Kutiman Continues To Make Amazing New Music Via Musical Collage

from the who-owns-the-copyright? dept

We’ve written a few times in the past about the brilliant musician, Kutiman, who creates astounding musical works through what might be called musical collage — taking bits and pieces he finds on YouTube and mixing them into something amazing and wonderful. From a copyright standpoint, what he’s doing is almost certainly infringement, in some sense, under today’s laws, though thankfully no one is challenging him on that (and Israel, where he’s from, has decent fair use protections). He’s now released his latest work, and while it’s also a musical collage, it’s quite different in nature. Rather than just pull clips from YouTube, he spent a couple months going around Jerusalem, interviewing various local musicians and asking them all to just improvise some music (all around the key of D), and then mixed it together into this amazing sounding song (and wonderful video), called Thru Jerusalem:

I think we can safely say that this (as with his previous works) is really quite an incredible piece of musicianship — but his works are created in a world that copyright law can’t even comprehend, let alone predict. Can you even imagine trying to untangle the “copyright” question on such a song? Thankfully, it seems unlikely that such a question will directly come up with Kutiman’s work, but it very well might come up with other musicians who do something similar or something else new and creative. And do we really want that? Do we want musicians having to worry about “the copyright question” as they create beautiful works such as this?

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Comments on “Kutiman Continues To Make Amazing New Music Via Musical Collage”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Kutimans’ work is is without doubt a mash-up, yet also without doubt something new and original. This is not a contradiction, it simply reveals what has always been true:

Every creation is a mash-up of other creations we’ve experienced. Originality, inspiration, invention, those are just the creations we, often including the creator, can’t dissect.

Huph (user link) says:

Musicians are Separate from Composers and Songwriters

Do we want musicians having to worry about “the copyright question” as they create beautiful works such as this?

You and “Jackn” are making a common mistake. Musicians don’t “create”, they perform. Composers, songwriters, arrangers (and producers in hip hop) are the people who craft songs. These positions are legally defined differently. They’re not interchangeable.

Kutiman is definitely the arranger in this instance. Whether he would be considered the composer is subjective, I guess. However, unless he’s playing one of the instruments, he’s not technically a musician (meaning that he would not be legally entitled to that pay-scale; but that’s good because he would avoid a forced controlled-composition clause). I’m not diminishing his role, just trying to clear up misconceptions that spin out into massive confusion down the line. I’m sure he is a musician who can play an instrument, since he seems to have a firm grasp on the principles of arrangement.

For that matter, “Mash Up” is different than sample-based works, which are different from Remixes. Musical Collage is also it’s own thing (musique concrete). This isn’t semantics, these are defined differently for payment and artistic purposes.

Sorry, I’m just kind of a stickler for this stuff. I’m a huge proponent of sample-based art, but there is a lot of confusion surrounding it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Musicians are Separate from Composers and Songwriters

This is part of what’s killing corporate music. Carefully defined nitpicky boxes to put people in for the purposes of corporate management and legalisms.

It’s all a bit arbitrary. Composers don’t “make music,” they make instructions. Arrangers don’t “make music,” they reorder the instructions. Performers don’t even “make music,” their instruments do. Or, equally, they all make music just using different methods and materials.

Feh. If what a person has done creates music that did not exist before, then they’re a musician regardless of how they got there.

The guy made music, so he’s a musician.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ask for permission.

But it is complicated. So complicated and expensive that this kind of music can’t legally exist, despite the fact that it harms no one and has thousands of years of tradition and culture behind it.

This issue is the one that opened my eyes to the fact that our current copyright laws are absurd and harmful both to individuals and society at large. This issue is why I consider copyright as it currently exists to be immoral and fully worthy of ignoring.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Musicians are Separate from Composers and Songwriters

You’re both right, and both uses are fair in context. There is absolutely a time and place for clear and rigorous definitions, even within the arts, both for criticism and business reasons (is it wrong for an opera company or a large commercial studio to have positions and a pay scale?) It is also perfectly fine to use “musician” in the more general sense, to mean anyone who creates or contributes to the creation of music. I don’t agree with Huph that the more specific distinctions are always important – but his comment was informative!

To Huph I ask: what do I call the many people I have known throughout my life who compose, write, arrange, perform and record? I figured “musician” was a pretty good term…

Anonymous Coward says:

Welcome to the wonderful of how to do it right.

This video is a perfect example of what can be done when you ask rather than take. It allowed the individual artists involved to contribute their work as they saw fit, and the mashup guy worked with that product to produce a final edited piece.

No copyright issues, no problems.

The usual Techdirt crew (like you Marcus) could learn a lot from this process.

Cynyr (profile) says:

Musicians are Separate from Composers and Songwriters

so a controller/mixer is not an instrument?

so this guy isn’t a musician? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O31fAYdjdVU

I’d argue he is choosing which sounds play when, no differently than a person playing a guitar.

Also what is stopping a Musician from being the composer/songwriter/arranger as well? So you are saying that if there is no payment structure for something it shouldn’t exist? Hmm, see http://www.kernel.org/ it seems like it could use your help getting a payment system setup. or maybe http://www.mozilla.org/ .

Jay (profile) says:

*Listens to Bach as he plays the smallest violin*

“This video is a perfect example of what can be done when you ask rather than take. It allowed the individual artists involved to contribute their work as they saw fit, and the mashup guy worked with that product to produce a final edited piece”

Do you really, really, REALLY think that he asked each of those people involved in his work for permission?

Or did he create by the thumb of fair use and you’re just being inflammatory?

Prisoner 201 says:


If these people had all been signed with various major labels, the legal work involved to make this piece would take years and cost more in lawyer fees than the production cost of Lady Gaga’s latest album.

And he would certainly not be allowed to use it for free.

In summary, it would never have been done. Which is fine by Big Content, because thats less competition.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

*Listens to Bach as he plays the smallest violin*

Haha, do you think that means there is no copyright issue here?

Unless he had a team of lawyers with him on the trip, then the copyright status of this work is still very much in question. It’s only not an issue because nobody has chosen to make it one.

And I guess you are asserting that he shouldn’t have done any of the youtube mashups that made him famous and let him fund a project like this? Because art should only be for the rich, right? Like I said: no soul.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Reverse Music Video

What I find so cool about this is that it is the exact inverse of a typical Tourism Board collage, music video, or film.

Usually, the music is written first, then created in a studio. ONLY THEN do the film directors go out on location and film violinists next to wailing walls, or what have you. Those musicians/actors (milli vanilli) on location just “dub” or lip sync the music to create the film. Nothing wrong with this, and it is the easier way to do a video.

But here, Kutiman does the opposite. He films and records artists riffing ex tempore in the field, then actually uses those field recordings to splice/overlay the music. The riffs become his instrument. The music is written, if ‘written’ is even the word, ex post facto.

It sounds and looks great. How can we stop this madman?

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