These posts are either "jump pages" for my weblog or posts-in-process that will eventually appear there. For what it's worth, here's an archive of these random bits. The picture to the left is by a famous comic book artist.
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By Rick Silva
Plunderphonics goes online in the zeros. If the Internet is the new street, than the cutup or bootleg is the sound pouring out of the boomboxes. Uploadphonix, the uploading of bootlegs and cutups, is the first musical movement born post peer to peer sharing technology and in large part, because of it. On the surface uploadphonix seems to use the net only as a convenience of distribution, but really it is a movement of creative exchange and reestablishing the aura that is lost in all pop (by pop I mean popular; heavy rotation, unavoidable) music. In uploadphonix bedroom remixers offer up their sacrifices to the web in hope that the web will return to them creative responses and inspiration.
In file sharing music is still king, and outside our homes in the telephone lines above our heads and under our feet spiraling bits of coded music pump nonstop from modem to modem. If we could tap into one of these phone lines and somehow decipher the packets of bits we would definitely "hear" music. The music of this conceptual internet tap would no doubt have a pop flavor to it; when we search for Britney on Morpheus, within a few minutes we get the prompt "You have received 2000 responses for 'Britney' would you like to continue searching?" whereas when we search for Steinski, we're lucky if we get one hit. But the collective music of the internet would not be just Britney or Eminem songs as we now know them; because these packets are downloading at speeds ranging from 14.4 kbs to 8 mbps, the sounds we would hear would be sped up and slowed down at amazing rates, and the output would sound less like pop and more like a crash of superimposed stretched and shortened pops.
But the mp3 formats all those long and short versions of a 3 minute pop song back to its original self and the Internet disappears, or disapeers, except in the bootleg. The remix makes all those simultaneous and sidereal downloads unstable again. It big-wave-samples an Outkast a capella over an unsuspecting Kraftwerk beat, speeds it up and/or slows it down to taste, adds a filter, and then is ready to serve. In the bootleg, one song exists in many forms or multiple songs exist in one. This phenomenon is not new to music; from John Cage's Fontana Mix and Miles Davis' tape reel cutups, to Steinski and Double Dee, John Oswald's Plunderphonics and Negativland, to the recent IDM modifications of Kid 606 and Knifehandchop. But the difference is that online the goal becomes community as well as communication. Online, the shape of song is outlined by an underground buzz of links and blogs. Boomselection.net is a gathering of laptop personas that consistently release block party quality bootlegs. Boomselection dabbles in most types of bootlegs, some are lengthy tracks that dissolve somewhere between a dj scratch sample album and the soundtrack to a cheerleading routine like Bit Meddler's ten minute "Shitmix 2000" which recycles 90's pop classics from Vanilla Ice, C&C Music Factory, Milli Vanilli and others into a glitchy raucous, and other tracks like "One Hundred Reasons To Be Sad" by Sad push it farther by mixing 100 different dance tunes into 15 minutes of four on the floor double takes reminiscent of Evolution Control Committee's classic "Chart Sweep". Other tracks like "99x," that overlay Nina's two versions of "99 Red Balloons" (German and English releases) over one another feel more like a conceptual sound art piece. For the most part the bootlegs take two songs and mix them together, they live in that space where most dj's live and good ones get paid for, the beatmatch. In a recent post to boomselection an assignment was given out, a call to remix eminem's latest track was followed by a link to the mp3 of the acapella version. A week later boomselection released a subsite dedicated only to the Eminem remixes because the response had been so positive. In the digital dancehall style of battleofthebeats.com the tracks were rated and posted. The number one track was number one mainly because of its amazing turnaround time. Within 10 minutes of the assignment someone had turned in a bootleg. The remixer took 10 minutes to download the a capella, find a track roughly the same bpm, sync it, record it, encode it to mp3, ftp it, and mail out the link. Other tracks followed that overlaid Eminem styling over M's "Pop Music," "Come on Eileen," and Timo Mass' "To Get Down" to name a sampling. The first example shows us the artistry of response, the duty to post as quick as possible something creative, making always with sharing in mind. The latter examples all try and outwit each other, which beat, tone, breakdowns best gels with Eminem's flow, who gets the rewind (or rescrub)?
Two weeks before the release of Eminem's album "The Eminem Show" a copy leaked onto a peer to peer share site. Fans were happy but Eminem and the record company were losing thousands of dollars every hour, so the record was released to record stores one week earlier than scheduled. Uploadphonix works on a different kind of economy, it's an exchange of creativity using the language that the media won't let us escape, the pop song. It takes out the top 40 overkill and gives a song an aura again, the bootleg becomes a hard to find, an underground rarity that oscillates between art and kitsch, an "avant pop" as Mark Amerika calls it. Uploadphonix adds an "and upload" to the end of Amerika's art of "surf, sample and manipulate." It becomes a tight spiral outwards of creativity that makes a music in tune with the ideals of the internet, a soudscape to fit the netscape. Proof that in the future all art works will come with a soundtrack.
© 2002, 21C Magazine