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Rethinking the Digital Remix: Mash ups and the Metaphysics of Sound Recording

David J. Gunkel

“Rethinking the Digital Remixwas a well-written and fairly opinionated essay, discussing the validation and authenticity of digital remixes and mash-ups as genres of music in today’s society. Gunkel explores both arguments both for and against the use and creation of remixes and mash-ups but throughout the article, readers may pick up Gunkel’s own opinions on the issue quite strongly.

Gunkel first explores the history of recording devices and practices in history, mentioning specific equipment such as the phonograph, photographs and Plato’s Phaedrus. He then speaks of three specific reasons why the art of mash-ups and remixes shouldn’t be considered as viable forms of recording or musical practices. His first argument depicts the undermining of the original purposes of music (to see and experience live, physical performances), his second explaining that recording sounds in time defeats the purpose of originality and having the sound occur in the first place and lastly that reproducing an original product is illegal and infringes Copyright laws. One of the stronger quotes he includes quotes: “recording ruins music insofar as it turns living, spontaneous performance into something that is repetitive, programmed and entirely predictable.”

The author also briefly explains some of the positives of involving oneself in the production of remixes and mash-ups: it can result in “clever re-combinations of recorded music” which can be innovative and creative products and that in creating these collaborations of music, an idealism of two artists who would never otherwise be seen on the same stage let alone in the same recording, can occur.

I personally am not for or against the use of original music in new works, however there are certain limits that I place on these remixes and mash-ups. Firstly I believe mash-ups are effortless attempts to match music pieces together in short amounts of time. They are often past-paced, lack any huge talent to put together and often sound scattered and messy. On the other hand, there are remixes out there that are creatively and carefully devised in order to create sometimes even a better product than the original. The difference between the two being that mash ups (such as products recorded by Girl Talk) try to put short sequences of songs together, back to back, without much thought into beat-matching or genre-matching. Remixes attempt to beat match and genre-match in order to create a new collection or collaboration of sounds and often vocals.

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