Everything is a Remix

“Remixing” has figured centrally in the Web 2.0 vocabulary. But, remixing isn’t new. It has a long history, going back as long as we’ve been making art. Artists have always been collecting material, combining it, and transforming it into something new. Kirby Ferguson’s new video, Everything is a Remix, teases this apart as he brings you back to 1960s Paris and London – to the cut-up literature of William S. Burroughs and the songs written by Led Zeppelin with a liberal amount of borrowing. This video, the first in a series of four, appears on Ferguson’s web site in a nice large format. Have a look and consider donating to his Everything is a Remix project.


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  • Mike

    It’s interesting that Ferguson’s final line is, “In Zeppelin’s defense, they never sued anybody.” Actually they did. Led Zeppelin sued rapper Schoolly D for unauthorized use of the song “Kashmir.”

    I don’t know where Ferguson is headed with this, but so far I’m not impressed. He fails to draw a meaningful distinction between influence and theft. Artists have always been influenced by the works of others, but they have not always lifted actual pieces of those works and used them within their own work. There are some serious issues here, and they are not addressed. The glossy title, “Everything is a Remix,” seems to say “Everything’s Fine,” or “It’s all Good.” Is it?

    One other thing. Feguson finds it odd that Jake Holmes would sue Led Zeppelin 40 years later for lifting “Dazed and Confused.” Well, it’s not so surprising. Holmes has grown old. He is at retirement age now, with his most productive days behind him, so no doubt he understands the importance of receiving residual compensation for his own creative work. There are some serious ethical issues involved in Led Zeppelin’s behavior toward Holmes (and Willie Dixon), but Ferguson glosses over them.

  • Eric

    As part of the campaign to question the statement “In Zeppelin’s defense, they never sued anybody”, regurgitated Wikipedia:

    Little Roger and the Goosebumps is a pop/rock band from San Francisco active during the 1970s and early 1980s and resurrected in 2006. It has been led throughout its history by Roger Clark and Dick Bright, with various sidemen.

    The band is best known for its single “Gilligan’s Island (Stairway)”,[1] a song combining the lyrics to the theme song of the television show Gilligan’s Island with the music of “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. The band wrote the song in 1977 as “material to pad the last set of the grueling 5 nights a week/4 sets a night routine,” recorded it in March 1978, and released it as a single in May 1978 on their own Splash Records label. Within five weeks, Led Zeppelin’s lawyers threatened to sue them and demanded that any remaining copies of the recording be destroyed.[citation needed]

    During a 2005 interview on National Public Radio, Robert Plant referred to the tune as his favorite cover of “Stairway to Heaven.”[2]

    I for one appreciate attempts to analyze the extent to which “everything old is new again” or “there is nothing new under the Sun [label]“. My two cents on the matter is that the issue of “remixing” or “appropriation” seems to be qualitatively different than in centuries or decades past because it can also be quantitatively different – the material payoffs can be enormous, particularly with the push to treat virtually everything said or written as “intellectual property”. To use the cliche (and song title), “Money changes everything”.

  • IcarusArts

    And hey, your video seems like a remix of the Zepplin scene in last year’s documentary film Rip: A Remix Manifesto! I guess claiming everything is a remix is a way to avoid giving some of this fund-raising to Brett Gaylor.

  • Evan Plaice

    Intriguing speech but there are much better examples of creative remixes to be found on the web. See http://thru-you.com/. And, even artistic extensions of existing work like those brought to us by http://www.youtube.com/user/theRSAorg could be considered remixes. Remixing is really nothing but composition but, done at a higher level and possibly experimenting with many diverse mediums as opposed to perfecting one.

  • Snr. Pak

    “Intriguing speech but there are much better examples of creative remixes to be found on the web. See http://thru-you.com/. And, even artistic extensions of existing work like those brought to us by http://www.youtube.com/user/theRSAorg could be considered remixes. Remixing is really nothing but composition but, done at a higher level and possibly experimenting with many diverse mediums as opposed to perfecting one.”
    This was well deserved and swift diversion of my attention.

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