Exploring Imagination

Submitted by Nikki M. Takemori on Wednesday, 9/15/2010, at 2:11 AM

Imagination has got a new role to play: to create a piece of work that can be preserved and used as stepping stones for future creations. Arjun Appadurai, a globalization specialist, explains how imagination is stimulated by works and creations displayed in the past, giving rise to new concepts and ideas for audiences to build on or ponder about. At the same time, this process of sharing images and imagination connects the creator and the audiences however far apart they may be.

  It so happens that because of the quickly changing media, presenting one’s work is as easy as one – two – “click.” The internet has allowed for audiences and creators to access millions of masterpieces all over the world in a matter of seconds, providing with “building blocks” or ideas for observers to absorb. These “building blocks,” which we can describe as foundations or inspirations, allow for someone to interpret and expand on what was viewed or heard, triggering the start of an imagination that may become a “building block.” It is all in a cycle; a piece of work gives rise to new ideas and creations, which nurture other creations. Imagination combined with media gives opportunities for people to become explorers of the world to search for more stepping stones that will lead to a new creation.

 However; new pieces of work can be achieved differently, as one may see when we compare two projects: Kutiman’s ThruYou video mashes and the Bb Project. Kutiman essentially creates his piece of work by building off of other’s creations (videos concerning music on YouTube) and using them as a support or a starting point, and then ultimately shapes his own imagination into an actual form. We can see his imagination and how he became an explorer in the media world to search for materials he specifically wanted to formalize for his imagination. The Bb Project is different in that the audiences see other’s images, yet the audiences can create their own imagination: the exploration task has been completed, or limited in a sense, for the audience.

 

Kutiman does an excellent job of bringing together different parts of the world into one music video. For example, take a look at Kutiman’s second track, This is What it Became. The genre of is reggae; Kutiman collects several videos with reggae music, such as the rhythm guitar with the distinct off-beat technique, along with a reggae artiste. Kutiman also includes a rather funny video of a German high on marijuana babbling about politics then dipping into Rastafari, a “way of life” some Jamaicans live by. Rastafari ideology is also where reggae music originated from. Interestingly enough, the majority of the musicians that were discovered by Kutiman’s hunt were not Jamaican. This mix of cultures and ethnicities can show how much globalization has been in effect, spreading ideas and concepts to every little town. Imagination has opened a way for everyone to search and explore for more creations to be made.

Originality in Virtual Ensembles

Submitted by Jenna Iden on Wednesday, 9/15/2010, at 1:35 AM

Appadurai suggests that imagination, the originality and creativity that spread like e-wildfire on the Internet, is key to global connectivity. Ideas can be shared outside the structure of academia. Hollywood "Americanizes" the world faster than American literary classics ever could; both show American characters and American ideals but, allow the world to choose between Skittles and collard greens (both American staples), the bright and sugary new media will triumph.

The projects we've worked with for class, specifically Kutiman and Playing for Change, attempt to present a global ensemble. By layering individual contributions, both easily create a new sound and a new band, two feats impossible to imagine succeeding via traditional planes/trains/automobile travel and global recruiting. Yet, with the ease and connectivity of the Internet, global sounds and ideas can be shared with little financial or even time losses. However, the contrived nature of both ensembles (and a third that I will introduce) calls into question the "imagination" that any technologically bound ensemble can truly exhibit. I propose that these ensembles, while they do not exemplify the global jam session we might like to believe, do show the potential for Appadurai's global connectivity and a real musical exchange of ideas.

In Kutiman's "I'm New," the musicians used do not know that their videos will be sampled. Kutiman alters them, sometimes significantly, from their original forms without the original artist's knowledge or consent. He retools the sounds, making a statement for the potential of global sharing rather than a remarkable sync-able new global band. Kutiman could easily find workable Youtube clips from exclusively upstate Michigan user accounts, but he chooses to choose diverse locations, even if most instruments are of the Western tradition. He suggests, through his audio mixing, that, if all of the sampled musicians got together, they could easily recreate Kutiman's creation. Kutiman sees the potential for global collaboration, even if his work does not exemplify it. "I'm New" resonates strongly of this process; Kutiman really reworks the instrumentalists, changing melodies and rhythms, but he does not "enhance" them to play something their original work would not suggest is technically possible. The vocalists are only slightly altered, yet their lyrics align quite well. I would suggest that, even though I hesitate to call Kutiman's work a collaboration, it does reek of individual imaginations (in the original videos, then Kutiman's work) and the potential for global collaboration.

In Playing For Change's "Stand By Me," I believe little real originality is demonstrated, but the potential for global collaboration is cemented. The musicians play their rendition of a well-known song. Their reworking of the song has little to no new material. Lovely to listen to? Yes. Heartwarming to watch? Yes. Real musical innovation? Not quite. For the most part, the musicians played instruments of the Western musical tradition, sang primarily in English, and did little to alter the rhythms or tonality of an American sing-a-long standard. What I found compelling was the global knowledge of the song "Stand By Me." Even the joke of certain unknown bands being "really big in Asia" is a real testament to how quickly music and popular culture can spread, especially in today's Internet-driven culture. Playing for Change, while not a musical marvel, does emphasize the potential for global shared content. Imagination here functions as the inspiration for these musicians. They engage in a creative art which they can then share with the world, opening themselves to global exchange without the barriers of travel, education, or even language. 

The video above is of Eric Whitacre's "virtual choir," an experiment that's far too exciting for my own choral nerdiness. The project is really exactly what it seems (http://ericwhitacre.com/blog/the-virtual-choir-how-we-did-it) and, if you can get past the terribly cheesy Disney DVD menu graphics and a slightly robotic Eric Whitacre, it's quite beautiful. Yet it's entirely unoriginal. As I discuss how disenchanted I am by the failed promise of the "global jam session," I would agree that this rendition of "Lux Aurumque" lacks any appeal beyond an apparently diverse choir. 

However, if Appadurai suggests that imaginative practices are a means for global connectivity and a potential social mobility, then Whitacre provides exactly that: a shared global sound. Whitacre provided the music for free to participants, gave clear instructions for submissions, and even guided singers with a short amount of coaching. For choral singers, this type of advice from such a well-known composer is akin to someone tossing out free guitars and instruction books on the side of the street; it's a free entrance into a type of music that can be limited by a potential musician's environment. Plus, the text is short and in Latin so, ostensibly, anyone with pidgin English skills (to follow Whitacre's instructions) and knowledge of reading music, could participate (not bound by language restraints). It allowed hundreds of singers the rare opportunity to sing Whitacre's work in a world-class choir. While the virtual choir clearly limits participation to those who 1)have access to Internet and webcams, 2) would be initially interested in Whitacre's work, and 3) have some knowledge of music to carry a vocal harmony, I do believe that the choir represents a shared global inspiration.

Whether or not any of these unoriginal inspirations begets real imagination or, better, real unique collaboration is up to the next step: the next mash-up, the next experiment. 

Appadurai's Global-Scapes

Submitted by Rohan Mazumdar on Wednesday, 9/15/2010, at 1:10 AM

Appadurai’s ‘scapes’ appear to provide new paradigms through which to observe the cultural, social, technological and humanistic changes that are currently rocking the world. Rather than treat them as distinct aspects of what we could consider The World 2.0, I imagine them as lenses of different foci, allowing for clear viewing of the multiple layers involved in analyzing globalization.

Ethnoscapes deals with the people who, arguably, are the most affected by – as well as most affecting – the situation surrounding globalization. Travelers, whose journeys may be as long as a lifetime, take pieces from their nation, state, culture and socio-economic background, and share them with their destinations. They also bring dreams, aspirations, and motives behind their shifts. Having spent essentially my entire life in a country of which I am not a citizen, and never will be, I personally connect with the idea that my identity was shaped by an environment brought about by globalization. Any first-generation immigrant population, say the Turks in Germany, could serve as good examples to be examined under the context of an ‘ethnoscape’.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,954151,00.html

versus

http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/news-206531-claudia-roth-german-turks-are-not-guests-but-our-wealth.html

Technoscapes deal with the actual technology that has catapulted the debate of globalization into vastly more complex realms during the last century. Rather than simply the Internet, or high-speed travel, it is the play between these technologies and the political and social forces that govern their use, which make their analysis interesting. For example, the issue of outsourcing, both as a boon for developing countries, and as a bane for those losing jobs, falls under the ‘technoscape’ banner.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/ites/Ohio-ban-on-offshore-outsourcing-not-at-all-welcome-Sharma/articleshow/6554390.cms

I believe that finanscapes, over the last two years, has quickly moved from theory to application. The massive interconnectedness of world capital markets, and a more universal understanding of the way that economies function, has linked countries on yet another level. The simultaneous collapse of the entire planet’s financial systems beginning in 2008 is a clear example of that.

http://www.globalissues.org/article/768/global-financial-crisis

Mediascapes include the delivery of all the various media available for consumption among the world’s population. The way in which the media presents itself and the competition among various interests to access the public’s imagination are at the core of this concept. A prominent example would be the battle over the Internet in places where active censorship takes place.

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/apr/20/business/la-fi-google-censor-20100420

Ideoscapes refer to the politically motivated distribution of images and ideas that serve some form of nationalistic purpose. It could be with an already constructed nation-state, or among the diaspora of a given country, or among any group of people seeking a common bound. A recent example could be the separatist movement of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, where they fed the message of a separate Tamil nationalism.

http://www.hindu.com/2009/05/18/stories/2009051855221400.htm

Ethnoscapes, mediascapes and technoscapes are clearly involved in the YouTube media I have watched thus far. Kutiman’s use of the diaspora in tracks such as Babylon Band is an evident appearance of the globalized ethnoscape. He – as well Darren Solomon – are portraying the media of others while retaining degrees of artistic license, and the mediascape underlying their creations rings true with Appadurai’s classification. The technoscape aspect is only too clear in these projects, with YouTube – an extremely sophisticated user-end product – forming the technological basis for all.

THE GREAT E-SCAPEs

Submitted by Kaitlin R. Silkowitz on Wednesday, 9/15/2010, at 1:06 AM

Arjun Appadurai cannot be accused of allowing his readers to cuddle up with a blanket and enjoy some simple, straightforward prose.  It seems that if his sole purpose was to try to sound brilliant, repetitive and difficult, he could not have done a better job than he did in his now 20-year-old article, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy.”  Maybe there should be a warning label on the article which reads: “Do not begin until you have a stack of dictionaries next to you.” 

However, be that as it may, the article is an important work in the field, and in it he spends a great deal of time defining global culture and economics with the help of the five “scape” words he coined: ethnoscape, mediascape, technoscape, financescape and ideoscape.  Though the article may be 20 years old, Appadurai’s theory of globalization, and more specifically these five irregular, perspectival “scapes,” offer a new framework for the cultural study of globalization.  He explains the importance of imagination as a social force in today’s world, and moves beyond our current epoch of globalization to create a sense of urgency towards improving global order and creativity.

Ethnoscapes can be defined as the movement of people from their country of origin to other countries.  Within this movement, these people (i.e. immigrants, refugees, mere travelers of the world) bring their politics and culture to their new homes and influence those who are there, and in turn are similarly influenced.  In the Pre-Civil War south, slaves were brought from Africa.  It was these slaves whose feelings and musicianship eventually led to the birth of Blues Music in the South.  Further, it was the chord structure of this blues music that was the precursor to rock ‘n roll music. 

Interview with Mississippi Blues Man:

 

Recording of “Cross Road Blues” by Robert Johnson:

A perfect example of  how different “ethnoscapes” and genres of music coming from different regions can be influenced by each other and combined into one collaborative piece is Kutiman’s Youtube project Thru You.  His work creates a sort of ambiguous connection between the people and places depicted in it.   Producing a single track from various artists, styles, sounds, and instruments from all over the world may seem like a daunting and futile task; however, as Appadurai’s theory of imagination infers, and Kutiman’s incredible product demonstrates, different music and perhaps even cultures are compatible.  As seen in the track “Babylon Band,” the musical elements of Kutiman’s work are extremely diasporic.  For example, we see a man playing a Persian and Middle Eastern percussion instrument (the Darabuka) in Australia.  Presumably, the Darabuka riffs act as a signifier, and as an audience we assume the artist to be from a specific part of the world.  However, Kutiman’s emphasis on distinctions and difference being combined from different cultures and carried throughout the world abolish that idea, thus proving Appadurai’s idea of “ethnoscapes” to be true.  Other artists featured in “Babylon Band” originating and playing music from Greece, Germany, Northern Iraq, and Turkey, have all carried their musical ideas and influence to other parts of the world.  The mystique of antiquity is truly remarkable.

Mediascapes are large quantities of pictures, writings and sounds that are produced by media such as television, radio, newspapers, magazines and cinema.  It is important to note that different cultures respond better or worse to different communicative genres.  Appadurai’s  description also relates to the flow of these images.  In the 20 years since his coining the term “technoscape,” the internet has exponentially increased this flow of media.  For example, the planes hitting the World Trade Center on 9/11 was immediately broadcast worldwide via television and it was an instantaneous global event. 

Technoscapes can be defined as the high speed by which all forms of technology are produced by governments and international companies.  It also refers to the international flow of this technology which makes borders more fluid.  For example, a person calling a local customer service representative might often speak with a person sitting in front of a computer in Asia or India. 

Musically speaking, Kutiman’s Thru You project undoubtedly helps spread culture and entice musical creativity using a technological medium (You Tube).  For Kutiman, accessing a single site on the Internet meant accessing a never-ending ability to create something entirely new.  His track “Babylon Band” fit together so well because of the very fact that it was part of this widespread musical vernacular.  Technology allowed him to learn, view, and sample all types of musicians from around the world and to create something extraordinary.

Financescapes refer to the speed, as well as the secrecy and mystery of money, stocks, bonds, etc moving internationally.  Simply put, it is the worldwide flow of all forms of capital.  With the click of a mouse, an online trader can buy, and seconds later sell stocks and bonds of companies listed on Exchanges operating on the other side of the world.   

Ideoscapes are merely political self-advertising.  It can be explained by the many ways in which a national government depicts itself through the flow of images throughout the world.  Governments frequently send out images of their self-directed parades that display all their military arms as a show of strength:

CHINESE MILITARY PARADE:

Deterritorialization and Kutiman

Submitted by Charles A. Pratt on Wednesday, 9/15/2010, at 12:54 AM

 

Arjun Appadurai highlights many of the important issues we face today in an age of globalization.  His “scapes” allow us to categorize the ways in which the global population interacts, and in doing so, can introduce issues of deterritorialization. I found that while Kutiman’s work serves as a prime example for connecting the various “scapes”, deterritorialization offered an even better fit for analysis.  Deterritorialization, the severance of social, political, or cultural practices from their native places and populations, could be seen as what Kutiman is doing when piecing together his videos.  Though Appaudurai discusses this concept on a more serious social and political level, like the population of Los Angeles worrying about the Japanese buying up their city, Kutiman’s “Babylon Band” demonstrates the detachment of certain musical practices from their native locations.  With a drum soloist from Germany, a guitarist with Middle Eastern influence, a darbukist, various organs and synthesizers, all tied together by Assyrian vocals, one would have no idea how the song could possibly contain any type of unification.  The irony behind this piece is that the majority of the musicians reside in Australia. 

Kutiman creates an upbeat, drum-line dominated piece, with heavy Middle Eastern roots by fusing together multiple artistic performances in a way that could be perceived as deterritorialized.  Analyzed individually, the pieces of “Babylon Band” can be viewed as widely adhering to nationalistic musical practices.  But, upon meshing the parts into an individual track, the song moves into its own category.  Does it become deterritorialized?  Most likely.  Viewed as a whole, Kutiman’s musical productions can be compared to the economic world of deterritorialization.  Just as businessmen invest in the most suitable markets regardless of national boundaries, Kutiman seeks the most compatible musical pieces despite the background of the artist.  Appaudurai generally speaks of deterritorialization in a negative manner and uses examples of how it can complicate cultural growth.  At the same time, this concept has become cemented in the widely accessible world that we inhabit.  Like Phoebe states, “people still have the power to take the opportunities presented by the daunting reality of globalization.”  As Kutiman demonstrates, one of these opportunities can come through deterritorialization.   

Deterritorialization Through Perpetuating Stereotypes

Submitted by Michael Milov on Wednesday, 9/15/2010, at 12:39 AM

Deterritorialization of sound and identity is clearly manifested in the Playing For Change videos/project. Upon watching a few of the Playing For Change videos, what immediately came to my mind was the similarity of the messages underlying those videos and Shakira’s “Waka Waka” music video. This similarity is in what these videos are implicitly saying about, or perhaps more accurately yet not saying, about the cultures they are representing. I remember during the world cup that my friends were borderline obsessed with the “Waka Waka” music video. When I finally took the time to check out the hype, I was not only disappointed, but also shocked about it’s content. To me this video diminishes African culture into a three minute 30 second message easily accessible to the average American youngster. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRpeEdMmmQ0

This message is a dangerous one and directly related to the idea of deterritorialization of sound and identity. The video captures sonically and through its content a completely westernized concept of what it means to be African. This is epitomized through the dress of the dancers—grass skirts, bright colored tops and bottoms, ”native” jewelry—the dance—Africans jumping up and down in bare feet—and the music itself in its worldly feel. When at the end of the video Shakira states “We’re all African”, one s led to believe that what he/she has just witnessed is in fact an accurate representation of African culture and music. With 185,000,000 views in some 5 months since it was posted, one has to wonder about the implications of such a video with respect to what people consider African culture, identity, and music.

I think Playing For Change similarly diminishes sound and the identity of its participants. In the first video, “Stand By Me,” the viewer literally goes all around the world from California to New Orleans, Amsterdam, New Mexico, France, Brazil, Russia, Venezuela, Congo, Spain, and South Africa.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us-TVg40ExM

In many of the snippets, one is given the quintessential “norm” type of musician, for their respective location, which can lead to judgments and stereotypes about what other music/individuals from these places are like, and therefore lead to stereotypes about their culture as a whole. In New Orleans there is a seemingly blind blues singer accompanied by a washboard player. In Zuni, New Mexico there is a Native American man dressed in traditional Native American clothing leading a drum circle.  In South Africa, there is a choir dressed in traditional African garb singing the only lyric not in English throughout the song, presumably in an African dialect. Each of these clips implicitly perpetuates existing stereotypes about the people/musicians from these locations and diminishes the depth of the culture that these people represent. This is ironic because the goal of the project is world peace through a unified global sound, yet the way they have decided to showcase this unity perpetuates existing stereotypes, thus leading us toward misunderstanding about the world and therefore further away from world peace. (This is not to say that every clip they used has this effect, but it would be hard to argue that none of them left this impression)

  So while its message on the surface is one of unity through combining individual musical expression, I find the stronger, long-lasting impression of the project to be a representation of the deterritorialization/diminishing of identity, sound, and culture that, in this case, occurs via stereotypes.

 

YouTube: The New Musical Sampling library

Submitted by Ofori-Kwafo Yaw Amponsah on Tuesday, 9/14/2010, at 11:55 PM

Kutiman’s work strikes me as extremely creative due to his technical and innovative prowess, but falls a bit short in my mind on originality. Though his work is pretty unique in its organization, Kutiman is not the first YouTube driven artist.  Kutiman’s angle more or less is his use of relatively unknown artists. Ranging from unknown children and adults to abstract professional musicians. Kutiman’s work in few words makes those unknown, a bit famous. His openness in revealing his sources makes his work more interesting to those who view it.  Not only do you get a great new song, but also you get to view the individual elements of it and see their background.

In my examination of Kutimans YouTube page, I kept asking myself one specific question. What if they didn’t want to be discovered? It does seem counterintuitive to place yourself on YouTube if you wish not to be seen. But YouTube is an interface for others to view your work. How many others? Well that really depends on how dynamic and interesting others find you work.  Some people place a video up for a few friends or family and other for the entire globe.  At times I feel videos on YouTube can turn people into overnight sensations with their approval or without. Though YouTube can be used a resource for artist such as Kutiman to bridge cultures musically, it also can lead to some pretty ridiculous Cinderella stories.  The Gregory Brother most notorious for their “Autotune the News” YouTube channel have come up with a pretty big viral sensation.

 

 http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/bed-intruder-song-feat-kelly/id386478006?i=386478013&v0=WWW-NAUS-ITSTOP100-SONGS&ign-mpt=uo%3D2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKsVSBhSwJg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3UsvLyu3N0 

http://www.antoine-dodson.com/official-merchandise/ 

http://www.bvonmoney.com/2010/09/03/antoine-dodson-money-bed-intruder-song-itunes/

 

 

 

The story of Antoine Dodson and the many spinoffs of his notorious rant that now have lead to his fame. Apparently he receives 50% of the proceeds from the song and merchandise the Gregory Brothers created. This is an example of people sharing the wealth they made via YouTube, but I still question how many times this is not the case.  Has YouTube become the next musical sampling library for present day entrepreneurs? I surely hope not.

 

Cutting Down vs. Mixing

Submitted by Timothy F. Clark on Tuesday, 9/14/2010, at 9:44 PM

In the third track of ThruYou (see above), as in the rest of the project, Kutiman's objective, his imaginative goal, is to combine several different videos/music(s) he has found on Youtube into a cool new song. That is, his end goal is music itself, an aesthetic goal. To accomplish this, as we have seen before, Kutiman combines music from a variety of different "ethnoscapes"/regions/genres of music. Everything from the very "old school" Bach suites and Beethoven string quartet [read: classical, Western], a guy rapping [read: hip-hop, black American], to a guy in the UK strumming on his bass in a Jazzy mode [read: Jazz=American but in the UK?] is employed. All of these different genres—some older, some more contemporary— are tied together by the fact that most (if not all) of the videos Kutiman uses here are of young people--the "new" generation, if you will, a group that, at least in this video, Appadurai might consider its own ethnoscape. Already we should be getting a sense of deterritorilization: we have a Taiwanese cellist playing Bach, a Brit playing jazz. The original videos, even before Kutiman touched them, were already partly displaced (even majorly displaced) from their original musical and geographic contexts. Thus, various ethnoscapes (musical traditional and non-musical countries) along with technoscapes (the various technologies making music themselves, from a cello to synthesizer, as well as YouTube and the internet themselves, which greatly reduce any sense of locality but their inherent lack of space) have been mixed and mashed together for the sake of Kutiman's own imaginative idea. In mixing and matching all of these different musical and cultural ideas and identities, in the very act of cutting up the videos, Kutiman has subsumed a good amount of the uniqueness of each of these elements (their “identities”) for the sake of creating a cohesive whole--in order to make the song make sense. The deterritorilization here, therefore, has the effect of cutting down significantly the idea of “classical music” or “jazz” to fashion something totally “new.” Moreover, if one were not to investigate Kutiman's sources in their original forms, one might not necessarily know where they were from or what exactly they were showing. This brings up a question related to what Mathew was talking about in his post about agency. As we mentioned in class, none of these musicians were asked to submit their work to Kutiman; but it is their work that is the content of the video. So, the question stands out: whose song is "I'm New"? Is it Kutiman's because he mixed everything together and gave the entire thing the theme found in the lyrics of one song? The original musicians who created this stuff in the first place? Someone/something else? Who can be given credit (agency) for making this piece in the first place?

This line is just as blurry in one track from the Playing for Change Project. In line with the project’s goals of “breaking down barriers,” this video, #34, (above) shows Raghuvamsa Sudha, an Indian, playing a very traditional string instrument, a veena. We can immediately place Sudha in a specific cultural context, a specific ethnoscape, with a specific (musical) identity.  But here the interaction of ethnoscapes, technoscapes (the recording equipment around the veena) and imagination is different because the vision of PFC is not purely aesthetic, but profoundly worldly—as in political, social, economic. The makers of PFC seek to break down boundaries and unite everyone on the planet in harmony and peace, de-emphasizing to an extent identities like nation or race. They thus seek music as a path to major change in the politics and the layout of the world. Accordingly, Sudha plays the veena but—in the spirit of breaking down barriers—his piece is not Indian, but something that sounds like an America guitar song. But despite the “foreign” material, the tenor and sound of the Indian instrument still comes through—we sense/know that this is not a guitar, particularly in the later part of the video. Thus, instead of cultures and identities (ethnoscapes) and technologies being amalgamated into a new whole, they are instead mixed together but still kept to an extent as separate entities, with their unique identities still intact. This is slightly different manifestation of deterritorillization in which there is qualified, more ambiguous sense of place. This can be good or bad; perhaps that was intention. But the question still remains: what kind of music is this? Indian or American? Both? Can we even characterize it as such? Is that even a relevant question anymore—putting a song into a particular box of musical genre?

 

Imagination for Grown-Ups: The New Global Order

Submitted by Phoebe Smolin on Tuesday, 9/14/2010, at 8:40 PM

In a world that is becoming increasingly smaller by the second (or glocalized, you could say), as more Mcdonalds’ pop up by the roadsides and more Starbucks' are built in places like Japan and Ghana, as everything begins to look a little bit more like everything else everyday, it becomes an urgent requirement that we all amplify our imaginations and use the new tools given to us to find new ways of creating newness. Arjun Appadurai, globalization extraordinaire, describes imagination with a deep sense of urgency-- it’s no longer just a requirement for kindergarten art projects.

Imagination is taking on a new role—it’s a way to bring people together that have been previously torn apart and it’s a way for people to learn things previously out of reach. Imagination, through Appadurai’s eyes, is the way that globalization will be turned on its head and used as a way for people to create and move forward as a global people, rather than succumb to the inherent homogenization that globalization distributes. 

With increased access to media, people create landscapes from their bedrooms. I say "landscape" because, as people like Kutiman or projects like Bb 2.0 connect sounds from different sources (sometimes very far away from eachother, sometimes near), there is a new sense of place that is created. These projects send messages to the world, and they provoke a new, creative environment. 

One idea that imagination illuminates is that of inequality. Appadurai put it this way, " The further away these audiences are from the direct experiences of metropolitan life, the more likely they are to construct imagined worlds" (Appadurai 9). In Kutiman's project, Thru-You, he takes people from various walks of life and puts them into one stream of sound. In one of his videos, in particular you can see this example of imagination. The video is called "I'm New" and in the last few seconds a girl is featured (Mandy). After watching, I did some exploring and found out that she's an aspiring singer and has used youtube as a way to share her work and possibly create an album. As Kutiman gained recognition, all of the people attached to him got recognition as well. It took a huge imagination to submit something to youtube, and a huge imagination for people to accept it and listen to it. This process, in turn, gave Mandy recognition, which would have never been imagined years ago. (Watch from 5:00 to see Mandy).

The whole theory behind Kutiman's project is itself a manifestation of the power (and necessity) of imagination, as he used youtube, an example of media that could, in some ways be frightening (i.e. people never needing to leave their houses because they can get everything they need from a computer), to create art, and to inspire people to do the same thing. The In Bb 2.0 project is a similar idea, though it gives the individual behind the computer even more agency-- it took the internet and turned it into an art form.

So, yes, the world is getting to be quite diminutive (and frightening in that respect), but people still have the power to take the opportunities presented by the daunting reality of globalization. With Kutiman's Thru You project and the In Bb 2.0 project, one can see that imagination is not only necessary for making buildings out of plastic blocks in kindergarten anymore, but it is necessary for the survival of creativity in the new global order. Even though the world is small, it is still fractured, and without imagination, there will be no way for people to glue the cracks together.

Appadurai's Jam Session

Submitted by Matthew H. Hartzler on Tuesday, 9/14/2010, at 7:56 PM

While Nikki's post on the Youtube Symphony Orchestra correctly and effectively shows how people across the globe are combining their sounds via the internet, there seems to be missing an aspect that Appadurai strongly emphasizes. The "Youtubers" that submitted their videos for the symphony did not exactly put much of their own creativity into the final product. They read a piece of music written by someone else and recorded themselves, but that is all. They did not have to compose parts of the piece or input their own individuality onto the final product. They have little agency in the final artistic piece. This is not what Appadurai thinks as an achievement of globalization. Instead, Appadurai hopes for an almost explosion of creative talent and imagination that should come from our ever globalizing world. I stumbled upon this clip a while ago, but it properly demonstrates what Appadurai's ideas are gearing toward.

When breaking down the piece, we notice the very clearly global nature of it. The description reads "8 people with 5 instruments originally from 4 Continents speaking 3 languages for 1 song." The pianist in the beginning is German, and the second rapper is clearly speaking Portuguese along with English. This piece better exemplifies the world Appadurai sees. These artists from across the globe can collaborate and jam together without the constraints of record labels or distance. They have agency to combine and create music that was not possible in a less globalized world. In the case of the Jam Session and Appadurai's thinking, the power goes back to the artists. Warner Music Group or EMI cannot control these artists like they might have been able to in the past. Through the democratization of the internet, these artist shift the agency to themselves by distributing the music they create with their own imaginations. Appadurai's ideas of imagination becoming the new form of power are right on the mark in this example. These artists can freely work together and produce directly to the people with very little middlemen. As an artist, what more could you want? As opposed to playing versions of already produced songs in Playing for Change or reading sheet music in the Youtube Symphony, these musicians are using their own ingenuity to produce original music. The power of imagination that Appadurai so keenly focuses on comes to light with a simple jam session.

Kutiman blog posting

Submitted by Joseph B. Nassirian on Monday, 9/13/2010, at 1:13 PM

The links Ashley posted reminded me of this youtube collaboration created by youtube username Rx2008.  Rx2008 chops up bits and pieces of a speech read by former president George W. Bush and rearranges it to create the illusion that the former president is singing the famous U2 song "Sunday Bloody Sunday".  I was also able to find a link for the bassist, Victor Wooten (I mentioned him in class the other day).  Though Wooten's style of bass is less than ideal for the type of music Kutiman is "composing" I do believe that it is important to listen to great musicians and not limit ourselves to mainstream music (not to take away from mainstream musicians).  This video features Wooten playing the famed Beatles song "Norwegian Wood" on just his bass.

George W. Bush "singing" Sunday Bloody Sunday

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXnO_FxmHes

Victor Wooten playing Norwegian Wood (don't be fooled by the simplicity of the first few seconds)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqeEfMkajdk

YouTube's Orchestra.

Submitted by Nikki M. Takemori on Monday, 9/13/2010, at 9:26 AM

Reading Ashley's post reminded me of YouTube's Symphony Orchestra. I remember it was on the news a lot, how people from all over the world collaborate and perform. The only "downside" as I may say is that the collaboration is intentional and the video editing is done by a professional company, rather than some amazing person putting a lot of time into finding specific videos of people and then combining them.

Nonetheless the internet symphony is quite spectacular.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oC4FAyg64OI

Here is the homepage to the YouTube symphony: http://www.youtube.com/user/symphony

Oliver Laric::Kutiman

Submitted by Ashley Hogan on Sunday, 9/12/2010, at 1:26 PM

Talking about Kutiman today reminded me of this great contemporary audio/visual artist named Oliver Laric, who hits on a lot of the same ideas of intellectual property, the new way in which music is being consumed and approached,deplacement/globalization of sound, the focus on "nobodys" instead of "somebodys," etc etc. Highlights are "50 50" (50 youtube videos of people singing along to 50 cent's "In da Club" spliced together) and "Versions of Under the Bridge" (again, a product of youtube trolling). Oh, and "Touch My Body (Green Screen Version)"..because it's kinda hilarious.

http://oliverlaric.com/5050.htm

http://oliverlaric.com/underthebridge.htm

http://oliverlaric.com/touchmybody.htm

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