Archive for July, 2013

Rev The Beat: Nightcore

July 12th, 2013
posted by

Hi! This is only my second post on this site, my first being our Hello World, but it won’t be my last—this is the first installment of what I hope will be a regular column, if only because I came up with an extra-punny title.

In November 2011, someone[1] declared that dubstep was the ‘music of the revolution.’ I liked that declaration, despite not knowing (nor liking) much dubstep. Its energy is kind of contagious, and dubstep is a sort of musical revolution. Today, we see it seeping further and further into other music forms. The anime Free, for instance, is accompanied by a typial jpop score—until The Drop. Dubstep is working its way into pop, rock, country; it’s upsetting traditional music structures, and it’s doing it memetically. Literally overthrowing other musical memes, supplanting them: a revolution. In 2011, I couldn’t have known that this would happen, but I would have hoped.

But is dubstep the only music of the revolution?

Nightcore is two dudes from Norway who hit the French trance scene with a fresh style that became its own genre, distinct from trance in the eyes of its fans. They take music—usually a popular pop or dance track—and speed it up, coaxing out rhythmic beats in order to produce a totally new piece of music: almost strident, very danceable—closer to happy hardcore than to trance. Amateur trance enthusiasts on YouTube take it upon themselves to expand on Nightcore’s work: “nightcored” songs on the tubes outnumber Nightcore’s actual work by so many magnitudes I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything actually by Nightcore.

Not all of these fan creations are top-notch music, but they’re almost all passable. Maybe this speaks to the formulaic nature of nightcore, and to the lack of artistry involved; maybe it signals one of the ways in which the internet is not only democratic but also democratizes other things (in this case, music). You don’t have to be a composer, nor even a mash-up artist, to make a nightcore song that will accrue nonzero accolades. You use someone else’s contribution to culture (e.g. “Telephone” by Lady Gaga) and you use it as the foundation for another equally valuable contribution to culture (e.g. “Nightcore – Telephone” by Anonymous[2]). Nightcore, to me, is a testament to the beauty of derivative art. Like the mash-up scene, it makes a strong case against copyright, against the legal strictures of our ownership-based society.

If he who built the first fence committed the first evil act, then the folks making nightcore remixes are the ones trying to tear that fence down.

Here’s a playlist of nightcore I’ve put together on YouTube.
Quality varies, but I’m sure you can find something to at least tap your fingers to!

I don’t know what I’ll be covering in future columns, but I am open to suggestions :)

I’ll probably do dubstep at some point!

And maybe I’ll do posts on Rebecca Black and Taylor Swift (separately), investigating the ways in which these controversial characters subvert our culture and produce immense value as icons.

Footnotes

  1. random internet commenter ofc. []
  2. technically, by YouTube user “NightcoreAndTrance,” whose only public biographical information is “I am a boy” []

Celebrating Independence

July 5th, 2013
posted by

Yesterday (July 3rd) on a bus I overheard a person on their cell phone: “I’m not celebrating that! My ancestors were slaves, man, we didn’t get any kind of independence!” I relayed this perspective to a friend, and their response was: “yeah, not only the slaves, but very few people gained any real independence or freedom from the American Revolution; basically if you were a property owner who was paying taxes, those are the only people who were gaining anything.” This makes sense; the government soon established as the United States of America did not extend basic rights to the majority of people living there, so we may presume that those revolting from England and forming that new nation were a local elite, simply fighting with the elites in England over the profits of colonial production.

I went to have a new read of the Declaration of Independence, and found it just as beautiful as ever: in the succinct and elegant formulations of the essential equality and freedom of all people and the dependence of government on the will of the people rather than vice versa, the writing hits nary a wrong note, and gives no indication that anyone is not included in “all Men.” Perhaps it was just an understanding at the time that “all Men” meant all land-owning white males? Sometimes I use the word “man” to mean humankind without respect to gender in sentences where “human” or “mankind” does not fit well.

I thought I’d do a little investigation[1] into the signatories of the Declaration of Independence hoping thereby to illuminate whether this was a milestone to be celebrated or just another squabble among the ruling elites. Along with many fascinating and diverse lives, I found a couple overwhelming patterns. They were all white males, and pretty much all land-owners. Every one of them was involved in politics to some extent, but beyond that, the most common occupations were law (over 50%), followed by plantation-owner and merchant. So while the group included fast friends and bitter rivals, slave owners and a couple abolitionists, it is fair to say that it was an assemblage of the bourgeoisie of the day. If I had to guess, I would say they had both fine ideas and the economic interests of their friends and families in their minds as they put forward the revered Declaration. So to me this is still an event to study, before I decide whether or not to celebrate it. I also wonder if there are other days in U.S. history that we should be celebrating more.

Footnotes

  1. Thank you, Wikipedia! []