The Medium is No Longer the Message

“Making a mix CD is a paradox: it’s personal and impersonal, kind of like watching TV using time-shifting software to determine which commercials to cut and which to leave, or like assessing what chess moves to make when you’re playing solitaire. Think of downloading your own MP3 file. What sounds would you choose if they were all free? This is all audio alchemy; the order of the track is a mode of figuring out which configuration would draw people into my mindset.  The order is like “bring people in, open ‘em up… show ‘em that alchemy flow… and break it down again.” That’s why I always think of DJ-ing as a crossroads: the virtual style of a culture threaded through fiber optic cables, network systems, and here and now flipped into cipher mode. The code of the new streets, y’all – it’s digital. I don’t really cook, but I can use a microwave…” (p.30)

“Making a mix CD is a paradox…” This initial sentenced captured me because, like everyone else in this country, I am an avid TV-watcher, and hopefully in the future a TV producer.  I know that having options is becoming an important element of TV and FILM consumerism. Netflix allows this option, where traditional television does not. Now that consumers are experiencing the options, Netflix (and other similar companies) are becoming the preferred option. Personally, I have access to HBO GO and Netflix, and no longer feel the need for basic cable. This is what Spooky is trying to convey. Variation and options is what’s driving technological consumerism, similar to a mash-up CD; I can get the old feel of 70s rock with the new feel of hip-hop and EDM in a song, for example.

Spooky continues this thought by mentioning the act of downloading MP3s, and what sounds you would choose if it were all free. I know what this is like, because I use a YouTube converter to collect songs for my personal music library. It allows me to select single songs to download, with no contextual information like the song’s surrounding songs, or its album, or any artwork and/or imagery the artist might have chosen to accompany their music like an album cover. You might enjoy that single song, but you have no awareness of the song’s album or the artist who made it. Spooky is trying to convey that the order of something is important to its overall composition. “This is all audio alchemy…” This section of the paragraph is where Spooky illustrates the importance of order, and how order can change the meaning of something: The order is like “bring people in, open ‘em up… show ‘em that alchemy flow… and break it down again.” It’s like the plot line to a movie or book; you cannot begin with something critical without allowing the audience to adjust first.

“That’s why I always think of DJ-ing as…” The final section in this paragraph allows Spooky to illustrate how he thinks about his own craft in a world of options. He uses “fiber optic cables, network systems, and the here and now” as a metaphor for the filter of changing the original, or remixing. The original has its own cultural feel, but once Spooky gets ahold of it and remixes it, the result is the “new code of the streets.” A completely different entity, still having connections to the original, which has adopted a new meaning or message.

Message for discussion: Do you think that changing the message of a medium (such as a song) is grounds for legal sampling? For example, if you change a song enough through variation and possibly other sampling that the message of the new song is different from the message of the original song, should that protect the new “remix” artist from copyright infringement?

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