I have a lot of respect for Kirby Ferguson (It’s okay, he’s not a household name so you can stop scratching your head). Creator of the “Everything is a Remix” series, Ferguson creatively exclaims that no art is new art. It would be foolish to say in this day and age that any invention is completely new and free from external influence – words are constantly being spoken, ideas shared and evolving through collaboration… of course no idea is original.
This is by no means saying that the things being ‘created’ today are not unique or artistic – far from it. This idea of remix merely recognises that new ideas are simply old ones with something better built on top!
During a TED Talk in 2012, Ferguson had this to say, “Our creativity comes from without, not from within. We are not self-made; we are dependent on one another. And admitting this to ourselves isn’t an embrace of mediocrity…it’s an incentive to not expect so much from ourselves and simply begin”.
Feel free to contest me on this, but this is exactly how I perceive the current copyright-obsessed, piracy-fearing world to be. It baffles me that in a day and age where remix is ubiquitous and sharing online is so widely encouraged, that there is such legal turmoil over the sampling of music. I don’t know about you, but if I produced a track that was so good it made people want to remix it for fun, Id be flattered not mad! (Well, that’s easy to say hypothetically anyway).
Ferguson defines remix as “new media created from old media”. Music is the simplest way to portray this statement and whilst regular readers of my blog may see this as repetitive, I can’t miss the opportunity to mention the work of the one and only, Mr Kanye West. Disregard your predispositions and just hear me out…
Kanye’s entire discography is swarmed with sampled tracks. Taking a few seconds of a song and sampling it repetitively throughout his own creations. This means that not only is something new and unique being created by using the old, but the original song, often unbeknown to the audience, is being broadcast to an entirely new audience. This gives the listeners exposure to art that they may never have heard if it weren’t for the wonders of remix.
One of my favourite Kanye creations, “All Falls Down” uses a ten second sample of Lauryn Hill’s “Mystery of Iniquity”, a track released two years prior.
Some may see West’s sampling as a cheat – a way to make money off the work of others. But I would argue that his work is, in fact, paying homage to the artists that came before him, respecting the best bits of their work by incorporating it into his own. And again, just like Kirby Ferguson said, “creativity comes from without, not from within.”