OUPblog Claims ‘Mashup Music’ is Performance, not Composition

By Steve Nagel on Aug 31, 2015 04:30 PM EDT

Not to spark another "what is art?" debate, but OUPblog has put forth a striking allegation against 'mashup music', questioning the practice not just in terms of crediting the original artists, but even its status as a true composition.  Using examples from prominent mashup artists, such as Danger Mouse's Grey Album mashup of Jay Z and Beatles tracks, OUPblog digs into the nature of what a mashup track really is, how it's being regarded in the music community, and the ongoing debate as to who takes the credit.  They go so far as to claim it is not composition, but performance.

In cases of referencing pre-existing musical material, classical music has put up somewhat of a front over the centuries, having hid behind the academic curtain of "music borrowing".  Today, mashup artists are either more brazen with the practice or perhaps more honest.  Despite the blatant homage, these works are typically heralded as entirely new compositions under the mashup artist's name, which can be irksome to some fans, not to mention the original artists.

OUPblog makes the bold claim that the mashups we regard as new compositions are, in fact, just performances.  It is true that, much like a piano recital, a mashup's strength lies in the act of re-interpreting pre-existing material, and then re-formatting it for popular consumption.  The payoff is in the "twist" rather than in the freshness of the narrative.  The twist could be as benign as two unadulterated tracks playing in perfect synchronicity, or as intrusive as a heavily remixed fusion piece.  In classical terms, compare a conservative performance of a Beethoven sonata, (with so little flair as to barely touchup the coda), with the funky liberties taken in Deodato's "Also Sprach Zarathustra."  Barring various degrees of labor intensiveness, the principal is the same.  In this way, writer Kyle Adams makes no attempt to 'out' the modern art form, but merely force us to re-think the way we treat the product.

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TagsOUPblog, mashups, fan art, Deodato, Ludwig van Beethoven, Danger Mouse, jay-z, The Beatles

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