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Norwegian Black Metal from Bergen

 

The Norwegian city of Bergen, located in the Hordaland County in Norway’s southwest, is one of the most influential and important localities in the roots, development and globalization of ‘Black Metal’ music. Many of Black Metal’s most important artists come from Bergen, such as Varg Vikernes of Burzum, ‘Abbath’ and ‘Demonaz’ of Immortal, ‘Ghaal’ and ‘King ov Hell’ of Gorgoroth, as well as bands in the vein of Emperor, Hades Almighty, Enslaved and Taake.

This piece will explore the development of the Black Metal music scene in Bergen, Norway – and how the genre’s international success has made Bergen a significant location in the global music industry, widely known as ‘The Black Metal Capital’. (FIB, 2011) Furthermore, it will investigate how Black Metal music has been created and performed by musicians, and marketed to the global music industry, also discussing a range of industrial processes and important events that have contributed to Bergen’s emergent identity in global music culture, and the worldwide dissemination of Black Metal music.

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Black Metal music has long been a global phenomenon. However, it has over time become most synonymous with the Scandinavian country of Norway. Black Metal’s primary musical influences can be traced back to 1980s metal bands such as Bathory (Sweden), Hellhammer (Switzerland) and Venom (UK), and even 1970s bands like Black Sabbath (UK) before them. Each of these bands displayed a dark, (anti)religious musical ethos, that prompted bands from all over the world to begin experimenting with dark themes, heavy sounds and unconventional attitudes to religion and society, attempting to take the concept to the next level. The eventual breakthrough of Black Metal in the early 1990s can be attributed to Norwegians, as they gave the whole movement its ignition, and its impetus to become a formidable force in the extreme metal firmament. (Norsk Svart Metal, 2011) 

The task of defining Black Metal and clearly explaining its motives has long been a very difficult undertaking, as the movement has developed a very controversial and detailed history over the years, influenced by myriad factors and significant events. It would be reasonably accurate to describe Black Metal as a genre of extreme heavy metal music, typified by equal measures of sheer frenetic speed and slow grinding carnage, layered with inhuman sounding lyrical shrieks. But this description of the Black Metal sound is an inconclusive definition, as it does not take into account the powerful philosophical, historic and secular messages engrained in the music’s dogma and subculture, arguably the most important elements in its authenticity and global appeal. 

Black Metal’s gory, contravened imagery and overarching themes express an obvious opposition to religion (particularly Christianity) and conformity, as well as a desire to become ‘the superman’, or ‘the god within yourself’. (Ghaal, 2005) Its ideals also draw on outside influences such as nature, the occult and the past. The Norwegian Black Metal philosophy promotes self-governance, channelling satanic themes and a hatred for the ubiquitous Christian faith, to provide its advocates with a sense of superiority, independence and twisted power. This is also reflected in the predominantly independent nature of the music’s production, distribution, organisational and marketing endeavours, as many Black Metal bands adopt an ‘indie’, Do-It-Yourself approach to their music. 

The subculture associated with Black Metal music traditionally explores its core ideologies not only in musical terms, but in aesthetic, behavioural and physical practices too. Corpse paint, studs, inverted crucifixes and weaponry establish the ‘superhuman’ visual aesthetic of Black Metal, and offer a form of escapism from the human identities of Black Metal’s exponents; a commanding alter ego for them to actively engage with and believe in. Many involved in the genre even adopt satanic or occult inspired pseudonyms in place of their given Christian names, in order to achieve a more authentic and dedicated relationship with the anti-Christian Black Metal subculture to which they belong. This unique culture and visual distinctiveness has come to offer the Black Metal music scene of Norway its identity on a global scale, and is central to Black Metal’s international marketing and image.

‘We were dedicated to the core to a vital and subcultural underground world of harsh and devilish-inspired metal’. Bard Faust – Emperor

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The early 1990s introduced a transgressive, physical enforcement of Black Metal’s dedication to the anti-Christ. At the dawn of the 1000-year anniversary of Christianity in Norway, a violent arson attack reduced one of Norway’s most cherished Christian churches, the Fantoft Stave church in Bergen, to ashes. This marked a critical turning point in the musical, cultural and political position of Black Metal, increasing global awareness of the art form and demonstrating the harsh gravity of its anti-Christian rebellion. The arson of the church, perpetrated by influential Bergen Black Metal musician Varg Vikernes, triggered dozens of subsequent attacks by others, and placed Bergen in the public eye, at the heart of Black Metal’s escalating controversy. The Black Metal movement spawned a subculture of anti-religious ‘teen terrorists’ (Christe, 2003) in the early 1990s that advocated a ‘chaotic, individualistic, free-for-all’, in place of Bergen’s ‘orderly, social democratic society’.
(Kahn-Harris, 2008).
  

Bergen is the second largest city in Norway, behind capital city Oslo. (Best Norwegian, 2011) Bergen’s population of approximately 250,000 people enjoys superb living standards, an outstanding education system and a high average salary due to its prosperous economy. Paradoxically, the picturesque Bergen is also known for its reputation as ‘The Black Metal Capital’; home of ‘one of the most controversial music subgenres in the world’. (Woolley, E. 2009) This reflection of Bergen is not only used to market Black Metal music within the global music industry, but also, oddly enough, to market Bergen as a tourist destination in Norway. Favourably located at the gateway to some of Norway’s most beautiful fjords and peninsulas, Bergen is encircled by a collection of mountains, known as ‘De syv fjelle’, or in English ‘The seven mountains’. The climate of Bergen delivers remarkably long periods of sustained rain, snow and darkness due to its combination of oceanic and mountainous surroundings, providing an ideal setting for the creation of the dark music Bergen has become known for.

 

Kahn-Harris explains: The Norway celebrated in Black Metal is a land of forests, inclement weather and untamed wilderness, the land of the Vikings.’ (2008)

 

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Immortal, one of the most acclaimed Black Metal bands of all time, have forged a career of over 20 years from their fascination with Norwegian nature and Norse mythology. The lyrical themes covered in Immortal’s music are just as inspired by Bergen’s mundane weather, icy forests, freezing seas, and snowy mountain peaks as they are by sacrilegious themes. It was once joked that ‘The Eskimos are believed to have 23 words for snow, but Immortal have 24.’ (Murder Music, 2007) Other artists from Bergen such as Enslaved and Burzum, demonstrated an impressive understanding and passion for Norway’s rich history and heritage, as well as its scenery and environment. Enslaved wrote expressive, thought-provoking music stimulated by their Viking ancestry, that wasn’t Satanic but expressed a frustration with the imposition of religion on society. Meanwhile Burzum, created by Varg Vikernes, ‘the most notorious metal musician of all time’, (Dunn, 2005) developed its powerful musical standpoint from detailed studies of the atrocities imposed against Norway’s Pagan and Viking forefathers by the invading Christians in the 9th and 10th centuries.

Burzum’s aggressive, yet atmospheric music evoked Vikernes’ desire to cast out Christianity from Norway as violently as it had invaded long ago. (Christe, 2003) It still came as a surprise however; that Vikernes, aka ‘Count Grishnackh’, went on to instigate perhaps the two most significant and ‘classic’ acts in Black Metal’s history. (Øyre, 2004) In 1994, Vikernes was imprisoned for 21 years (Norway’s life sentence) for the 1993 murder of Øystein Aarseth, the chief songwriter of Oslo Black Metal band Mayhem, of which Virkenes was a member of at the time. The 21-year sentence also punished Vikernes for his involvement in various church burning attacks, chiefly the burning down of the Fantoft Stave church in Bergen – an act that was photographed by Vikernes, and contentiously featured as the cover of the 1993 Burzum EP, Aske, translating to ‘Ashes’ in English. 

‘I want to create a large following, burn down all the churches, and throw all Christians out. My church burning army will consist of young people’ Varg Vikernes – Burzum

The infamous early records of Vikernes’, namely ‘Burzum’, ‘Det Som Engang Var’, and ‘Filosofem’, didn’t rely on production values for their haunting sounds, instead settling for a grainy, raw, rushed and unprocessed mix. The packaging on these releases featured simple, dark and ethereal black-and-white depictions of Norwegian nature, simply marked with ‘Burzum’ in the top left corner. This straightforward marketing routine proved inspirational to Black Metal bands the world over, and the three records became cult classics after his imprisonment, suggesting that a defiance of standard music industry practices was perhaps something that the global market admired about Black Metal.

 

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The fact that Burzum’s music attracted overwhelming demand after the hysteria of Vikernes’ sentence, indicates the scandal-crazed media’s enormous impact on the growth in popularity of Norwegian Black Metal. The media industry became the central force in making Bergen a significant part of global music culture, as it so exaggeratedly glorified and exposed the Bergen Black Metal scene and its related events to the world. People around the world wanted to buy Black Metal magazines and classic Black Metal records just to see what the commotion was about, and determine if the anti-Christian themes of Black Metal were legitimate, or just a part of the staging and commercial potential of the music.  

‘The media made reputations. In the beginning there were maybe twenty people in the scene, and suddenly there were four of five hundred.’ Ihsahn – Emperor 

‘Local scenes have been particularly important in pioneering new styles that have gone on to be popular throughout the global scene.’ (Harris, 2000) This quote resembles precisely the nature of Bergen’s significance in the broader international development of Black Metal. The increase in Black Metal’s popularity and publicity led to its gradual commercialization, prompting a ‘second wave’ of Norwegian Black Metal bands to enter the scene, mostly from Oslo, and the inevitable emulation of the genre in other countries. Other countries grew curious about Black Metal’s extreme and unique sound and themes, prompting the establishment of their own Black Metal bands, to fluctuating degrees of success. The main inconsistency between the ‘native’ Black Metal of Norway and the ‘global’ Black Metal mutations developed in countries like Greece, Japan, Korea and Poland was with regards to ‘authenticity’. Whereas the founding Norwegian bands could proudly stand in icy forests and wield old Nordic weapons and upside down crosses as a visual accompaniment to their zealous ideologies, Black Metal bands from abroad, some whom even came from non-Christian countries, could not convincingly imitate the image or embrace the subculture. Evidence of this lies in the fact that no other location in the world presented itself as being strongly identifiable with Black Metal like Bergen did.

 The 1997 outbreak of Church burnings in Russia, (Christe, 2003) for instance, was nothing more than a foolish release of adolescent angst after years of domestic conflict, as Russia’s Black Metal scene quickly diminished afterwar

‘People are always picking things up the wrong way. What’s the point of a guy from Greece holding up Thor’s hammer? He should have a Zeus or Cronus symbol and at least respect his own mythological gods!’  (Mortiis, 2003)

 

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Black Metal from Bergen has an astonishing legacy that continues to unfold and impress. Bergen’s proximity to the infamous Black Metal inspired crimes that occurred during the genre’s formative years, was fundamental to the global dissemination of Black Metal music and its principles. The media hype surrounding the Vikernes trial and other noteworthy events in Bergen’s Black Metal culture, created worldwide awareness for both the music and its origin in Norway. The music industry’s subsequent commercialization of Black Metal’s sound and imagery then allowed for Black Metal to serve a global market and further its progression, with the music reaching a wider global audience today than ever before.

Black Metal’s current creative scope adopts electronic elements, symphonic orchestrations, operatic vocals and acoustic guitars, as well as influence from various other genres and facets of music such as classical, progressive and folk. Yet, the bands from Bergen retain the most loyal and passionate of Black Metal followings, because they have remained true to their established subculture, embracing the musical, industrial and philosophical roots developed in the early 1990s, while still creating music that is relevant in today’s global Black Metal landscape. In fact, Black Metal has become Norway’s biggest global music export, (Visit Norway, 2010) and I believe this would not be the case had Bergen not developed such a reputation in the early 1990s. 

The Black Metal subculture has matured with its founding figures, but still retains its integrity. As disturbing and warped as it seems, if it hadn’t been for Varg Vikernes’ criminal actions in Bergen, and the media puffery that followed – Black Metal music would not encompass the significance, ruthlessness and distinctly Norwegian status that it upholds proudly today. The genre’s success has caused the physical violence and public disturbance that the Black Metal lifestyle was so notorious for to slowly dissipate. This has allowed the city of Bergen to boast equilibrium between its natural, peaceful charm, and its famous Black Metal culture – a peculiar, yet compelling combination.

 

 

 

REFERENCES AND WIDER READING

Best Norwegian (2011)

‘Bergen, Norway – Worth a Visit’ – Bestnorwegian.com

URL: http://www.bestnorwegian.com/bergen.html

Accessed: 30/08/2011

Festspillene I Bergen (2011)

‘Bergen – The Black Metal Capital’ – FIB.no

URL: http://www.fib.no/en/News/News-archive/Bergen—the-black-metal-capital/

Accessed: 28/08/2011

Kahn-Harris, K. (2008)

‘True Norwegian Black Metal’ – Newhumanist.org.uk

URL: http://newhumanist.org.uk/1829/true-norwegian-black-metal-by-peter-beste

Accessed: 29/08/2011

Norsk Svart Metal (2011)

‘History’ – Norsksvartmetal.com

URL: http://www.norsksvartmetall.com/history.htm

Accessed: 29/08/2011

Tisdall, J. Øyre, T. (2004)

‘Restored Church Draws Black Metal Fans’ – Aftenposten.no

URL: http://www.aftenposten.no/english/local/article842497.ece

Accessed: 31/08/2011

Travel Smart Ltd. (2011)

‘Bergen Tourism and Tourist information’ – World-guides.com

URL: http://www.bergen.world-guides.com/

Accessed: 29/08/2011

Visit Norway (2011)

‘Inferno Black Metal Festival’ – Visitnorway.com

URL: http://www.visitnorway.com/en/Articles/Theme/What-to-do/Whats-on/The-Inferno-Festival/

Accessed: 31/08/2011

Woolley, E. (2009)

‘True Norwegian Black Metal’ – Metal-archives.com

URL:http://www.metalarchives.com/reviews/Gorgoroth/True_Norwegian_Black_Metal_-_Live_in_Grieghallen/239118/

Accessed: 30/08/2011

Aldis, N. Ian, S. Sherry, J. (2006) Heavy Metal Thunder

Octopus Publishing Group Ltd. London.

1st edition.

p. 184-214.

Christe, I. (2003) Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal

Harper Collins Publishers Inc. New York.

1st edition.

p. 269-290.

Harris, K. (2000) Roots: The relationship between the local and the global in the extreme metal scene’

Popular Music, Vol.19, No. 1.

1st edition. Cambridge University Press.

p. 13-30.

Video – ‘Metal, A Headbanger’s Journey’ (2005)

Directed: Dunn, S. McFadyen, S.

Banger Production Inc. Canada.

Video – ‘Murder Music – A History of Black Metal’ (2007)

Directed: Dome, M. Kenny, D.

RockWorld TV, Carnaby Media. London.

Video – ‘True Norwegian Black Metal’ (2007)

Directed: Berglin, I. Beste, P. Semmer, R. Washlesky, M

VBS TV, New York.

 

Video – ‘Until The Light Takes Us’ (2009)

Directed: Aites, A. Ewell, A.

Variance Films, New York.

The response so far to my concept development website has come as a surprise to myself and to others.

At first, the whole HTML web page thing prompted me to think: ‘Hmm… I’m not really a technical computer guy. This might be quite difficult.’

But I can say now, having enjoyed the challenge of making a content rich, contextualised and pleasant looking HTML website (a simple one nevertheless), that maybe i passed judgement on myself a bit too soon.

The weekly tutorials and guides on the RMIT music industry blog page have guided me through the process, along with research of my own, using sites like ‘w3schools’ and the ‘html tutor’, and LOTS AND LOTS of trial and error (i’m talking 170 firefox windows open at once from website previews) – and i now feel like the art of ‘web design’, with a little bit of practice and study – really isn’t as complex as it initially seemed.

Without further adoo, i am also extremely excited to announce that the brand new ‘KETTLESPIDER’ track, ‘Intro Song (Fates Entwined), is complete and mixed (but not yet properly mastered).

The new song, and another little somethin’ somethin’ is hosted on my Concept Development website – what better place to host a WORLD PREMIERE OF A NEW SONG. (you’ve got to love a hyped up plug).

Anyway – i’m keen to show you all my KETTLESPIDER website, fresh with a time lapse video hosted on vimeo, our new music hosted on soundcloud (including a signature kettlespider song – reworked to include a ‘soundscape’ for all of you music concrete fans out there), and lots of other photos and information about the band and what we’ve been upto. Here it is:

KETTLESPIDER WEB PAGE

Shout out to those super intelligent web-conscious characters who gave me some cool advice and have incredible pages in the course (thats you Joe Fuchsen)!

i’m feeling proud of this little number and look forward to hearing some feedback from you on the website and on the new music!!!!

Cheers!

Simon.

 

Above: Kettlespider experiment with Karate 

Recently, we have read about and discussed in class; the notion of remixing and reimaging existing media to create ‘new’ media, as well as theories regarding what is considered as ‘authentic’ and ‘original’, as we consider the future of ‘authorship’ , adapting to change in the digital environment.

In this week’s reading however, we take a change of pace to focus on ‘podcasting’ – a combination of the words ‘ipod’ and ‘broadcasting’ – in Prachi Parashar Panday’s (The Triple P Entente) 2009 article ‘Simplifying Podcasting’.

The article first discusses the elements that constitute a podcast, and the process involved in its dissemination from producer to consumer. (thinking, creating, subscribing, listening.)

Podcasting is defined by Panday as ‘Providing on demand content at a student’s desktop in the net generation’ (namely audio content). It is usually free to obtain podcasts, and the files are automatically recieved at regular time intervals if you are a subscriber to the producer’s page or ‘rss feed’. They are convenient as they can be listened to ‘when driving home, walking the dog, in the gym or in their leisure time’.

Interestingly, the use of the word ‘student’ in Panday’s definition of podcasting is indicative of the approach he is taking in the article.

He points out three types of podcasts: ‘Public’, ‘Personal, and ‘Professional’ (another Triple P Entente).

Public podcasts are generic and aim to share anything with the world.

Personal podcasts can be seen as similar to a photo album, as they document an event or significant occasion in the form of audio to share with friends/family etc.

Professional podcasts generally serve an educational or corporate purpose, and they can be orchestrated in many different ways to add a degree of professionalism.

All three types of podcasts serve different purposes, and can be subscribed to by many different people, under the supervision of the producer/host. All types of podcasts can be subject to plagiarism and copyright issues – something Panday warns should be properly cited/referenced – though many choose the option of using a pseudo name or fake identity to escape danger.

Panday references three different theorists views on the types of learners in our world, concluding from his findings that auditory learning in the form of podcasting fits nicely into all three different theories, accomodating a wide variety of people’s learning habits. He alludes to the fact that podcasting could be a very useful and successful widespread learning tool in education and on a corporate landscape if more educators pay attention to it, which becomes the grounds on which the article continues.

‘There are many educational institutions – schools and universities – testing the pedagogical benefits of podcasting.’

Duke university distributed 1650 ipods to its students in 2004, with the purpose of using them as learning devices rather than entertainment units. This influential move attracted much media attention, which was met with much apprehension and anger from professors and authorities from other institutes that refused to believe there were any positives in funding such a move.

The point of view in the article becomes clear here, that although some educators want to try out the new materials available, educational figureheads and policies generally do not promote change.

Apprehension towards the use of podcasting can be attributed to:

lack of knowledge in the area, fear of technology, lack of recognition, failures, market trends, threats to privacy/safety, copyright issues, fear of attendance drops if podcasts form a substitute to classes, comprehension issues, doubts about communication skills, requirements, search times etc.

However, every reason against the use of podcasting has some sort of positive flipside that in my opinion makes it a very worthwhile technology, that i would enjoy seeing incorporated into learning activites at schools and institutes, like Panday.

‘Often educators who try innovative tools are not recognized for their work and effort’.

If we see more innovators coming to the forefront, and additional evidence of the podcast’s positive impact on education, training, informing and entertaining – people may start to realise its market value and bother investing their time to learn, practice and plan productive uses for such a simple but effective technology.

There are some great locally produced podcasts available online that i have explored for years now, one source of which i will share with you now. The ABC offers podcasts on topics relevant to all different kinds of people and i have found my niche in the arts and entertainment section of their website. My fascination with Triple J Radio is well and truly taken to the next level here, with some great podcast segments available, hosted by likeable, truly insightful people – as well as movie news podcasts and reviews, gigs, exhibitions, the list goes on! – all in the best format possible, audio.

ABC PODCASTS – ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

do try it.

Simon

just for a laugh…

Copyright Boyle. J, Jenkins. J - (2010) From Theft: A History of Music. Hosted: craphound.com

My essay is beginning to take shape, fuelled by the discussion of the ‘8 traits of the new media landscape’ by Henry Jenkins.

The Jenkins’ quote that forms the stimuli for arguments in this essay seems to view the current media landscape as being more influenced by its emerging cultural practices, than by the technological tools and advancements that shape it and make these communities possible.

I believe the cultural practices Jenkins’ speaks of could not have emerged without the availability of innovative and advanced technological tools in our current moment of media trasition – and the tools could not have been developed and exploited to their full potential without the existence of participatory/online communities that could benefit from them. So i will hold the stance that emerging cultural practices and communities in the current media landscape, are equally important to, and largely dependant on the technological tools and innovations present within the modern media realm. The two rely upon eachother to exist and develop further, continuously changing the way we think and feel about music.

My blog posts in response to the weekly readings have helped me to gain further insight into the issues raised in the essay, and will be instrumental in the formulation of my arguments troughout.

Other important talking points:

-remixing -change in preferred audio mediums over decades -intellectual property and copyright -perception of originality in music -online communities -use of video in music -live music and its reliance on the internet – self recorded/produced artists -decentralisation from the major labels and money grabbing entities in music (on the topic of decentralisation – make sure you read the manifesto starkyblog has started to compile)

cheers,

simon

Furthering our recent studies on ‘remixing’, the article, ‘Remix and the Rouelles of Media Production’ (Feb, 2010. Networked Book) focuses on the increasing popularity of remix culture, the various methods used in the practice, and the differing standards/forms that are prominent online due to the increasing cost effectiveness of video production. Beginning with the principle that remixing has its roots in the differing adaptations and reconfigurations of poetry from many centuries ago, the comparison is made that ‘video poets (or as we know them, video remixers) find quality in selecting from pre-existing material, much like poets borrow from their respective literary traditions’. The contextual difference of these two remix cultures however, lies in the protection of intellectual property that we now have today (through innovations such as data-mining and real-time search tracking) – that did not exist in an earlier age, leading to ‘recurring questions of originality that are closely linked to copyright issues’.

Despite the strict laws imposed against copyright infringers, licensing systems such as creative commons and the ‘copyleft’ principle open a plethora of opportunities for remixers to modify and mashup existing works legally. I believe the popularity of legal remixing and mashup projects make the illegal content projects so much more appealing to creators and spectators of remix communities. Remixers willing to take a risk by working with copyrighted or forbidden content can propel themselves to fame before facing any legal trouble due to the online community support for all things out of the ordinary. ‘Social networks are defined by remix aesthetics’ – and offer a variety of places and opportunities for things to go viral, at almost no initial cost given the ease of video editing/production and the readily available content on the internet, and this what is narrowing the gap between professional video editors and amateur video remixers.

Much of the remix culture we see today is not designed to generate profit – which is where the current copyright laws and financial gains involved in taking action against a copyright infringer become outdated and seemingly unjust. Sure some use of copyrighted material is blatantly unnacceptable and controversial, but there are many cases that can be treated with mushc more sensitivity. We have more recently seen an emergence of remix culture in the advertising industry as there has been a realisation of profitable opportunity in targeting the market demographic of people influenced or fascinated by the remix aesthetic – which adds another dimension to the issues related to remix, since companies can remix and update their own copyrighted work from years passed.

Video remix/mashups (legal or non legal – for profit or not for profit) may be produced for a number of reasons – perhaps to deliver political opinion, humour, proving a point, to demonstrate percieved originality, a chance of fame, or simply personal enjoyment from being involved in an online cultural network – whatever the reason, the increasing presence of these videos means that copyright matters now fall into a far broader spectrum and are a lot harder to legislate over – particularly in the case of low profile and little known artists who have had their rights to their works infringed. They lack the power of ‘large conglomerates that own the rights to much of the media today and can squash potential artistic challenges with threat of legal action’ and often are note recognised for their work. If remixing in the digital media revolution is going to continue to be a powerhouse that nurtures the modern styles of creativity we see developing, there must be some  technological and legal reforms as well as enrichment of remix communities themselves.

At the end of the day, the main issue of all of this comes down to the popularity of a revolutionary internet subculture that promotes creativity from uncreativity – like much music, poetry and media forms of the past that have raised enormous legal questions.

Instead of filming and producing fresh, new and exciting series of footage that are completely original, there has been a shift to producing fresh, new and only occasionally exciting video that embellishes on various pieces of footage that already exist – which pose legal, intellectual property and moral issues that generate much discussion but few solutions. Remix culture is essential to the internet, but it has caused the value of individual labour to decrease.

Simon Wood.

Confessions of an Intellectual (Property): Danger Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Sonny Bono, and My Long and Winding Path as a Copyright Activist Academic – Kembrew Mcleod (Popular Music and Society, 2005)

The insightful reading by Kembrew McLeod listed above, focuses on the controversial issues associated with intellectual property/copyright law and the internet, using the emergence of the ‘mashup’ as an example of creative opportunites that become hindered by creative limitations. A mashup in musical spheres is essentially a collaboration of two existing works, that create a new and often seamlessly put together piece of art. Questions regarding the creativeness of mashup pieces are asked constantly, but that is not the issue.. the issue lies in the failure to comply with intellectual property and ownership rights held by artists and record companies that govern how pieces of music can be used. Danger mouse, a hip hop DJ and producer – is the main case study of this article. He famously released an album in 2003 to much critical acclaim that mixed the rapping of Jay-Z’s Black Album with the music of the Beatles White Album – to produce what Danger Mouse dubbed ‘The Grey Album’. Supported by a legion of online fans and mashup enthusiasts that risked lawsuits by hosting the album online, (including the author of the article), Danger mouse had his album banned by EMI records. Kembrew states this was ‘because it did not fit in to an outdated copyright regime, which is why it was of interest to many journalists, law professors, media scholars, music fans and others’. However, the protestant approach taken by internet users who supported Danger Mouse, coupled with the distribution power of the internet allowed for over 1 million downloads of the album to take place, despite every distributor of the album being issued with a cease and desist letter from EMI.

The following material in the article touched on various other mashups including abstract stylistic blends such as Eminem vs Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Christina Aguilera vs the Strokes, and the risky sampling of notorious mashup veterans Negativland – as well as evidence of collaborative art dating back 100 years, and even the author’s attempt to demonstrate the restrictive power of copyright ownership by registering the phrase ‘freedom of expression’ as a trademark in his name – however all of these factors need little additional reference for me to opinionatedly respond to this article.

When Chuck D of Public Enemy was asked how he felt about other people reworking his music without permission (not to mention mashing his political raps with an easy listening Herb Alpert and Tijuana brass song), he replied,

‘I think my feelings are obvious. I think its great’.

Although it has taken me a long time to ‘get’ why people would take classic and recognizable music so far away from its original form that it no longer serves its original purpose, i’m starting to feel the same way as Chuck D, Especially now that i’ve seen the creative flair some of these mashup artists have in exploiting the simplicity of pop music. ‘If pop songs weren’t simple and formulaic, it would be much harder for bedroom mashup amateurs to do their job’.

When i used to wind up in a nightclub or a gym and hear remix music that ‘destroyed’ original songs from yesteryear with awful effects, drum loops or techno synths, i would often complain and try and block my ears to avoid hearing it. My old opinion would have made me believe infringing copyright was not worth it, and have me hoping the original artist would be swimming in money from royalties (though the record companies probably got them). However, since looking further into the art of remixing on youtube, google, in articles and with friends – i’ve found so much amusement in the creativity that some musically minded people possess – by taking simple conventions used in popular, recognizable songs to draw unlikely combinations which allow music that is truly new and unique, such as that of Danger Mouse or Girltalk – or better still, the music that parodies or puts to shame the unoriginality of existing music, such as the ‘boulevard of broken songs’ video below.

If you’re going to risk a lawsuit, i believe it is controversial cleverness that you should embrace. Defy convention, and try to prove a point. Then let the youtube views roll in.

Mashup culture is unstoppable and getting more and more diverse – and record companies are seeing opportunities in their popularity, meaning more and more mashups are being made, with seemingly less consequences. Hell, maybe its time i give a mashup song a go for myself!

after doing some reading into various manifesto’s listed on the rmitmusic wordpress home page, i have decided that the most relevant topic to construct my own similarly designed manifesto is my band, kettlespider – which is also the basis of my web concept. the manifesto focuses on the personal and musical aspects of the band, as well as online/technology based factors.

THE TEN RULES OF KETTLESPIDER CULTURE

1. Hair should be short one year, and long the next. Decisiveness is not advised. Go with the flow, and when sporting a mullet – be prepared for slander in pubs and at concerts. (oh and especially walking down the street in frankston)

2. Drink craft beers. They were made creatively, so surely that makes you more creative as musicians.. Pity we’re mostly poor.

Some Rights Reserved - Robert.S.Donovan, Flickr. 2009

3. Wash hair with baking soda. Scott has recommended this for years due to the no grease, no fuss approach it provides. Just don’t mistake it for Baby powder like i did.. That is full of fuss and doesn’t impress the ladies.

4. Change your gear/pedal selection every few months. A big part of this lifestyle is using your study or work time to research gear  – extra points if its rare and second hand. It wouldn’t hurt to completely change the way the songs used to sound now would it?

Some Rights Reserved. 'Germanium'. Flickr. 2006

5. Argue about anything to do with money, compositions, band expenses, lifts and organisation – then all get drunk together and forget it happened.

6. Find obscure and unique ways to win a crowd when you publicise your shows online. The aim is to have people talking as much about the event invites as they do about your show. eg. ‘Glacial Hiking Safety Lessons Gig’ – that one has actually happened.

7. Get someone else to do your ‘about me’ section to add credibility to your biography. Even if it is your number one fan, or photographer.

8. Experiment with every plugin and software technology you have availabe to you, until you’ve exhausted all your possible sounds when recording. You’ll end up with a sound somewhere in between the best and the worst you came up with, but at least you had fun and snuck in some quality bonding.

9. Similarly to above, allow indefinate periods of time to complete recordings, as you know you’ll want to play as many embellishments, tritones, polyrhythms and harmonies as you can.

10. Be unique, dress comfortably, enjoy eachothers company and have the right amount of ego.

Singing is optional. live for the songs.

Kettlespider on Facebook

The week 6 reading i’ve studied was written by J.Freedman, an active figure in the collaborative networked music movement. Freedman invented the innovative ‘Graph Theory’ software for musicians to collaborate within, and in this piece of writing he not only discusses and promotes ‘Graph Theory’ and other similar innovations, but also the importance of storage and how being able to record, share, manipulate and remix art and media in the modern day would be impossible without it. Freedman puts great focus on his favouritism of storage-focused works over that of tranmission-focused works and explains how being able to use storage in media has been a hugeley overlooked, but important part of our lives for many years, using tape answering machine messages for our telephones as a suitable example.

Freedman then uses some older case studies referring to various bands and musicians who implemented a collaborative approach in the composition of their music, such as the ‘Rova Saxophone Quartet’, whose music was led by the improvised use of signals and symbols by each of the members to signify a change in the songs flow or structure. This early form of collaborative art serves as a clever precursor for the ensuing discussion of online collaborative networks in music.

To further explain the wonders of storage-focused collaborative network art (the phrase gets easier to fathom with every read), Freedman takes us on an interesting visual journey of other popular storage-based web 2.0 developments similar to his ‘Graph Theory’, using video and screenshot examples of sites like ‘WebDrum’, an online drum sampling program where users from all over the world can collaborate to create beats and rhythms, and the awesome looking ‘JamGlue’ (which has now evidently been shut down), that was essentially Apple’s Garageband converted to a collaborative online format where the high quality of some of the finished collaborative pieces became the main hallmark of the site.

The article was perhaps overly descriptive and technically advanced for the average reader, but was informative and interesting for the most part, very well accompanied by the colorful visuals. I found Freedman’s constant reference to his own software and former works to be a shameless advertisement for himself, however i appreciate his passion for the art. I also liked the inclusion of a comment sidebar that moved with the page, enabling users to comment on any points or issues in the writing that they saw as interesting or qustionable.

Simon, Signing off.

aus music blogs

i have been quite surprised at how difficult it is to find australian music blogs that are relevant to my place in the music industry!

i’ve spent the last hour just trying to find 3 regularly updated music industry blogs that i can passionately write about, but with the big kahuna’s like band websites and enormous entities such as triple m radio and beat magazine aside – it is hard to find something with an rss feed that i can really take an interest in. maybe i’m looking in the wrong places, but i’d sure expect more from the tech guru’s of australia!!

okay, here are a few sites that may be of interest to others that can feature on the ausmusic blog list.

http://www.thetempertrap.com/content/blog – The increasingly popular ‘temper trap’ boys from here in melbourne are a local band i’ve developed a real following for – their blog is thoughtfully written, full of substance, visually impressive and rich in content. advertising is cleverly placed plus all band related, and there is clearly some pride taken in making the band’s online presence an important liaising device with fans.

http://www.entertainmentdepot.com.au/news/ – i was lured into ‘the entertainment depot’ while searching on technorati, because it was one of the few ‘music in australia’ blogs i found, that was regularly updated and visited often. its appearance is somewhat simple and outdated, but its the content that counts – masses of gig updates, album release information posts, reviews and general snippets of news are posted here in one monthly dose – and there’s lots of rss support from all the major reading devices as well as a thoroughly organised, but slightly messy timelined topic thread on the sidebar.

http://exp-melb.blogspot.com/ – finally to ‘experimental melbourne’, not particularly of interest to me but a seemingly popular blog dedicated to experimental music and its performance/recording practices within melbourne. every few days sees a new blog post, complete with images, links and alluring headings. the blogs archive is well documented and its commonly used resources are listed too. i like this blog’s layout but find the background somewhat of a mismatch to the content. it reminds me of butter..

 

i’ll enjoy seeing the other blogs people have discovered and hopefully find some local blogs that i can embrace and start to regularly visit too – it will be great to further my skills in exploiting the wonders of the internet’s blog search engines etc. to find blogs about more specific fields of the industry i love, such as live sound and progressive metal music.

 

until next time!!