Tag Archives: video

What’s Fair? Untangling Copyright

Two years ago, I was assigned to make a video in a class I was taking in the instructional technology department of USF’s school of education. I decided to focus on fair use, having recently been heartily inspired by Martine Courant Rife‘s chapter “Ideas Toward a Fair Use Heuristic: Visual Rhetoric and Composition” from Steve Westbrook’s edited collection Composition and Copyright: Perspectives on Teaching, Text-Making, and Fair Use. (There’s a great synopsis of the chapter here.)

I never liked a few things about my video: the (required) moving titles at the end, the bad mic quality, some of the more cryptic image choices. I always planned to fix the thing up and get it out there, but I never got around to it.

In the meantime, I’ve noticed that I’ve found myself becoming our FYC department’s fair use champion–and I often find myself quoting Rife’s chapter in defense of the doctrine. So today I decided to compromise: I would fix the horrid end credits and a couple other minor things, ignore the big problems, and upload it to YouTube regardless. And really, after a couple years, I still liked the video more than I thought I would, and some of my gripes are probably things that I’ll notice more than others.

I hope it will be a conversation-starter, potentially even a controversial one. But we need a little controversy in our classes for the lessons to stick, right?

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Musical Metadata, or “That reminds me of. . . .”

Yesterday, M and I enjoyed the Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s Pride and Prejudice, which I (as a read-it-once kind of fellow) thought faithful and intriguing and good. As I walked away, what I found myself most thinking of was a single musical moment from early in the play, a moment that has got me thinking about how music is particularly well suited to remind us of other times and places.

First, a background: one of our most-listened-to CDs is Dario Marianelli’s oscar-nominated soundtrack to the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film (with Keira Knightley). (A happy accident was when my brother, meaning to buy us the soundtrack online, bought us the piano sheet music instead, which had the effect of driving its beautiful-ness into our brains even deeper as we practiced playing it.)

During one of my favorite scenes from the movie, Elizabeth and Darcy trade barbs  during a dance, but then the other dancers literally disappear, reflecting the intensity of focus the two have for each other (starting at about 2:35 in the below clip).

The music here is “A Postcard to Henry Purcell” on the soundtrack, and for me, it’s come to have a quite particular meaning, wrapped up in associations with flirtatious banter, the surprising beginnings of attraction, the erasure of surroundings because of focus on another person, and all that. But at one moment in the play we saw yesterday, this track played during a plain old dance scene–with little more meaning than as simple diegetic music to support the dancing of the characters. To me, it means more than that, so the sudden normalness of it here felt a bit shocking.

M noticed the track too, of course, and she wasn’t sure what she thought about it either. But she reminded me of a crucial point: that the track wasn’t originally scored just by Marianelli–as its title implies, it’s a reworking of the Rondo from Henry Purcell’s incidental music for Aphra Behn’s play Abdelazer. Here’s a random YouTube clip of the original; notice how much its character changes with the thicker instrumentation and quicker tempo:

Wikipedia tells me that this track was also used by Benjamin Britten in The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and as the theme for a BBC miniseries, The First Churchills. Think of that: just as the use of Marianelli’s adaptation in the play felt “off” to me, like a mischaracterization of the piece’s essential personal meaning to me, others who were familiar with the Purcell track in other settings might have felt just as much dissonance when hearing it in the 2005 film!

So what? It’s a reminder of one way that the emotional content of music works. I mean, we say all the time that “music communicates emotions,” but that’s kind of vague; it’s much stronger to say, “One way that music communicates emotions is by reminding listeners of their previous exposure to it–either to particular instances of pieces played in other settings or to general qualities of the music that it shares with other pieces (i.e. genre).” And this kind of communication is both communal and personal, in that two people can be exposed to all the same settings of the music, as M and I did when we learned the 2005 soundtrack together and saw the play together, but still have different personal meanings attached to the emotions brought about when hearing the old piece in new settings.

Questions I’m left with: To what extent did the play producers mean for the 2005 score to “mean something” in the play–was it a lazy, “This will do!” or a purposeful statement? (That’s M’s question, by the way.) When is this kind of uncertain, tenuous, different-for-everyone kind of musical meaning not worth bothering with at all? In other words, if everyone is going to have different personal experiences when reminded of previous music, how can a composer or director hope to “say something” at all?

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Filking

One reason I’m excited about my presentation at the Remake | Remodel conference in Germany at the end of June: I want to learn more about filking.

What is filk? I’ve appreciated this roundabout discussion from Debbie’s Filk FAQ in my search for definitions, which wisely warns readers, “don’t let yourself get mired down in the controversy and politics of defining filk.” (This is quite a lot like the first couple weeks of a class I took on cultural studies, where we decided that no one agreed on a definition before we even really attempted a definition.) But more practically, it’s the practice of singing folk-y, parody-filled songs with science fiction or fantasy themes.

I admit I’m new to the term, so as always when peering into a new crevice of fandom, there’s an inherent problem: knowing filk is probably pretty impossible without doing filk–hanging out in a circle, listening, and singing along. There’s something inherently weirder in standing aside and reading the Wikipedia entry from afar, scratching my beard and wisely nodding at my computer screen.

But as my interests are increasingly turning to rhetoric and sound/music, I’m excited to learn more about filk as an example of music being the vehicle for indirect kinds of rhetoric. I mean, even when music is instrumental, it still communicates something, just not with the clarity and precision we (overly) value in word-based communication. But when we have music with lyrics (and satirical lyrics, to boot!), it seems to me that we have something between instrumental music and straight-up verbal delivery without accompaniment, in terms of how the music reinforces or causes us to question the words being said. It’s a fun mess of meaning, and I love that.

But back to the problem of observation from afar: the video below is from BoingBoingTV and (oddly enough) sponsored by Verizon, even with a built-in commercial in the middle. But it’s a good introduction to the tradition–though a filk should probably be written about the mix of satire and praise and commercialism in the video.

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The Evolution of Remix Culture?

I just watched an intriguing YouTube video by normative called “The Evolution of Remix Culture” (below). (I couldn’t find any bio info on this normative dude; I find myself both loving his vest-and-tie style and thinking it’s kind of silly. But whatever; I like his ideas.) (Found it via Jason Mittell’s Twitter feed.) (And while we’re being parenthetical, Mittell’s piece of Lostpedia is highly worth reading.)

normative suggests that we’re moving from Stage 1 of Remix Culture into Stage 2. Stage 1 is represented by people in their rooms, making new things out of the media culture we’re surrounded by, while in Stage 2 we see people stepping out into physical community, filming mash-ups on rooftops together in parties.

It’s an interesting framework that I’d like to see fleshed out some more. (And admittedly, I only watched the full video once, and I don’t have a transcript, so he may have fleshed some of this out in ways I didn’t quite catch.) It seems to me like there are some remixes that would probably count as Stage 1, but which are intensely collaborative in face-to-face ways from the beginning. (I’m thinking especially of some of Pomplamoose’s videos–which many would simply call “covers,” I know–and the many collaborative tracks on OverClocked ReMix.)

And wouldn’t a lot of people who collaborate in rich ways online (say, at ccMixter) see their experience as being just as rich as the f2f stuff going on in these Stage 2 “Lisztomania” dance party mash-ups? Not sure.

In any case, I’m quibbling; the video is strong and well worth pondering. If you watch the video, be sure to stick around to the end, where normative moves into the intellectual property and copyright issues that are brought up by this kind of cultural expression. He’s right to be afraid of increasingly restrictive rule-enforcing in this arena, and I’m both encouraged by his (simplistic?) description of this control as something we can “permit others to hold over our social realities,” and challenged to think deeper about what this kind of resistance actually can look like.

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Fourth Day of Sharing: MLA Update Video

As I continue sharing every day, I’m increasingly trying to think of how this different and similar to other forms of sharing I regularly do through Facebook (primarily photos and comments on friends’ things) and Delicious (usually links to awesome things others have shared with me) and Twitter (often brief comments on those links).

Surely the idea of sharing something every day–and purposefully using the word sharing–implies something beyond those tasks that I already do. I’m trying to go out of my way to share a part of me that might not show up in any of those other arenas.

I don’t have the answer to this yet, but one answer is for me to share something that I’ve had a creative hand in. Since it’s the first thing that comes to mind, I’ll share a video I made for students at my university about the changes in the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook–silly stuff, I know, but quite interesting to me, when I consider how changing practices affect standards in all areas of life. Enjoy! (Maybe?)

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What Did He Just Say?

Via @cshirky‘s Twitter feed, I recently learned about the BBC’s Digital Revolution Short Film Competition. Here’s how they describe it:

For the first time ever, uncut video for a BBC documentary series, is online NOW for YOU to download and re-edit. Cut it, clip it, mash it, animate it, make fun of it if you like. It’s free to use.

Awesome stuff–especially because remix contests that I’ve seen often ask contestants to remix music or video that is largely valued for its artistry (or its “poetics”). (Total Recut’s video remix challenge is an exciting exception.) That’s supercool, and I love those remixes to pieces. But I’m especially interested in the challenges involved with remixing something that didn’t have a primarily artistic purpose to begin with–in this case, documentary footage of smart people talking about digital culture. Yes, the shots are “artistic” in that they were carefully composed, well produced, etc.–but they weren’t designed with the same kind of purpose and aesthetics as a Radiohead song or a Weezer video, which I think makes the remix process different too.

Here’s the video that Shirky tweeted (in which he shows up for a couple seconds!):

This kind of playful misrepresenting reminds me of a favorite practice of some friends of mine in 8th and 9th grade: we would take an old karaoke machine (two tape decks and two mic inputs), hand a mic to a friend, and hit record. Then we’d interview the friend (including, at one point, @RachelleLacroix), trying to get him/her to say as many awkward, sexually perverse (8th grade, remember?), and rude things as possible.  Then I would sit down by myself with the tape, listening carefully for anything I could twist to make it sound like the interviewee was saying something s/he wasn’t. Typical fare was the interviewee saying something like, “My dog, my mom, my dad, all my friends,” which I would reedit as the answer to something like, “Who do you [sleep with] every day?” (8th grade! Remember that!)

What I’d really like to do is go back and ask 8th-grade Kyle what he was listening for in that moment of reediting, scouring the raw recording for something that would seem funny. Without using these words, I must have been attuned to my audience (knowing what they would find funny, and thus score me cool points), running quickly through many possible narratives in my head (wondering which answers would most profit from the funniest questions), all the while striving for a humorous organization and pace (so it would feel right in terms of both individual jokes and larger context, as a “bit”). How would Cassetteboy, who made the video above, answer those questions differently, I wonder?

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Remix or Cover?

The Wizard (1989) was made for me. It’s a movie about an emotionally disturbed boy who turns out to be stellar at playing video games. I had just turned 9 when it came out, when my waking moments were mostly soaked with Nintendo games–and luckily for me, the movie was, in the words of its Wikipedia page, “little more than a 90-minute commercial for Nintendo games.” Sweet!

Part of the reason the film still holds up for me (despite a 31% on Rotten Tomatoes) is because of some beautiful, evocative montage scenes of the 3 kids hitchhiking from Utah to California with Real Life’s “Send me an Angel” pounding in the background. (Somehow, this feels similar to the important scene in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure when they accidentally warp to the future, and everything slows down and the audience soaks in the music and the reverence and it’s beautiful. Is that just me?) Here’s the scene from The Wizard:

I was singing along to this song last night in the car, and it made me think about Denison Marrs’ cover. (I can’t find one to stream, but the version on their 7″ far exceeds the deadened recording on their third LP.)

And that made me think about cover songs in general, and the question of what ways remixes and covers are similar and different. I could give technical answers about the differences, but I’m not sure they’re very satisfying: my impression is that cover songs are usually completely rerecorded, with no original sound information used in the new recording (which is why awesome folks at OverClocked ReMix say that the pieces over there are “more re-arrangements than remixes“), while remixes actually take parts of the original recording and mix their sound levels again, often with new musical information added. Rearrange it and record it from scratch: it’s a cover. Add a techno beat: it’s a remix.

But is that too tidy? Both practices involve composing from existing material; both put the remixer/cover-er in a similarly creative spot, imagining how best to adapt existing material for a new artistic or rhetorical purpose. Maybe all we need is the bigger category of “music from existing material.”

That feels dangerous, though; we really like our boundaries. And it implies that the remix is less creative than the so-called “original” works, even if the original piece was just a collection of existing chord progressions, drum beats, melodies, etc. If we start broadening categories, everything starts to sound like a remix. . . .

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