Piece The first musical idea that I thoroughly committed to was the "head" of the New Cats's piece. I knew I wanted this piece to "s wing", seeing as this would give the piece a jazzy feel and would differenti ate it rhythmically from th e other pieces. I made a few attempts at writing a jazz song in a mo re unconventional time signature (hoping to perhaps write the next "Take Five"), but th is did not yield any fruitful results. Ultimately, I ended up being perfectly satisfied with fact that the New Cat's piece ended up being in regular 4/4 time. This was partly b ecause I realized that I needed to make the New Cats piece relatively simple compared to the other ensembles, as they were the largest ensemble with the lo west average technical ability among its players, and they were not particularly used to playing unconventional music. In a moment of inspiration, I came up with a catchy musical line that I immediately could imagine being played by th e New Cats horns sec tion. This line got
!( stuck in my head, which is usually is a su re sign of a musical idea being a good starting point for one of my compositions. I liked this line because it had a "swing" feel, was very catchy, and it seemed overall very fitting for the New Cats style. I decided to commit to this idea as the starting point of my piece. I began by notating this line as the alto sax part, and harmonically supported it with jazzy, consonant chords, played by the lower brass and woodwind instruments. This resulted in a jazz head that seemed a suitable beginning for my piece. After experimenting with this opening phrase for a while, it soon led me to come up with a second section that flowed in a harmonically conventional and yet pleasing way from the opening line. This second section oscillated between two major chords for a few bars, and then had a jazzy ascension of chords that concluded in an abrupt but satisfying conclusion. I then discovered th at it sounded good to return back to the first section after this second section, but this time with the whole ensemble transposed up a 5 th from where it was in the beginning. This lead me to c opy these first two sections of my piece and immediately repeat them both again, but th e second time both transposed up a fifth. The beginning of a coherent structure for my jazz piece was starting to emerge but I did not develop it any further until I had begun the ot her pieces as well. Th is was intentional, because although I liked the beginning of my jazz piece, I also had absolutely no idea how it would fit with anything else yet, so I knew that there was always the potential that I would have to throw it out. I did not want to get too far along on any one composition before I had explored them all a little.
!) Starting The NEW Ensemble Piece I attempted to write the NEW Ensemble piece next. I knew I wanted the NEW Ensemble's piece to be the most unconventional and have the strangest elements in it of all the pieces. Composing jazz and rock comes somewhat naturally and intuitively to me, but I wanted to compose something for the NEW Ensemble that pushed me out of my comfort zone and was compositionally more complicated, and employed a different harmonic range than my usual style. The othe r two ensembles were id eal vehicles for my typical bluesy style, but the New Ensemble offered a chance to break out of this idiom and add something of a completely different character to my mash-up composition. I definitely did not want the New Ensemble pi ece to be in 4/4 time. I experimented with composing waltz rhythms and I also gave seve ral concerted attempts at writing something I liked in 5/4 or 7/4. I consulted my time si gnature chart again and expanded it to include more experiments using compound signatures, searching for an interesting rhythmic structure that would mu sically satisfy me. I came up with one interesting musical idea that was based on a combination of four measures of 5/4 followed by four measur es of 6/4. This was th e first musical idea I had come up for the New Ensemble that s eemed particularly promising to me, and I wrote it down. But as I came back to it severa l more times, I enjoyed it less and less, and I did not seem to be capable of developing it any further toward a full-fledged musical structure. However, while improvising on this musical idea on the piano in my spare time, I came across a bastardization of this orig inal idea that I liked much better. In this new altered version, instead of transitioning between four bars of each time signature, it transitioned between 5/4 and 6/ 4 every other measure, giving the phrase a totally different
"* (and much more interesting) rhythmic and me lodic quality. I soon exci tedly realized that what I had just done was compose something in the time signature 11/8 (5/8 + 6/8 = 11/8). Not only was this phrase in 11/8, but it was also surprisingly catchy and extremely playable given its strange time signature. This phrase really exited me because I was barely familiar with anything else written in 11/8 in any genre of music, and I definitely had never heard anything in 11/8 that was as musically satisfying and un-convoluted as the phrase I had just written. I knew that desp ite the challenges that it would create for my final mash-up, I wanted to base my Ne w Ensemble piece around this phrase in 11/8 because I thought it was one of the best mu sical ideas I had every come up with. I learned this phrase on the piano and the gui tar, and I experimented with it on my instruments initially before writing any of it down. I soon was inspired to develop a second section in 6/8 that nicely flowed out of and into the initial 11/8 phrase. With these two sections evolving nicely, I wa s confident that this was the right musical direction for my New Ensemble composition. No Compatibility Yet However, looking back at the two pieces I ha d started thus far I realized that there were virtually no similarities between them and I literally could not conceive of a single plausible way to mash them up together. Although I liked both pieces, their incompatibility with each othe r made me wary to extend them too far, because if my pieces couldn't eventually fit together, I would not be able to compose the final mash-up. At this point, I had a moment of panic, b ecause I did not know what to do next. I was not sure whether I should choose one of my pieces and abandon the other one, or whether I
"! should continue on and compose a Physical Plant piece first, even though I did not yet know anything about the final mash-up structur e. I began to envision a lot of ways in which this could all go terribly wrong and I c ould lead myself into an ugly musical hole with no elegant way out. Beginning the Physical Plant Piece The most inspired, pivotal and fortun ate moment in my composition process occurred when I came up with the main riff that would become the intro/verse of my Physical Plant composition. I came up with th is riff while jamming on the guitar, and I immediately recognized its potential to be a Physical Plant song although it did not occur to me immediately that it was the piece I should use for my thesis composition. However, a few days later, while playing the riff again, I made the shocking discovery that the intro line of the New Cats composition could be played over the riff I had just written on guitar. The New Cat's line fit with the new ri ff in a slightly strange way, but they were unequivocally rhythmically and harmonically co mpatible with each other. I immediately decided this new riff should be the ba sis for my Physical Plant piece. This was a huge breakthrough moment for me because I finally had my first two compatible parts. But I knew that I couldn't ju st let the Physical Plant piece proceed in any old direction, because ju st one compatible section was not going to be enough to make a whole mash-up work and I had not yet found a single thing that worked in conjunction with my 11/8 NEW Ensemble composition. The only way I could see a potential solution for combining all the material I had so far was by having the rest of the Physical Plant song be explicitly compatib le with the NEW Ensembles composition. To
"" do this, I knew I needed the next parts of the Physical Plant song to be either in 6/8 or 11/8 even though it was in 4/4 time so far. W ith this in mind, I tried to continue writing the Physical Plant song in the hopes that I coul d use it to tie together my other two pieces. However, at first, nothing in 6/8 or 11/8 s eemed capable of connecting with the beginning of my Physical Plant piece. In a moment of undirected fooling ar ound on the guitar, I augmented another Physical Plant song that I was working on by chopping off the last beat of its recurring phrase so that it repeated itself every 11 beat s instead of every 12 beats. This yielded an interesting result, and as I played around with it more, I changed several of the notes, giving it a unique feel of its own, and estab lished it very clearly as being in 11/8 time. Realizing I had just composed something else in 11/8, I was immediat ely curious to test its compatibility with the NEW Ensembles pa rt in 11/8. To my great delight, after my new 11/8 riff had been transposed to the same key as the NEW Ensemble, I found that they were capable of playing together simulta neously in a very interesting and pleasing way. When played together accurately, they came together extremely satisfyingly on each down beat, and I was actually very aesth etically found of the rhythmic oddity of their relationship. When I realized that this new part in 11/8 could wo rk as the bridge to my Physical Plant song, I was extremely relie ved and excited. With my Physical Plant song now bridging the gap between my two othe r pieces, I had hit a pivotal point where I was now beginning to be more confident that my mash-up idea was ac tually plausible and I was beginning to get a pict ure of how these three pieces might be combined together synergistically.
"# I continued developing my Physical Pl ant piece and I composed several other little sections in 4/4 that flow ed nicely from the two main pa rts I had so far. I also came up with a section in 6/8 that worked perfec tly coming out of the bridge in 11/8, and I thought at first that perhaps th is section could be compatible with the 6/8 section in the NEW Ensemble's piece. But this new 6/8 sect ion of the Physical Plant piece had a very particular (faintly eastern) tonality that cl ashed heavily with the tonality of the New Ensembles 6/8 section, and there did not seem to be any straightforward way of making them at all compatible other than rhythmicall y. However, I liked this section so much that I decided to keep it in the song anyway. Finishing The New Cats Piece At this point it was getting close to the d eadline for me to have finished music ready for the New Casts and The NEW Ensemble to start practicing. I needed to write out definitive structures for these two ensembles initial pieces soon, even though there was only one mash-up compatible section that existe d in each piece so far. I decided that it was acceptable to add a few part s to the NEW Ensemble and The New Cats that had no apparent similarities to the other pieces and were not obviously mash-up compatible. It would be ok I thought, if not idea l, if I had to throw out some of these parts in the final mash-up. Discarding sections of a song is very common practice among electronic mashup artists after all. Also, I thought that perhaps these seemi ngly unrelated sections would be able to be creatively mash ed-up afterward in a more av ant-garde style, providing the "less in sync" sections of my piece that I had aesthetically desired from its first conception. Setting aside my worries about the final mash-up completely for little while,
"$ I worked on developing the ideas I had so fa r the New Ensemble and New Cats into fullfledged compositions that could stand by themselves. I finished the New Cats piece first. I ke pt the main idea that I had developed so far as the central part of my pieces: the ini tial riff, followed by the chorus which ends in an assentation of chords (to use typical pop terminology, which is more easily applicable to my structure than typical jazz termi nology), followed by both of these sections repeated verbatim but transposed up a fifth. Af ter these sections, it seemed an appropriate place to have a bridge, and seeing as the song wa s rather conventional so far, I wanted the bridge to be a little weirder soundi ng than the rest of the piece. My first idea was to have the horns pl aying odd tonal clusters while the drums took an explicitly free spirited solo. As I experimented with this idea I realized that I would need one of the parts to help everyone keep time, especially if the drums were going to be doing particularly strange things To accommodate for this, I wrote a bass line that pounded out quarter not es, mostly on the same pitch, but ascending at the end of four measure groups, and then falling down to a new note for the next four measures. At first, I did not think much of this bass line other than that its pur pose was to secure the beat. However, after I listened to it several times, I became very fond of the simple chord progression that it outlined and I began to hear horn lines that were tonally related to the bass line (and that did not utilize the explicitly "difficult" harmonies I was first envisioning for the horns in this section). I decided to let my inspiration lead the way, and experimented with some consonant horn lines. After some experimentation, I came up with a horn line that was harmonically cons onant with the bass, but which was also rhythmically aligned in a somewhat idiosyncra tic, and yet pleasing way. It seemed almost
"% as if the horn line came in a little too late or something, but it resolv ed in a satisfying way that made the line ultimately sound very purpos eful. I wrote the other horns in sync with this initial line, utilizing consonant but not-painfully-obv ious harmonies. After I heard this a couple times, I came up with a piano line that fit very harmonically with the bass, but which related to the pulsing quarter rhythm in a completely different way than the horns. This gave the entire section an off-kilte r feel despite the fact that it was thoroughly rhythmically grounded the whole time with th e simple quarter note bass rhythm. With bass, piano and horns composed, this new br idge section now had a fully-fledged form that achieved the level of "unconventionally" th at I was looking for. I eventually decide to drop the idea of the drums taking a solo during this section b ecause I decided the bridge was weird enough as it was with a consistent drum beat behind it. However, this being the only jazz ensemble I was writing for, I definitely wanted to let the band take some solos (at least in th e initial jazz piece, if not in the final mashup), so I wrote a section after the bridge th at was very conducive to bluesy soloing. I based this section around moving the opening horn riff into the bass and giving the horns a strong, simple line that accentu ated a very simple chord progr ession (E, A, D, E, D, A), which was also supported by the guitar and keys I indicated that I wanted the piano to take the first solo, followed by the horns (in whatever order the band pleased) and ending with the guitar solo (with the band in full swing underneath ). The solo section neatly lead back into a reprise of the beginning section which seemed like a fitting place to conclude the piece, seeing as it was now over three minutes long and my initial intention was to make each initial piece the length of a pop s ong. One last finishing touch came when I wrote a more interesting line for the piano to accompany the end of the chorus section.
"& While all the other instrument s were playing straight half -note or quarter-note rhythms during this part, I composed the piano part in triplets, making it stick out as the most distinctive element of the section. Then, I found that if I took this triplet piano part by itself and transposed it down a few steps, it made a distinctive intro to the piece. The structure of the New Cats piece complete, I filled out the last few sections with intuitively fitting accompaniment, and I created finished indi vidual parts for the New Cat players. I gave these parts to the Ne w Cats, and I gave them a short speech that provided a picture of how their piece would even tually be used in my overall project, but I left them mainly on their own to practice th e piece. The one thing I did to help them out was send them the midi recording of the pi ece (that I could easily get from my notation software), so that they could get a feel fo r how their parts were supposed to sound. I sent a separate audio file to the New Cats bassist with the bass part turned way up because he told me he preferred learning things entire ly by ear (which is something I can totally relate to). Finishing the NEW Ensemble Piece I used the parts in 11/8 and 6/8 that I had come up with so far as the main elements of the NEW Ensemble Piece. I really liked the way that these two parts flowed back and forth from each other, and so I star ted the piece with four bars of 11/8 followed by 8 bars of 6/8, and then I repeated these tw o sections. I notated the main melodic line in the piano, and I filled out the rest of the instruments either by having them harmonize directly with the piano melody, or by having th em playing straight, simple rhythms that accentuated the chord progression.
"' I differentiated between the two parts in th e 6/8; in the first iteration the piano played eighth notes and the horns and viola played doted quarter notes, but in the second iteration these instruments were given twice as many notes, so that the piano now played sixteenth notes and the horns and viola played eighth notes. I also changed the bass to move twice as slow in the s econd section (from eighth notes to quarter notes), and these changes gave the two parts different feels even though their chords were exactly the same. To differentiate the two sections in 11/8, I simply thinned out the instrumentation in the first one, so that it came in with just the piano and rest of the instruments came in over the next few measures. I already had two sections in 11/8, but they were each very short (four measures), and the 11/8 melody was the most inspired pa rt of the piece I t hought, so I decided to have a longer section of the 11/8 part afte r the second 6/8 part. The 11/8 melody had a natural forward momentum to it and I wanted to let it build a little longer in this next section, and allow it to come to a dynamic clima x. I wanted this next part to have a thick texture that was forceful and re petitive but that also seemed frenetic to the point of near self-destruction, as if it were an old rickety cargo train, f illed to the brim with cargo and careening down the tracks at such a dangerously fast speed that it looked as the if it were about to completely fall apart at any moment. In this section I re peated the main 11/8 melody (initially played by the piano) in the ba ss, viola, and clarinet part for the entirety of the section (which ended up being 12 bars). I had the pian o repeat the same chords on straight eighth notes throughout all 12 bars. These chords did not reinforce the 5+6 rhythmic feel that the rest of the New Ensemble accentuated. Instead, the piano part accentuated a 4+3+4 dissection of 11/8, similar to the feel of the Physical Plant piece's
"( bridge in 11/8. Finally, I compos ed a sax line that gave this section the sense of frantic urgency that I was looking for. This lin e began with an eighth note followed by 18 sixteenth notes that oscillated between two adjacent pitches (a minor second apart) for one measure, and then moved up a step for th e next measure and oscillated between two new notes. The oscillation was not evenly ba lanced between the two notes; excluding the very beginning and end, there were two notes played on the upper pitch in-between every one note played on the lower pitch. Therefor e, seven notes were played on the lower pitch and 12 notes on the higher pitch in each measure. At this point all the parts were basically the same thing repeated every measure, except for the sax part, which moved up a step each measure. Although the compositional method for creating this section was rather minimalistic, the sonic results were very maximal and the section seemed worthy of going on for 12 measures. I added dynamics that indicated a gradual increas e of volume from the beginning to the e nd of this section. Despite its relatively static, repetitive parts, this section had achieved the sonic qualities I was looking for when I invoked the "full-sp eed-cargo-train" musical metaphor. The steady eighth note piano chords were the chuggi ng of the train coming down the tracks. The melody in the bass, clarinet and viola was the cargo that packed the train nearly to the point of overflowing. The sax line illustrated the ricketiness of the train (with it's off kilter rhythm) and also the great speed the tr ain was traveling at (w ith the fast sixteenth notes). I concluded this section by abruptly cutting to total silence (train wreck?). Then, I had the whole ensemble rest for six beats befo re coming back to a sl ightly altered version of the original 11/8 section one more time. I concluded the piece by abruptly ending half
") way through the last reiterat ion of the main 11/8 melody. I wanting to avoid ending in a trite, predictable way and this ga ve my piece a suitably jarring ending, Although I now had a nearly complete song stru cture, I felt that there needed to be one more section in the New Ensembles piece. Although the odd 11/8 time signature already imbued my piece with a small level of "experimentalism," the piece had ultimately gone in a relatively catchy directi on and I felt that I needed to add something that was more deliberately strange soundi ng, seeing as I wanted some experimental sounding elements in the final composition, and the New Ensemble was the best suited ensemble to bring those elements into the final mash-up. This was my recipe for strangeness: I crea ted nine bars in 9/8 time, had different instruments play three different equal subdi visions of the beat (1:3:9 ratio), and I generated all the pitc hes using quasi-random procedures The clarinet, viola and sax played long notes that each lasted for one of the nine beat measures. The bass played three notes for each of these long notes; dot ted quarter notes. The piano played three notes (in both hands) for every one of the ba ss notes: eighth notes. I initially started trying to randomize all the pitches by ra ndomly moving things around by hand with no regard to anything, but I soon r ealized that there was a func tion in my notation software that randomized the pitches much more thorough ly and quickly. I utilized this feature, and then did slight post-adjustments in a fe w places to heighten my subjective experience of the notes sounding totally random. The long notes held by the clar inet, viola and sax, were randomized to a slightly lesser extent than the other parts, I kept these parts all within the pieces overall key signature (E minor) and added no accidentals, as opposed to the piano and bass parts which were genera ted completely randomly from the full
#* chromatic scale. These ingredients gave me ju st the sort of weirdness that I was looking for. I decided to use this new section as the introduction to the piece when I happily discovered that the main 11/8 melody sounded very good coming directly out of this new atonal section. The pieces structure was now complete. I filled in the small remaining gaps in the instrumentation, formatted and prin ted out individual part s, and sent them off to the NEW Ensemble, along with a midi recording. Finishing the Physical Plant Piece Now that I had two finished pieces sent o ff to the two notation-reading ensembles, I returned to writing the P hysical Plant song. I already had nearly enough musical elements written to construct a full song, but I needed to weave them together into a satisfying structure. I had written everyt hing for this song on guitar so far, and I continued to work with it exclusively on the gui tar, seeing as it never needed to make its way into notation, and I would eventually have to play it on guita r in the performance anyway. Physical Plant never relies on notati on, and we learn each other's songs mainly by ear, so I could develop this piece in th e same undirected, intuitive manner that is characteristic of my composition process for al l the rock song I have written for Physical Plant (as well as other bands I've been in). B ecause this process takes place primarily in my most inspired (and correspondingly most di stracted and "unfocused") moments, it is always hard to recount exactly what the step -by-step process was that I went through to arrive at a finished product. When I write rock songs, I play my ideas over and over on the guitar, allowing myself to freely improvise on the initial ideas and let them evolve naturally. I am particularly obs ervant of any "mistakes" th at I may make while playing
#! my ideas, knowing from experience that "mista kes" can often be th e catalysts for great new musical ideas. I continued to develop th is song in my usual intuitive manner and eventually came up with a structure which proc eeds as follows: First, the initial riff was played four times, with a third voice entering into the harmony after the second reiteration. This was followed by a short br idge of ascending chords (that I semiconsciously made similar to the ascending chord progression in th e New Cats piece), which led to a short section of major chords that formed the background to the first verse. In the next section, the guitar chords were the same, but they moved up the neck and became louder and more jangly, and the vocal lin e changed, differentiating this part as the chorus, even though it was based on the same progression as the verse. Then I inserted a short section that went back and forth between two chords and lead nicely into the 11/8 bridge. I followed the 11/8 section with the "eastern" s ounding section in 6/8, which then returned the piece to the opening ri ff, this time with the second verse sung over top of it. Finally, the song built up into the chorus which repeated several times, each with increasing gusto, befo re I concluded the song with a string of jazzy descending chords that ended on a major harmony. I did not fully compose the lyrics until much later, because I knew they were not of fundamental importance to composing th e final mash-up, and because (as per usual with my song writing process), the music came to me first, far before I could think of any words. Writing lyrics is always a very di fficult process for me. Words do not come to me naturally the way that musical ideas do. Lyri cs aside, all three pieces were now fully written and it was time to start focusing on the final mash-up.
#" Composing the Final Mash-Up This was the most important, daunting a nd fun part of the composition process. My methodology for developing th e mash-up changed as I began to work on it. At first, I combined the New Cats and NEW Ensembles scores together, thinking that I could cut and paste the different parts and line them up in new places testing to see if any new possible combinations between the pieces were possible. However, I soon realized that rearranging a score of this magnitude, even with easy copy and paste options, was a somewhat laborious and time consuming task, a nd working in this way did not put me in the sort of "creative headspace" that I wanted to be in when composing the final mash-up. Also, I realized that the two notated scores (The New Cats and NEW Ensemble) were the least similar pieces, and all of the possible compatibilities so far happened between one of these pieces and the Physical Plant piece. It also seemed likely that most of the combinations that I might soon find, but weren' t aware of yet, would also most likely be combinations between the Physical Plant piece and one of the others, seeing as the New Cats and New Ensemble pieces were basically fundamentally impossible to combine in an obvious, straight-forward manner given ther e completely dissimilar time signatures. Because of this, my main method for developing ideas for the mash-up was either to play the Physical Plant song on guitar and attempt to sing a part of one of the other pieces over top of it, or to try and play parts of the P hysical Plant song against the midi recording of the New Cats and New Ensemble pieces. I worked on the piece in this way for several weeks, coming up with many ideas but not writing anything down at first. Coming into this process, I was open to using any of the manipulation methods available to the modern mash-up artist: c hopping up, pitch shifting (transposing), time
## shifting (slowing or speeding up) reversing, and basically any other type of conceivable manipulation that was analogous to something that could be achieved with digital audio manipulation. I was also open to sparingly uti lizing the sorts of mani pulations that I was capable of doing with live instruments that a mash-up artist working with digital musical samples could not do (ie. rearrange the inner voices of a particular harmony). However, ultimately I included relatively little extreme manipulations in either of these categories (other than a lot of chopping obviously, and a fair amount of time shifting), and the final mash-up used all the parts from the three or iginal pieces, and in most cases they were played almost exactly in the same manner as in the original pieces. I made my way to the final arrangement of the piece in a few steps. I first developed the combinations that I already kne w were possible. The first combination that I solidified was the 11/8 conn ection between Physical Plant and The NEW Ensemble. I really liked the way that the 11/8 part of the Physical Plant pie ce sounded when played against the 11/8 "cargo train" section of the New Ensemble piece, and I decided to have this be the climax of the first section of the final piece. Then, I developed a second section based around the combination between the Physical Plant verse/chorus and the main New Cats riff. These were the only two obvious combinations so far, but they already afforded me a substantial amount of material, seeing as I wanted to highlight these particularly good combinati ons in more than one place. One thing that I knew I wanted to do, but had not yet figured out how to do, was to have all three ensembles play simultane ously together, which I thought would be an appropriately climactic ending for the final pi ece. The way in which I eventually figured out how to do this, was by taking the initial (simpler) 6/8 section of the New Ensemble
#$ piece, and turning it into triplets that fit over top of the already established New Cats riff/Physical Plant verse combination. This transformation of the section in 6/8 into triplets made it rhythmically sync together with everything else perfectly, and it also sounded tonally compatible in most places. However there was one place in the recurring sequence where there was a very dissonant clash between The NEW Ensemble and the other two pieces that strongly highlighted there dissimilar key signatures (the NEW Ensemble being in E minor and the other two being in E major). During this one dissonant chord, I decided to take the liberties that I had as a composer working with real instruments (as opposed to recorded sample s), and I changed the notes of the New Ensemble during that one chord to form a more major harmony that did not clash with the other pieces. I now had a proper finale th at incorporated all three pieces. I knew that I definitely needed one more significant section that highlighted a more experimental approach to mashing-up my pieces. I dreamt up a few different crazy ways of developing a weirder section, incl uding ideas that involved reversing and inverting passages (a-la serial techniques), but ultimately, on e of the least complicated ideas I had for creating a more "out" secti on achieved exactly what I was looking for. I was ultimately glad that I went with this solution, because while reversing passages seemed fair game in the context of creating a mash-up, it is not par ticularly fair to the players, whom I explicitly told: "You will be familiar with all the material in the final mash-up because it will be taken directly from the original pieces." My solution for this section was simply laying The New Cats' bridge and The NEW Ensemble's strange atonal introduction over top of each other. Th ese parts worked surprisingly well together, and instead of looking for a part of the Physic al Plant piece that might be compatible too
#% (there clearly wasn't one), I decided to take a few more liberties as a composer working with real instruments, and instructed Phys ical Plant to simply make very strange, unmusical noises during this se ction, adding to the overall sens e of chaos. I had the most chaotic elements of this section (The NEW Ensemble and Physical Plant parts) go on for four more measure after the New Cats bridge was done playing. After this, I thought it would be a good id ea (only partially for its tongue-in-cheek aesthetic) to go into th e most obviously consonant and up-be at part of the mash-up. After the last four random atonal measures were done I had the The New Cats come in in full swing, playing the simple upbeat solo section of their original piece. However, this time, instead of having The New Cats players take so los, Physical Plant now took the solos. I now had four substantial sec tions that seemed a good basis for a final piece, but I now needed to weave them together in a satisfy ing way. Three sections which did not fit well on top of each other, but which transitioned back in forth each other well, were the 6/8 New Cats section, the 6/8 Physical Plant secti on and the triplet piano line in the chorus of The New Cats piece (and therefore the whole ch orus). I utilized the ability to transition easily between these sections in a few places in my piece. First, I had the Physical Plant section in 6/8 come directly out of the 11/ 8 Physical Plant/NEW Ensemble combination, which served as a transition into the New Cats' chorus, with the triplets of The New Cats piano being in the identical speed and rhythm as the previous eighth notes in 6/8. One of the other places I used this tr ansitional ability was in the intr o to the piece. In the intro, I had the 6/8 Physical Plant guitar line and The New Cats triplet piano line, trade back and forth every four measures, for a total of 16 measures.
#& In the next section, I traded back and fo rth between the Physic al Plant section in 11/8 and the NEW Ensemble Section in 11/8, and also threw in two four-measure chunks of the New Ensemble's 6/8 sections play ed by themselves. The two different 11/8 sections joined together in a few brief places as the section developed, but they did not combine together in full swing until the end of this section that was based on The NEW Ensemble's "cargo train" part. The exact deta ils of the ordering of this section seem unnecessary to detail, as th ey can easily be seen by looking at the score. As I mentioned earlier, the piece then used the 6/8 section of the Physical Plant piece to transition into the New Cats chor us. The beginning of the New Cats chorus, which simply transitioned between two major chords, was ultimately the section that brought the "least" to th e final mash-up. No other parts seemed very complimentary with it, and so ultimately I took my liberties as a composer again, and had Physical Plant back up the beginning of The New Cats chorus with chords, so that the piece did not thin out in a unsatisfying way in these brief sections. The New Cats' chorus then led into The New Cast main riff which was joined by the main Physical Plant riff. After this, the chorus was played once more, which transitione d nicely into an iteration of the Physical Plant verse played on its own. This was followe d by one of the simple transitional bridges in the Physical Plant song (the one with only two chords), which lead directly back into a small section that reprised the 11/8 combination between The NEW Ensemble and Physical Plant. After this came a short section with the two 6/8 parts of The NEW Ensemble played back to back. On top of this, I played a bastardized version of the Physical Plant main riff, augmenting one chor d to be minor (the same chord I augmented in the New Ensembles to be major in the fina le) so that it was capable of tonally fitting
#' with The New Ensembles part, albeit in a somewhat strange sounding way. After this, it transitioned to the ascending c hords at the end of the New Cats chorus, which repeated themselves, but the second time in a highe r transposition (although one already found naturally in The New Cats piece). This lead into the final section which started with a verse of the Physical Plant piece, followed by a quick section which illustrated how The New Cats main riff fit with it, followed by a quick section of just The NEW Ensemble and Physical Plant, before finally ending with all three pieces playi ng together, including the vocals of the Physical Plant song. For the very beginning and very end of the piece I used the same intro and outro as the Physi cal Plant piece had, but in the final mash-up composition I had all the instruments come in on the very last note to create a very thick and jazzy final chord. The final mash-up st ructure now complete, it was time to start focusing on creating individual pa rts for the final mash-up. Creating Final Parts Creating The New Cats and The NEW En semble parts was pretty straight forward: copy the appropriate notation fr om the original composition, and leave appropriate rests for the other ensembles pa rts. I had several technical difficulties arranging my final parts, but all of them were resolved re latively quickly, and did not lead to anything particularly insightful, so they are not wo rth detailing. One interesting element that I had to deal with in creating th e final parts was the fact the Dana Ziegler, the saxophone player, was in both The New Cats and in the NEW Ensemble. I have yet to mention this, but I was obviously aware of this from the beginning, although I did not address it at all until the final mash-up. Ultimat ely, it was not very hard to distribute her
#( part between the two ensembles in the fina l mash-up so that she played the most important parts from each piece. At the very end, when all ensembles played together, Dana joined in with the New Cats. Physical Plant does not read music, so I had to come up with a different kind of score for them, so that they could keep track of where they were in the final mash-up. To do this, I created a list for each player that de tailed everything that happened during the mash-up. Each point on the list signified a different section, and each point indicated which parts were combining together and wh at the speed and time signature of that section were. All the parts complete, it was time to start practicing them. Practice Process I gave the NEW Ensemble and the New Cats their final parts and I arranged for three practices to happen before my final perf ormance. I created a midi recording of the final mash-up and recorded the main Physical Plant guitar part over top of it. I sent this recording to all the ensembles and told them to listen to it while reading through their scores so they could begin to get an idea of how the final piece was supposed to sound (this recoding is included on the cd). However, I told them to only work on perfecting their original pieces and not wo rry about playing the final vers ion until the first practice. The first practice was held in the Caples fine arts complex arcade. I decided that I would begin practicing the piece in small sections, starting from the end and moving toward the beginning. This chronologically backward practice process proved to be a very good decision, partly because it made me conf ident that the ending was possible early on which was very comforting. One big mistake that I made was to not have practice letters.
#) I thought at first that I would be able to cal l out measure numbers, but I did not take into account that I had given some pa rts different length repeat s ections then others in order for the parts to fit on fewer pages. This made the first practice a little awkward because sometimes there was confusion about where exactly we were starting from, but we managed to practice most of the sections succe ssfully anyway. We did not attempt to play the piece from the beginning to end at the first practice. For the second practice I fixed all the part s to have proper rehearsal marks, and this made the rehearsal process go much smoother. We practiced a few more small sections individually before we attempte d the piece from the beginning. To my great excitement, we managed to make it through the entire mash-up composition the first time we attempted to play it. We played th rough the piece several more times, and then I congratulated the ensembles on the great job th ey had done and let them go home a little early. The third rehearsal was primar ily a tech rehearsal. In retrospect, it would have been much smarter to have arranged for so meone else to be in charge of the sound equipment for this rehearsal and my performa nce. Although I feel ve ry confident running sound for a live show (having lots of expe rience running sound equipment at Physical Plant shows, and in the recording studio), running all the sound e quipment myself while also trying to lead all the ensembles was a rather foolishly ambitious task. However, I managed to accomplish it somehow anyway, and was semi-confident in my live sound set up by the end of the practice. The final performance took place in the promenade between W and X dorms. The ensembles arranged themselves in a semi-circl e arrangement, with a palm tree planter in-
$* between each ensemble. The performance we nt very smoothly, with only a few minor mistakes occurring. I was very satisfied with the performance and immediately received lots of positive feedback from the people who had attended. My friend Jose Carlos who is a film major at Ringling College of Art a nd Design helped me document the performance in a video. Three different cameras were used to record the video as well as one external microphone. The video is included in the back of this paper.
$! PART II: CONFIGURABLE CULTURE Introduction My project is relevant to several important issues that our western musical culture is currently grappling with because it is di rectly modeled on the mash-up, which is one of the main artistic practices associated with c onfigurable culture. Conf igurable culture is a recent social phenomenon, empowered by the ubi quity of the internet and advanced but user-friendly media production software available on home computers. It is an extremely important cultural phenomenon because it has no t only been the source of great artist innovation, but it has also begun to bring in to question some of the fundamental assumptions regarding "art" that have served as the basis for the ways we contextualize cultural products within our modern western society. These assumptions are rooted in five binary distinctions: An art as opposed to craft, an artist as opposed to an audience, a composition as opposed to a performance, an original as opposed to a copy, and a figure as opposed to a ground. These binaries are easil y applicable to most music composed in the last few hundred years, but they become ve ry problematic when applied to the recent artifacts of configurable cultu re. These binaries are in real ity very complex relationships, with a full spectrum of possibili ties inbetween each of thei r supposedly distinct sides. Within the contexts of configurable culture, th e binary categories "... still exist, but their definitions have changed from inherent to relational" (Sinnreich 88). Defining Configurable Culture Configurable culture is definable by three different elements: its pastiche compositional approach, its reliance on the sy mbiosis between the internet and modern
$" media production tools, and the way in which th ese first two elements allow the products of configurable culture to live multiple "stage lives" (in the form of endless re-mixes, and mash-ups), imbuing them with an unprecedente d potential for plasticity and recursion. Another fundamentally important aspect of the mash-up is that it has been a very important site of resistance to corporate regulation, and ha s been championed by activists seeking to make all art and informati on more freely available to everyone. Firstly, configurable culture relies on a pastiche aesthetic as the basis for all its artistic products, cutting and pasting various borrowed elements (usually retrieved from the internet) together, to form new works of "art" that may pay homage to their source material in some way, but which primarily st rive to create something "new" through the creative combination of their "plundered" components. The pastiche aesthetic and the practice of one composer incorporating anot her composers' musical ideas in their own composition, is not at all new to configurable culture. Many past composers have utilized the pastiche aesthetic and/or combined vari ous elements of other composers work into their own original compositions. The most obvious early example of this is found in the medieval motet, which was a genre of music that evolved in the 13 th century when newly formed music conservatories in Paris began to produce a larger number of hi ghly trained (and semisecular) composers than ever before. This new generation of motet-writing composers freely borrowed from vernacular music as well as church music, combining popular and holy music together in an unprecedented and so metimes "irreverent" manner (at least in the eyes of the church). This freer and "irrev erent" combination of disparate sources that was fundamental to the motet genre was ev entually perceived as threatening by the
$# church, who were fearful of this innovative ne w music, and tried thei r hardest to subdue it as part of their counter-reformation efforts. The motet was similar to the modern mashup both in its combination of disparate mu sical sources and in the way that the establishment tried their be st to subdue them. Some other historical examples that are direct precedents to the modern mash-up aesthetic can be found in the work of Char les Ives. Charles Ives (1874 1954) was an extremely forward thinking composer, who di d not achieve incredible fame during his lifetime, but has gained signi ficantly more recognition afte r his death, as people have become increasingly more aware of his com positions and how far ahead of his time they were. Ive's father was very influential to Charles musical upbringing, and exposed him to many musical experiments including one in partic ular that is markedly reminiscent of the mash-up. Ives senior arranged for two marchi ng bands to march past each, playing in different keys, so that he could hear what it sounded like when they passed. Throughout his career, Ives composed music that drew from disparate sources, having an equal appreciation for complicated "academic" music, popular music and folk music. Ives piano composition "The Housatonic at Stockb ridge" is one example of a mash-up like composition he composed. Over top of the othe rwise harmonic piece, very quiet atonal clusters of notes are played evoking an "aural mist" that adds an enchanting ambiance to the piece. Ives was inspired to use this te chnique when he was out one day taking a walk and humming to himself, and he could simulta neously hear the faint remnants of a hymn tune that was coming from a church acro ss a misty pond. He was hearing a naturally created mash-up of sorts.
$$ Quoting vs. Sampling These examples can be seen as direct ancestors of the mash-up, but the modern mash-up takes the idea of incorporating "bo rrowed" material in a composition to a new extreme. Mash-ups don't just quote other com posers musical ideas; they actually use the finished recordings of songs as the fundamental "material" of the composition. This is in some respects similar, but also fundamentally different to simply quoting someone else's musical idea, as in the examples I have descri bed so far, or for example, in a jazz solo, where an improviser will borrow a musical idea from another composition and weave it seamlessly into the rest of their otherwise enti rely original solo. Ad am Sinnreich explains this important distinction elegantly: Riffing on a melody written by someone else using a saxophone or a piano is a fundamentally different process than c hopping up a recording of someone else's rendition of a melody and then re-seque ncing it to produce your own melody using computer software.The locus of action is no l onger limited to the idea of the music, located within conceptual mechanisms such as melody, chord changes, or composition. What is acted on in these new practices is the musical expression itself the indexical codification of s ound waves in a fixed mediumthe processes of cultural digestion, assim ilation, and reformulation, which were historically limited to the confines of our own minds, have been externalized. (Sinnreich 74-75)
$% Sound Collage The idea of combining various disparate a udio recordings together to create a "musical collage" sprang up soon after re cording technology developed. Many early musique concrte compositions layered many different audio samples together, in a very similar fashion to the modern mash-up. Ho wever, these early pastiche recordings differed from most modern mash-ups in that they were mostly striving for an experimental aesthetic in keeping with the ea rly electronic music of the time, and were not attempting to craft a new pop song out of two old pop songs, which is what modern mash-ups are mostly all about Plunderphonics John Oswald is credited with conceiving of our modern conception of the mashup (although the term "mash-up" was not adopt ed till later, and he used the term Plunderphonics to describe his composition method). His paper Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative" pu blished in 1985, was the first to define a new type of compositional method that used "audio piracy" as its fundamental tenant. Several years before hip-hop embraced sampli ng as one of its fundamental aesthetics, Oswald was combining various pop recordings to gether to create new "plundered" songs, easily definable as mash-ups even in the most modern usage of the term. His 1988 release of the Plunderphonics EP became controversial when he received legal threats from the record companies that held the copyr ights to the music he was "plundering". In an interview following the EP release, he explained the concept for his composition method as follows:
$& A plunderphone is a recognizable soni c quote, using the actual sound of something familiar which has already been recorded. Whistling a bar of "Destiny 21.5" is a traditional musical quote. Taking Madonna singing "Like a Virgin" and rerecording it backwards or slower is plunderphonics, as long as you can reasonably recognize the source. The plunde ring has to be blatant though. There's a lot of samplepocketing, parroting, plagia rism and tune thievery going on these days which is not what we're doing. Hip Hop In the 1980's hip-hop became the first main stream genre to embrace sampling as one of its fundamental creative elements. Early innovative hip-hop producers sampled old soul and funk records, looping their instrument al breaks to form the basis for their rap beats. Hip-hop's increased popularity thr oughout the 1990's and 2000's made the general public aware of the concept of sampling, so that when the mash-up became popular in the early 2000's it seemed a very na tural concept to anyone of an internet savvy generation. The Internet and Media Technology While the pastiche aesthetic is a funda mental element of mash-ups and all products of configurable culture this element alone does not fully separate configurable culture from past musical prac tices. What defines configurable culture as a very recent phenomenon that is very distinct ly different from past musical cultures, is its fundamental relationship to the symbiosis that has occu rred between the incr easing ubiquity of the internet and the increasingly more advan ced and readily available media production
$' software. This symbiosis is allowing milli ons of "amateurs" around the globe to create "professional quality" material much more easil y than ever before. Nearly anyone with a personal computer and a little musical creativity can cr eate a mash-up and distribute it across the internet for virtually no cost at all. This extreme "leveling of the playing field" that the internet and media production soft ware has created, has allowed millions of "amateur" music fans to become directly i nvolved in the creati on of popular culture. Time magazines choice in 2006 to award "You" (re ferring primarily to the internet savvy generations) as person of the year, while citing the immense amount of user created material being hosted on site s like you-tube as evidence, can be seen as a symbolic indication of how important configurable cu lture has become to our culture as whole during the past decade. Recursion and Plasticity The final defining element of configurable culture is the way in which its first two defining elements (its cut-andpaste pastiche-aesthetic, and its use of the internet and modern media technologies) allow for its ar tistic products to live multiple-stage lives, their various derivative work s potentially evolving in many different directions via various re-mixes, mash-ups and covers. This imbues these artifacts with "unprecedented plasticity (every cultural ar tifact can be used by anyone, in any way, to create new culture artifact of any kind) and r ecursion (expression becomes expression becomes expression), drastically expanding [their] locus of expressive possibi lities" (Sinnreich 73).
$( Resistance and Regulation The last element of configurable culture th at is necessary to discuss in order to understand the phenomenon fully is its role as a site of resistance ag ainst self-interested institutional powers that view music primar ily from a business perspective. Despite its celebration and appreciation by much of the art appreciati ng community, configurable culture has for the most part been perceive d exclusively as a threat by the hegemonic popular music industry. The music industry's initial reaction to the emergence of configurable culture (and all online media sharing) was to try thei r hardest to enforce "old school" copyright law with increased vigilance despite the obvious impossibility of prosecuting all of the millions of personal computer owners partaki ng in configurable culture practices daily (and therefore "stealing" in the eyes of the music industry). As the music industry has begun to come to terms with the futility of tryi ng to tightly police all copyrighted material on the internet, it has also tried to coopt the practices that have emerged from configurable culture to its own financial gain. However, for the most part, the music industry still feels very threatened by the emergence and increasing popularity of configurable culture practices. Our musical culture is currently in th e midst of a battle between the old conception of copyright law, th at the dying music industry is tr ying its hardest to cling to, and a new, more forward thinking conception of copyright law that encourages the free sharing of ideas, and allows for configurab le culture to flourish. Recently developed Creative Commons copy-write licenses allow fo r the original composer to be properly credited for their work, but also allow for th eir works to be performed, and re-configured
$) by others. The Creative Commons organiza tion started in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, provides free creative commons licenses that are easily customizable to allow the copyright holder to determine to what exte nt others are allowed to copy and manipulate their work, and to what extent they want to receive credited for these derivative works. Many independent artists are beginning to re lease their music with these more open copyright licenses, but for the most part the music industry shows no signs of any willingness to make the restrictions on the music they release any more accommodating to configurable culture practices. The Modern Discursive Framework The cultural artifacts and practices that have arisen out of configurable culture have begun to bring into question some of we stern cultures fundamental assumptions regarding music and its place in society as a whole. Adams Sinnreich refers to this collection of assumption and practices that have become central to our cultures understanding of art over last few hundred year s as "the modern discursive framework", and I have adopted this term as well. The modern discursive framework is rooted in five binary distinctions that have become central organizing factors behind most of western cultures musical activities. The modern discursive framework and its five defining binaries have not always been intrinsic to musical praxis; they did not de velop until the revolutionary concepts of the renaissance firmly took hold in western cult ure. The modern discursive framework was "the first to elevate art above other fields of human endeavor, the first to recognize the artist as a separate class of individual, and the first to place such a premium on
%* originality" (Sinnreich, 43). In the last two centuries, thes e binary distinctions have become central to most of our musical practices and are reflecte d in the laws that we have regarding music in our society. Only very recently, with the ri se of configurable culture, have these five binaries been put into se rious question on a larg e scale. Although these binaries are still overwhelmingly pervasive, the practices of conf igurable culture are beginning to shake many of the fundamental assumptions that the modern discursive framework is based upon. Art as opposed to a Craft The art vs. craft binary is pr edicated on the elevation of artists to their own special category that came along with the large scale recognition and celebration of the idea of "individual genius". "The eleva tion of Art-with-a-capitol-A to its own stratum of human endeavor is the most essential defining characteristic of the modern discursive framework" (Sinnreich, 44). Mu sical practice has not always been defined by this binary; many earlier societies did not distinguish betwee n art, craft and science as we do. "In the ancient world, music was not initially understood as discrete practice". (45) However, in the modern discursive framework, there is a ve ry clear distinction between what is "art" and what is "craft"; a ca rpenter is a "craftsman" and a painter is an "artist" and rarely, if ever, would we give one the others title. However, this binary distinction between art and craft becomes less clear when it comes to the mash-up and other artifacts of c onfigurable culture. It is not the use of pastiche aesthetic that brings this binary into question. Photography, cinema and recorded music are all held up to the same artistic sta ndards and are treated w ith the same level of
%! academic seriousness as traditional high arts li ke painting and literature, despite the fact that in recent years, respected leading artist es in all of these fields have in many ways embraced the cut-and-paste pastiche aesthe tic, from photo-shopped magazine covers (one models nose, on a another's face, with another body), to the amazing post production techniques of modern movies (one actor from take four in the same frame as an actor from take eight) to the deliberately sampled beats that form the background for much of hip-hop. However, the use of these pastiche aesthetic (and therefore an embrace of configurable culture adjacent techniques) has not undermined the perceived "l oftiness" of these artist work or seemi ngly disturbed the art vs. craf t binary in any serious way. Even some artists that use entirely recycl ed elements as the central aspect of their art have secured their work firmly within the realm of "Art-with-a-capitol-A". For example, Girl talk (the nearly undisputed king of mash-ups), creates audio mash-ups composed entirely out of samples of others music, but due to th e highly innovative and creative combinations he crea tes, which ultimately sound li ke unique pop song in their own right, he has become extremely popular and gained the same level of artistic recognition as a typical pop star. However, if Girl Talks mash -ups are to be defined as "art" in the most rarified sense, then can we make the seemingly logical conclusion from their that all mash-ups can be considered art? Most mash-ups are not as creatively constructed as those made by Girl Talk, but it is impossible to draw any firm line between Girl Talk music's and the music of his slightly less creative peers. Simplistic A vs. B mash-ups are very easy to make, and th eir quick creation process is in many ways more similar to DJing than it is to composi ng. DJing has long been debatable in regards to whether it should be consid ered an art or craft; some people considering DJ's full-
%" fledged artists and others do not appreciate them as much more than "human jukeboxes". Even if we are to grant professional DJ's with the title of "artist", wh at then of the other activities that are very similar to DJing, such as creating a mix-tapes or customized MP3 playlist? Can these things be considered wo rks of art as well? Mo st people would agree that these final practices are be tter defined as "craft" than as "art". Seeing as there are no firm lines between these various practices, it becomes difficult to determine where exactly the line should be drawn between wh at should be considered "art" and what should be considered "craft" in the contexts of conf igurable culture Most participants of configurable cultur e create their own personal definitions of "art" to practically deal with the lack of im perial distinctions be tween what is art and what is craft in the contexts of configurab le culture. They create their own personal subjective distinctions between art and cr aft based on subjective perceptions of the overall "quality" of the work. When a mash-up is extremely inspired and original it is deemed "art" by most, but if it is a lazy hack -job lacking in creativity it would struggle to attain the title of "art" in most people's minds Of course different people's standards for what is "high quality" will differ, but this sort of subjective categorization is useful on an individual level at least. The practices emer ging out of configurable culture are making it harder and harder to draw any objective, em pirical lines between what should be defined as "art" and what should be defined as "craft". An Artist as opposed to an Audience Along with the distinction of "Art" to its own special category, came the distinction of the artist as a "uniquely insp ired" individual. While many ancient cultures
%# had very talented artist and well trained musi cians, they were not treated as "one of a kind cultural treasures" as they often are in ou r modern culture, and the practicing of their artistic profession was not n early as removed from everyda y social activity as it has become within the modern framework. The id ea of "genius" being the defining element of artistry as opposed to "talen t" is fundamental to the esta blishment of the artist vs. audience binary distinction. Talent refers to a skill, while geni us refers to some sort of one-of-a-kind, extra-ordinary enlightenment. "The logic of the concept of talent suggest s that while art is teachable, it may be taught more easily and effectively to some th an to others. An artist, therefore, is someone who has taken advantage of his or her native talent to become proficient in a given artistic discipline. Art, in this model, becomes merely a craft without a practical function, and the ro le of the artist is to become proficient at the production of beauty." (Sinnreich 47) But the concept of genius indicates a differe nt approach to artist ry. Sinnreich nicely summarizes one of the fundamental arguments that Immanuel Kant advances in his "Critique of Judgment", a seminal philosophi cal work which in many ways laid the foundations for modern aesthetics: "Artistic geniuses are those who do not simply follow the aesthetic codes of their time; rather, by producing innovati ve work, they change the codes themselves" (47) This concept of "g enius" designates the role of the artist primarily as an innovator, and puts the major ity of its emphasis on the creation of unique ideas rather than on the technical mastery of the skills needed to produce the art form. This concept of the artist as a rarefied genius (and not simply a talented craftsman) has
%$ helped to reinforce the artist vs. audience bina ry that has become a central part of our musical culture. When we go to a concert in our modern western society it is always extremely clear who is the audience a nd who is the performer. In the case of "highbrow" musical performances, the audience is expected to sit and listen quietly, with the general understanding that they came to the performa nce to be "edified" by the compositions of great composers, whose unique genius far surp asses anything that they as lowly audience members could ever possibly create. In the ca se of popular music shows, the audience is usually much more lively and animated, and they may even participate in the performance to a small extent by singing al ong, but in most cases they are physically separated from the performers by a physical fen ce and/or a line of huge security guards, whose job in one sense is to physically enforce the artist vs. audience binary. The artist vs. audience binary has also been constantly reinforced by the music industry over the last hundred years. Record companies are af raid that if people are fully empowered to create their own original mu sic entirely on their ow n, they might be less inclined to buy the bland corporate pop reco rds that the record companies sell so many of. If the artist vs. audience binary is strictly enforced, and developing advanced musical skills is only encouraged among a small elit e class of "artists" and is discouraged among the general public, then the only way that the musically illite rate public can easily listen to music in the privacy of their own homes is by buying records from the record companies. Record companies have a huge vest ed interest in maintaining the structures and assumptions of the modern framework, par ticularly the artist vs. audience binary.
%% In recent years, more and more people are engaging head on with popular culture in an active, rather than passive manner. Rather than being mindl essly entertained by pop culture, many individuals (mos t of whom are not "artists" by profession) are using pop culture as a creative t ool box to create their own persona l re-imaginations of current pop culture. These entirely user-generated re-d igestions of pop culture range from YouTube video parodies (and homages) of favorite m ovies and TV shows (i.e. all "Snakes on a Plane" related videos), to internet gaming communities (where us ers help develop the game interface itself) to internet memes a nd audio mash-up. These new creative mediums enable fans to create new culture expe riences by re-configuring and repurposing the cultural products that the culture industries s poon feed them daily. This allows fans to engage more fully with culture and allows them to potentially co mment in some way on the source material they are using. For exam ple, a mash-up such as "Smells Like Teen Booty", which combines the guitar riff from Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with the shamelessly poppy vocal of the song "B ootylicious" by the female Rn'B group Destiny's Child, can easily be read as having an ironic subtext. It s hows that despite the fact that these two songs have drastically different aesthet ic packaging (i.e. different audio production, visual representation, and init ial marketing strategies), they are also fundamentally very similar to each other in the sense that they both conform to very stereo-typical pop song musical st ructures and lyrica l clichs In the "Smells Like Teen Booty" mash-up, the initial meaning of both sampled songs is mostly lost, and the new subtext that is created is primarily a t ongue-in-cheek commentary on the banality of corporate pop music.
%& The artist vs. audience binary reinforces the conception that only a select few special individuals are worthy of being true artists, and the rest of the population should blindly praise the achievements of these be loved artists. Although there will always be "artistic genius" whose abilities far surpass th e average person, the idea that most people are not capable of creating art is completely fa lse. In reality, "All humans have an innate capacity for a highly sophisti cated level of musical accomp lishment, butmost cultures, including our own, tragically fa il to nourish that capacity" (49). Configurable culture is beginning to provide more outlets for the cr eativity of average individuals to flourish. Everyone now has the opportunity to persona lly contribute something to the global digestion of culture and artistic ideas. A Performance as opposed to a Composition A composition is a static, unchanging pro cedural document. A performance is a dynamic live performance that takes place over a particular, discrete amount of time and is susceptible to human error and the possi bility of interference from the natural phenomenon associated with the location of the performance. In the years before recording technology was invent ed, this binary distincti on between performance and composition was very clearly defined. The score of Beethoven's 5 th symphony is a composition while a concert of Beethoven's 5 th performed by the New York Philharmonic is clearly a performance. Beethoven's score is a timel ess musical blueprint, which is not supposed to be altered in a ny way; it is the eternally authoritative instructions for all future pe rformances of the piece. The performance of Beethoven's 5th
%' by the New York Philharmonic is just one of an infinite number of potential actualization of the composition. The clear distinction betw een performance and composition already began to be severely blurred 50 years before the rise of configurable cult ure with the advent of rock records. Rock was the first genre of music where the recording on the record (a performance) was also the most definitive "s core" of the song; the definitive composition document and the definitive recorded perfor mance were the same exact thing. The recorded version of a song being the most authentic "score" of the song became the norm for most popular music from the 1960's onward. Recent configurable culture practices have continued to blur the distinction between composition and performance even furt her. In the case of mash-ups, it is the audio file itself, just as is with most pop s ongs, that is the both the definitive composition and the official performance simultaneously. However, because the source materials used to create mash-up are already performances of previous compositions, the relationship between composition and performance becomes even more convoluted in the context of configurable practices. When looking at the work of modern mashup artist such as Girl Talk, it is clear that most distinctions between performance and composition have been eradicated nearly completely. Although Girl Talk ceremoniously presses buttons on his laptop and jumps up and down excitedly during his popular live shows, he is not playing any instruments, there is almost absolutely no potential for mistakes to occur during his show (save a power outage), and the music hear d at the show is completely identical to the music heard on the record. All the risks usua lly involved in a live show have been removed in this
%( context; the show now comple tely relies on the performance of machines and is nearly unsusceptible to human error. This illustr ates how the composition vs. performance binary becomes nearly meaningless when it is applied to many artif acts of configurable culture. Figure as opposed to Ground The figure vs. ground binary is an importa nt binary distinction of the modern framework. When we listen to a music com position, we usually are compelled to follow one of its musical lines with particular attention. As a result of focusing on this one particular line, we pay less direct attention to the othe r musical elements in the composition. These "extraneous" musical elements fuse together in our mind to create the background that the more "important" elements of the composition play on top of. In the large majority of popular music, the vocal line is this main "attention-grabbing" musical element of the piece, while the rhythm section forms the background. The main "attention grabbing" elements of a compositi on are the "figure", and the "less important" supporting elements are the "ground". The figure vs. ground binary is to some extent always defined on a personal subjective level. In any listeni ng situation, the li stener is always in control to some extent to what they pay direct atte ntion to, thus allowing them to create their own personal definition of what is "figure" and what is "g round" to some extent. However, there are very strong cultural norms dictating what is typically considered "figure" and what is considered "ground". For the most part, these societal norms emphasize melody and vocals as the primary figure elements. Before the advent of configurable culture, a
%) recorded song was unchanging in regards to wh ich of its elements were the "figure" and which were the "ground". In every Frank Si natra song, his distinc tive voice was clearly the figure, while the accompanying band was re gulated exclusively to the "ground". The advent of configurable culture has allowe d for the same exact musical elements to be utilized both as figure and ground in different contexts. When mash-up artist sample other recordings, they often take somethi ng that was considered the "figure" in the original composition and use it as part of the "ground" in their mash-up, or vice versa. By clearly illustrating that the same musical ideas can be the "figure" in one context and the "ground" in another, digital mash-ups pr oblematize many of our cultures previous conception about the figure vs. ground binary. An Original as opposed to a Copy In the modern framework, the "original" version of a work of art is its most hallowed form. There can only ever be one true "original" version of a work of art. However, few people (save rich art collectors) regularly s ee or buy "original" works of art. The fast majority of art artifacts that our culture consumes are co pies (cd's, prints of paintings, books etc.). While the "original" is always considered the most sacred version, there are also many levels of distinction that have been drawn between various types of different copies. A "hierarchy of uniqueness" has been developed that differentiates how valuable art products (copies) are based on how closely related they are to the sacred "original" version of the work. In our modern culture, the perceived level of "authenticity" of an art artifact is usually more important in determining its overall value than an assessment of its "features". For exam ple, A deluxe edition re -print vinyl record
&* is usually not as valuable as an old scratc hed record autographed by the band. Clearly, the bands autographs do not imbue the record with any new magic abilities, but it is proof of a symbolic connection between your record and the hallowed "original" performance performed by the band in the studio. The distinction between original and c opy becomes less clear with configurable culture. A mash-up is both in one sense an "origi nal" in that it is the first conception of an idea, but it is also in some senses completely a "copy", because it is entirely predicated on the use of other material. The constantly re cursive cycles of configurable culture make it very hard to conclusively define its artifact s as either "originals" or "copies". Now that I have given a brief overview of some of the most important defining elements of configurable culture, I will disc uss how my composition relates to these various elements.
&! PART III: MY COMPOSITION RELATI ONSHIP TO CONFIGURABLE CULTURE Differences and Similarities In regards to the borrowing of musical material and the utilization of the pastiche aesthetic, my composition is partly in keepi ng with digital mash-up and partly diverges from them. My composition is similar to digi tal mash-ups in that it utilized the exact same cut-and-paste compositional methods, but my composition differs in that instead of using material borrowed from other peoples songs I have used exclusiv ely material that I have composed myself. The difference between an original pop song, a typical digital mash-up, and the type of composition that I have created can be illustrated by using a metaphor where songs are represented by cars: writing an original pop song is like building a new car with brand new parts. Writing an original pop song th at borrows heavily from older genres of music is like building a new car that is purpos ely styled like a vintage car from an earlier era. Creating a digital mash-up is like taki ng apart two old beater cars and using their parts to build a new car to the best of your abilities. What I have done with my composition is analogous to building three new cars (using all new parts) each of which are modeled on different car models of the past, and then taking these three brand new cars apart, and creating one giant car that uses all the parts fro m the first three cars, and is therefore three time the size. My composition utilizes material originat ing from an infinitely smaller creative locus than the typical digital mash-up are ab le to draw from; all the material in my composition came from the confines of my own mind, as opposed to the material used in
&" a digital mash-up which can come from any part of the totality of recorded music. Although my composition had a far smaller library of musical ideas to draw from, in one sense my composition also allowed me more freedom than the digital mash-up because my composition could incorporate any complete ly original musical ideas that I came up with. However, despite the fact that all th e musical ideas in my composition came from my own head, my composition was created in a very similar way to mashing-up three songs written by three different composers. In regards to my compositions relationsh ip to the symbiotic relationship between the internet and media production technologies, my composition is not similar to digital mash-ups in that its existence in not di rectly predicated on digital technologies. Theoretically at least, I could have com posed my composition 50 years ago, far before personal computers existed. Sti ll, it is worth noting that I did use the internet and advanced software extensively in the pro cess of writing my piece and these technologies offered me some great advantages over com posers of the past, who did not have midi playback recordings or any of the other m odern conveniences of digital music score. The way in which my composition will hopefull y be most closely associated with the technological symbiosis that configurable cu lture is predicated on, is by my composition being uploaded to the internet (and protec ted under a very fr ee creative commons licensing agreement), with th e explicit intent th at it be mashed-up, remixed and reappropriated by other. Through this process, my composition will have continuing halflives in the perpetually recursive cycles th at form the creative digestive system of configurable culture. Through this, my co mposition will achieve a higher level of
plasticity and recursion as it is propagated further and furt her through the tributaries of configurable cultures ecosystems. My Compositions Relationship to the Five Binary Distinctions Although my composition utilizes the com positional methods directly associated with configurable culture, it is also perf ectly capable of standing on its own as a composition within the confines of the modern discursive framework in a way that the mash-up is not. Because my composition was co mposed entirely from original material and its creation was not predic ated on digital technology, it is less problematic in regard to the first three binaries I discussed (art vs. craft, artist vs. audien ce, and performance vs. composition). By producing every element of my composition from scratch, my composition process could in no way be defined as "craft" and firmly achieves the status of "art" by any reasonable defi nition. Similarly, there is no qu estion that my role in the process of composing my piece was almost ex clusively that of an "artist" and not an "audience". This distinction remained clear in the final performance; it was clearly a show of "my work" and not an audience-colla borative performance. The performance vs. composition binary mainly becomes problematic in regards to recorded music, and so my entirely live performance also avoids tension in regards to this binary. However, my composition acknowledges that these binaries are beginning to erode in our culture at large. By championing the techniques used to create configurable culture artifacts, my composition symbolical ly advocates the reexamination of these binary distinctions, even the ones that it does not challenge directly. Also, if all goes well, and my composition is propagated through the digital channels of configurable
&$ culture when I release it for free on the internet its future generations will be created with digital tools, and these derivative works will directly challenge the binaries of the modern framework. Some of these derivative works will be very hard to define in terms of art vs. craft or performance vs. composition, and th e author of these future works may not necessarily define themse lves as "artists". My composition is very similar to digita l mash-ups in its problematization of the figure vs. ground binary and the original v.s copy binary. What is the "figure" in my three original pieces sometimes becomes the "ground" in my final mash-up composition and vise versa. Although all the material in th e composition is original in the sense that I came up with it myself, the second half of the pi ece uses exclusively source material from the first half, making it in some senses a "copy". A New Framework Although all my emphasis so far has b een on the virtues of dismantling the modern framework and questioning its funda mental binary assumptions, there are of course many very good reasons for why the modern discursive framework is extremely useful and important. The modern framework came about to address serious needs that our culture had at the time of its formation, and it has been remarkab ly resilient during the tremendous changes in every aspect of cu lture that have occurred over the last few centuries. Once we understand that the binary distinctions of the modern framework are actually continuous spectrums, the categorie s can still be very helpful to our understanding of music. The art vs. craft and artist vs. audien ce binaries originally came about from a need to properly celebrate th e most creative individua ls in society. When
&% the artist vs. audience binary is over simplifie d and abused it can inhibit people's ability to artistically collaborate with the culture ar ound them. However, cl early there will also always be inherent merit to cel ebrating the particularly inspir ed individuals in society and allowing them to be held up on a pedestal and differentiated as "unique" from the rest of us, so that we all might learn something fr om them. In the same regard, although the art vs. craft binary is problematic in many respects it is also very useful because it helps to distinguish and properly acknowle dge the cultural artif acts that are the most "worthy" of contemplation and admiration by all. The elements of the modern framework that my composition does embrace are elements that I believe will be intrinsic to our musical culture for a very long time. Configurable culture brings many of the a ssumptions of the modern framework into question, but it has not dismantled them comple tely, nor has it yet offered a fully formed new system to take its place. As configurable culture continues to evolve and the modern framework continues to be slowly dismantle d, a new framework for our understanding of music will emerge that will incorporate vestig es of the modern framework but will also properly accommodate and encourage the new practices of configurable culture which are allowing people to creatively and actively en gage with their culture in a more direct way than ever before. The five binaries, and the cultural assumptions that th ey embody, are connected to larger cultural assumptions about the way that our entire society is structured overall. Although it is impossible to tell exactly how configurable cult ure will ultimately influence the societies of the future, it is und eniable that the resolution of the negotiations
&& that are currently taking place in the contexts of configurable culture will have far reaching effects on society for many years: "The resolution of this crisis has signif icant social and political repercussions. Because the framework sets the boundaries of discourse about music, because music can be considered a form of cognitive-affective capital influencing macrolevel social structures, and because this capitol has been the site of fiercely contested regulation and resistance in so many times in history, we must acknowledge that the resolution of this crisis will help to determine the organizing principles of postindustrial society for y ears or perhaps for centuries to come" (Sinnreich 88-89) Conclusion I hope that this paper has been successf ul in explaining my composition process and showing how my composition is relevant to extremely important cu rrent issues via its connections with the practices of configurab le culture. Instead of including a DVD with the documentation of my performance I am providing a web address where the video of my performance can be found: http://www.youtube.com/user/CeaganQ/videos Hopefully, by the time you read this thesis th ere will not only be the original videos of my thesis performance available at this link, but there will also be links to future mashups of my composition created by other config urable culture partic ipants. Already, one derivative work has been create d from my performance. On his own behest, the friend of mine who was helping me produce the vide o of the performance took my two most obvious gaffs during the performance and editi ng them into a short repeating sequence,
&' creating a mash-up of sorts. His main purpose in doing this was to make fun of me, but he unintentionally illustrated the some of the theoretical arguments that I make in this thesis. This video, as well as any other derivative material created from my performance will be available at the included web address.
&( Works Cited: Sinnreich, Aram. Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 2010. Print. Oswald, John. Plunderphonics.com Proc. of Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative, Wired Society Electro-Acoustic Conference, Toronto. 1985. Web. 21 May 2012. Works Consulted: Serazio, Michael. "The Apolitical Irony of Generation Mash-Up: A Cultural Case Study in Popular Music." Popular Music and Society 31.1 (2008): 79-94. Print. Griffiths, Dai. "The High Analysis of Low Music." Music Analysis 18.3 (1999): 389-435. Print. Gunkel, David. "Rethinking the Digital Remi x: Mash-ups and the Metaphysics of Sound Recording." Popular Music and Society 31.4 (2008): 489-510. Print.