Back in my radio hosting days at NEPR (you haven’t forgotten already, have you?), I blogged a blog titled “Arrangements, transcriptions and covers.” Neither totally the same nor totally different, these three terms refer to various ways one piece of music can be transformed into another that bears some recognizable relationship to the first. Do give it a quick read before proceeding, taking care not to miss the video at the end by the late great Leonard Nimoy.
Now we come to another method of musical transformation, one that has characterized much of the dance music of the last generation: the remix, or simply mix. To quote (i.e, copy & paste) from that endless source of knowledge and wisdom, Wikipedia, a remix “is a piece of media which has been altered from its original state by adding, removing, and/or changing pieces of the item. A song, piece of artwork, book, video, or photograph can all be remixes. The only characteristic of a remix is that it appropriates and changes other materials to create something new.”
How is that different from the techniques I blogged about earlier? Here’s one way to think about it: While transcriptions, arrangements and covers start with a piece of music, or even just a melody, in its abstract state, not necessarily in any particular performance, and create new scores (whether notated or not) for performance, a remix starts with an audio realization of the original music, which it then transforms through electronic manipulation. In other words, a remix remixes sounds, not notes.
Still unclear? Well then, check out the music Stefan Kozalla, the veteran German music producer better known as DJ Koze. In his latest CD, the 50th (!) in a long-running series called “DJ-Kicks,” Kozalla and a couple of guest mixmasters take nineteen original tracks by as many different artists, then variously strip away vocals or instruments (after obtaining the original master tracks), add new sounds, combine two tracks into one, create interesting segues (much appreciated by this old radio guy) and sometimes even leave the original music alone. It’s a more intentional version of what dance club DJs (which DJ Koze once was) do spontaneously in live action. And it also reminds me of the cassettes of favorite tracks I used to make for friends, complete with interspersed commentary and tricky edits. (Pardon me if you already know this and a lot more about remixes; I suspect that some of my readers are just catching up.)
Oh, and I almost forgot — the album sounds really cool, and is highly recommended for light summer listening. Below, you’ll find one playlist containing the complete “DJ-Kicks 50th Anniversary,” and another containing every original un-remixed track I could find. I even stuck videos of a couple I couldn’t find at the bottom. Yeah, this is the kind of thing nerdy retirees do to fill their time. And a hearty “live long and prosper” to the first person to notice what this new album has in common with my old NEPR blog post on transcriptions, etc.