Appropriation and Remix Culture in our Technological Times

I like the beginning of the definition of record players being an instrument and the music produced by it is unique and nothing reproduced. DJs work with their own sense of music and produce new sound and noises with using the phonograph and nobody can deny that it is creative, even though the line between creativity and uniqueness is blurred these years.

The issue of copyright is also in music making, no matter is it among the composers or the listeners. If the composer is responsible for the layers of authorship associated with his work, what about the listeners who does not realize it but still enjoys the music? Are we encouraging the trespassing of copyright or it is the other way around, the trespassing of the composers led listeners to enjoy what we think is unique music?

“…The popular intrigue of computer theft has inspired cinematic and paperback thrillers while the robbery of music is restricted to elementary poaching and blundering innocence. The plots are trivial: Disney accuses Sony of conspiring with consumers to make unauthorized mice. Former Beatle George Harrison is found guilty of an indiscretion in choosing a vaguely familiar sequence of pitches” I don’t agree with the second half of this quote about robbery of music is only of the level of blundering innocence. To say it, I personally know a lot of Chinese or English websites who “help” with the robbery of music online. Most of the music is anime music which is barely heard of outside of Japan but big hooks for anime lovers. People in this “business” buy the CD and put it on whatever social website he or she is part of and share the music online. This is above mere elementary poaching. It became a big network and part of a business that a lot of people take part of, some consciously and some may just due to curiosity or love of the music.

I like how Oswald use the reference of quotation marks. Surely plagiarism is common in writing and using quotation marks can solve the problem sometimes but this cannot be done in music whatsoever. Anyone can claim that one took part of the music from the other when they sound similar and the composer did it consciously or not is not clear. “Audio piracy” is putting the copyright situation in a more aggressive language but it makes sense.

Also Oswald talked about computer and how it removes expertise from the scene. I was watching a talk show in China and there is this girl who makes music with random sounds such as a cough or a thump and mixes these sounds using NDS, PS3, iPhone and other electronic devices. She said that there was another band that emailed her saying they had the same idea of doing music this way and which is the first really is unclear. This also reflects the change of making music effecting the issue of copyright and authorship.

In “Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative” John Oswald disguises the technologies that are changing the way we see piracy. As I read this essay I couldn’t help but think of the fact that this essay was written in 1985. In 85 I was a young child and totally obsessed groups like Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions, and Public Enemy. The hip-hop music of that time was heavily sample driven music and now from this class I realize what has caused the death of the music I loved as a child. If I start to think of some of the best albums of that time (Bestie Boys “Paul’s Boutique”) I know that albums like that will never made again because I would be too expensive to get all the rights for the samples. I also see that the main difference now is that they stopped going after the artist for a cut of their new art form and started going after their fans.

This essay makes me sad because the optimism that Oswald has that laws will change with the growth of technology.But here we are over twenty years latter and it has not happened. It has only escalated to turning ordinary every day people into criminals for downloading or sharing the music that they love. I agree with Oswald that music is pounded into or heads without our consent yet, if we happen to take it in and use it we are wrong. I also agree with the idea that someone owning a sequence of note is just ridiculous.

On a completely different note I just say a mash-up on the Oscars. I will try to find it and post it on the blog.