'Piracy' That Creates Amazing New Music

from the here-we-go-again dept

More than five years ago we first wrote about Kutiman, an Israeli musician who created an album of incredible new music simply by editing together a bunch of unrelated YouTube clips. The end result is... astounding. I still listen to it frequently. In some ways this is a "mashup" or a "remix" but it's unlike most that you've heard. Many remixes take a known recorded song and change it around or take a few different recorded songs and mix them all together. Those can be amazing too. I've found that by artists like Girl Talk or D.VELOPED often create music that I, personally, find to be more enjoyable than the originals. But Kutiman is different, and takes it to a new level by taking totally random bits of music -- often amateurs messing around -- on YouTube, and converting them into astoundingly complex and beautiful songs.

We've highlighted some of the examples in the past, but here are two examples from that first album, of taking a random video that most wouldn't consider to be anything all that special and turning into a part of an amazing project. We'll start with taking a simple kid playing a scale on a trumpet which becomes integral to an entire (great) funk song. Here's the trumpet bit:
And here's the full song:
Or how about this basic trombone solo becoming such a haunting and compelling part of this dub reggae song (trombone comes in at 42 seconds). Here's the trombone:
And here's the full song:
Kutiman is back again with a new track from a follow up album of songs clipped together from YouTube (the full album is expected to be released soon), and once again, it's quite amazing:
And yet, some might argue that this is all nothing more than "piracy" or "infringement." Others may argue that this is not "real" music because it's just "remixing." I have a hard time taking any of those arguments seriously. Here is someone using those pieces as instruments to create a beautiful new work. It takes nothing away from the old work.

Unfortunately, however, there's already been some (now resolved) controversy with this new work. One of the cello players, Deryn Cullen, featured in this work apparently complained to Kutiman. It's this video in which she plays Bach's Prelude from Cello Suite no 2 in d minor. She apparently was initially upset and felt that Kutiman should have first asked permission to use her performance. After they talked it over, and she understood the nature of the project (and, perhaps, because she saw how much positive attention it was getting), she agreed that she was happy to be a part of it. It's good that they were able to have a discussion on this and come to a mutual appreciation -- but it's yet another unfortunate situation that one comes to when we live in a world of "permission culture," where some people feel that you should always get permission first. And to sort of prove how silly this is, one need only ask whether or not Cullen received permission from the estate of Johann Sebastian Bach before performing his piece.

I'm happy it worked out in the end, but imagine if every time someone wanted to create new music they had to get permission from everyone up and down the chain whose work played a part? What's happening here, with Kutiman, is so blatantly obviously brilliantly creative, new and original -- and yet, under our broken copyright laws it might be deemed "infringing" by some, "derivative" by others, and illegal by many. Isn't that a problem? Isn't the idea behind copyright law to encourage new and beautiful works like these? Adding the friction and tollbooth of "permission culture" to the process would make this kind of artwork impossible, and that would be a loss to everyone.

Filed Under: creation, creativity, culture, kutiman, mashup, music, piracy, remix, youtube

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  1. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 19 Sep 2014 @ 1:06pm


    People who say remixing isn't art don't understand what art actually is.

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