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Digital Theory & Aesthetics: Remix Cultures Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Nov 6th, 2021

The flow of cultural diversity in music is a challenge for new generations in each epoch. The world of youth culture is too versatile touching upon every personal likes or dislikes. This paper is dedicated to reviewing two movies so that to define the main idea and intentions which are strived to evaluate the significance of subcultures. Remix cultures are in focus in this work so that to make emphasize the permanent reasons when, for example, inventing samplers and giving hip-hop culture more freedom in expressing the way of various music flows. Realizing the beauty of people’s innovations in popular genres of music one cannot but admire the tempo, rhythm, bass, and timbre of present-day’s music culture along with the followers.

The two movies are under analysis in this paper due to their coherence to contemporary youth motives: Scratch and Syncity. These two are the material base to be critiqued so that to evaluate the spread of remix culture within society and youth in particular. One of the followers of remix culture known as Dj Spooky once told: “It’s all about the selection of sound as narrative. It’s a process of sifting through the narrative rubble of a phenomenon that conceptual artist Adrian Piper liked to call the “indexical present:” (White, 1996)

Before analyzing these two parts under analysis it is necessary to mention that the era of hip-hop not only popularized the coloring of modern music but also expanded the huge audience of youth and people urging to make their life full of some additional sense. In other words, when in the music arena emerged hip-hop culture maintained in musical arrangements the globalization process began occupying new territories and new communities up from the early 1980s until now.

The community of people gathering to share their interests in music, dressing, language, manners, and culture, on the whole, gives birth to the new aesthetical background. In return, this causes the emergence of a newly oriented generation of people. According to Lev Manovich (Manovich, 209), this aesthetics is directly called “flash aesthetics.”

This generation does not care if their work is called art or design. This generation is no longer as interested in “media critique” which preoccupied media artists of the last two decades; instead, it is engaged in software critique. This generation writes its own software code to create its own cultural systems, instead of using samples of commercial media (Manovich, 209).

Moreover, notwithstanding the art division, the media performances had no topologies and required identification in terms of cultural value and adoption. Only with the advent of the digital revolution in the 1980s – 1990s the world of music and media on the whole propped up against the theoretical and practical sides of the art issue(Manovich: Post-Media Aesthetics, 5). The rap and hip-hop cultures should not be confused here due to their relevance at the first sight. Miles White in one of his works gives the background steps of them on the way to general adoption:

The scholarly work on Rap, a term sometimes interchangeable with Hip Hop, or a subcategory of Hip Hop culture (see White 1996), since the late 1980s, as Cheryl Keyes has recently written, has been critical in comprehending Hip Hop and Rap as a form of resistance and contestation, thus mollifying its somewhat ominous appeal in the popular media (White, 1996).

Turntablism is one of the new terms to be involved and is widely used in the “Scratch” to depict the manner of producing specific music sounds by means, oddly enough, of turntables. The film shows the concept of hip-hop culture which is presented in its many-faceted nature of not only music but dress code, the art of graffiti, slang language, team plays, such as basketball, etc.

This documentary film also illustrates the life of a Dj who was one of the pioneers in this kind of culture and gave hip-hop new coloring in sound-making and creating the most appropriate ways of artist’s sounding and listener’s hearing in order to process the way of further elaboration of hip-hop. Dj Babu hopes the vinyl player will be entirely used all over the world adoring people with the fascinating sounds and he is inclined to think that the essence of this device will continue “as long as you see it as [one]” (Scratch, 2004).

In order to improve the mastership of making hip-hop music within Dj’s the battling was invented. This procedure according to the film is a simple competition in the better way of music presentation between two or more Dj’s. The film shows the variety of opinions as for this part of hip-hop music implementation. The thing is that different Dj’s make great efforts to create the music spending months for this purpose and then have only six minutes to show “creativity and competitiveness” (Scratch, 2004) which are the main constituents in the hip-hop music industry.

“Sometimes the best way to get an idea across is to simply tell it as a story” (Miller, 1). Dj Spooky thought this to be the most useful aspect in creative and full of emotions battle mixes. Here the factor of commercial interest and involvements has somehow negative appliance determining the role of media and its artists. Lev Manovich has a very grave position regarding to this:

The media artist is a parasite who leaves at the expense of the commercial media – the result of collective craftsmanship of highly skilled people. In addition, an artist who samples from / subverts / pokes at commercial media can ultimately never compete with it (Manovich, 10)

Dj is supposed to be the music background on concerts; he supplies the audience with a tempo and rhythm. It seems that one significant element in such performance is omitted. Guess which? Of course, it is an MC and his windup mastership urged to enable the audience think the way the music plays. Steve Dee in the film gives the plot for the potential audience to think over the extent of hip-hop music accompanied with an MC: “Hip-hop is asking you a question, and that question is, what are you going to do?” (Scratch, 2004) Here it becomes clear enough that MC creates the atmosphere of balance between the audience and Dj.

Other main concept in the hip-hop music is digging which actually displays the mutual activity of Dj’s when creating beats and samples with the appropriate variation of techniques, some of them are:

  • Single Turntable
  • Dual Turntables
  • Backspinning Mixing
  • Scratching Blending
  • Cutting Punch-Phrasing (White, 1996)

Every culture or subculture tends to illuminate the basic notions of its inner or outer representation. The symbiosis of digital theory in music and its implementation by means of new “synthetic” community of people designates the plot and idea of “Syncity”. This city is a model of the place full of light and sound in which the crystalline structure of buildings reminds about the synthetic surroundings for people (Titmarsh, 2007).

Is it true that a new generation of youth and people admiring, sharing, and, in fact developing new motives and streams in digitally-equipped music full of synthesis is lack of genuine and emotional framework of the extent of music which strives to touch upon a man’s inner and deeper tints of soul? Surely it is not. The diversity of tastes and styles should not be the same. “Digital connectivity” (Titmarsh, 2007) is the factor which provides society with tight relationships while observing the showcase of this or that modern music performance. The point is that hip-hop culture which began developing in the 1970s and other genres of music which in that very period of time were worked out in Chicago, house music, industrial flow in electro music, and other factors concerning the relatively long period of elaboration cannot stop in their process.

Otherwise, it would be monotonous and unpopular society where we live. Sampling and remixing became popular due to the tendency of general media development. As it is considered, every new example of medium emergence embodies some aspects and features of previous ones (Remix Cultures, 3) that is why the wholeness of processes to maintain and make perfect the art of remixing is rather connected with gained experience in music of previous times with the concepts ofremediation, immediacy, hypermediacy”. (Remix Cultures, 3)

In fact, the technical and scientific progress caused the emergence of digital arrangement in music- and film-making industries. The cosmic theme recalls the shining silver uniform of some characters of films as, for example, “Star Wars”. Henry Jenkins made his personal survey on the problem of some controversies when the mankind ran across the boundaries of different reasoning as for the technological decisions in the sphere of media. He appoints the fact that “Star Wars” appeared to be a so-called “catalyst” for amateur digital filmmaking” (Jenkins, 2009). Different formations of media substances are not the danger for the previously made classics, but, in accordance with Jenkins, “…the vulnerability is that if audiences fail to engage with the particular content on offer” (Jenkins, 2009).

Thus, the concept of media expansion appearing in the last three decades of the twentieth century gave birth to many genres, styles and representations of music in their variations as for the cultural framework. Hip-Hop here is one of the best examples to illustrate the tendency of self-estimation and self-expression within youth and people feeling great desire to make music in the flow of personal creativity on the turntables. Such predominant opportunity to vary between scratches, mixes and other techniques and tools realized with the Hip-Hop culture is displayed by means of documental film “Scratch” and by a number of social figures who made special surveys onto the problem. Finally, the main idea of those working at the turntable or somewhere in the rows of media is “to make the crowd rock” (Scratch, 2004).

Reference List

Cascone, K. THE AESTHETICS OF FAILURE: ‘Post-Digital’ Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music. Web.

Gallasch, K. From the simplest of interfaces: complexity ;An interview with media artist kate Richards. Web.

Fuller, M “The R, The A, The D, The I, The O: The Media Ecology of Pirate Radio’ in Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture, MIT Press, 2005, pp.13-53.

Jenkins, H “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars? Digital Cinema, Media Convergence and Participatory Culture’ in Rethinking Media Change, David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins ed. MIT Press, 2003, pp. 281-312.

Manovich, L. ‘ Generation Flash’ in New Media, Old Media, edited by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Thomas Keenan, Routledge 2003, pp.209-218.

Manovich, L. Post-media Aesthetics. Web.

Miller, PD. ‘ Notes for ‘Rebirth of a Nation’- remix of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film “Birth of a Nation”. Web.

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Digital Theory and Aesthetics: week 6: Remix Cultures.

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Titmarsh, M ‘Stickin’ it to the Man’. Web.

Waterson, S. Brief Biography. Web.

White, M. The Phonograph Turntable and Performance Practice in Hip Hop Music. Web.

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