U Can’t Touch This
A couple months back I confessed my allegiance to rapper Lil Mama, and surprisingly, I still think she’s pretty rad. In fact, she even made that annoying Avril Lavigne “Girlfriend” song almost tolerable. And speaking of that (that) annoying (annoying) song that’s totally stuck in my head now, it seems a pop song’s journey isn’t complete these days until the remix featuring Lil Mama is released. Another example: Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” I guess it wasn’t enough to have versions with and without Jay Z and Chris Brown. To be honest, Lil Mama doesn’t deliver as much punch to this particular track. Regardless, you can’t spend more than five minutes on Fire Island without hearing the now-ubiquitous “ella, ella, eh, eh, eh.” This will soon change as surely as the seasons, but for now we’re stuck with it.
Anyway, all of this incestuous remixing got me thinking about the new music scene. Might DJ Spooky be modern composition’s surrogate Jay Z and Lil Mama? Hmm, maybe not. The real issue here is why haven’t more composers gotten into tweaking works by their colleagues? Remixing seems to be something of a taboo when it comes to notated music. It happens, but only on rare occasion. Such actions are usually validated by some highfalutin theoretical justification as to circumvent plagiarism or claims of being unoriginal, or worse, an uncreative has-been. The more I think about it, there’s a plethora of interesting clashes just waiting to happen in the concert hall. Imagine Helmut Lachenmann re-rendering a Joan Tower piece. What compositional Frankenstein monster would you like to see brought to life?