Friday, February 24, 2017

Extra, Extra, Meme All About It

Throughout this post are memes that I created by taking an image and a bit of text from the #RemixUPJ tag and putting them together.

Remixing/"uncreative production" is a fun and interesting way to be creatively productive (as oxymoronic as that may sound).  By taking material developed by another artist and repurposing it, you can give new life and meaning to old art.  Alternatively, you can turn something that wasn't originally thought of as "art" into something more traditionally (at least in a contemporary sense) "artistic."

Originality is a complex question in the arts.  When you use a trope in a creative work, can it still be original?  What if you based a new work off of one specific old work or a small subset of old works?  More controversially, what if you take someone else's content and reuse it in a different manner?  In the Digital Age, taking content is often very easy, but it doesn't need to become a pirate's game.  If a work is repurposed effectively, its stolen material broken down into raw components to be rerefined, it can become quite legitimate.  It may or may not be legal, but it may very well be valuable.  The memes we made took inert chunks of text and interesting images and lassoed them together to make new miniature narratives that ask questions, tell stories, or make comments on human topics.  Or they might just be funny.  That can be fine too.

This next meme below was made by @ashleypgh.  She took one of Professor Landrigan's images and combined it with one of my bits of found text to make an interesting meme.  It invokes the edges of a story without giving any details beyond what can be seen in the image.  I think it's pretty cool.

I took both inspiration and content from my peers for my memes.  They provided the raw materials, and those raw materials carried with them some inherent values.  The second image from the top of this post, for instance, has a certain level of grandeur to it.  I decided to pair it with "I think my soul just threw up a little bit" (actually one of my own text-bites) to make a joke.  The meme could've gone a different direction with a message like #VacationGoals, but it chose to be over-the-top and shocking instead.

Creativity in the field of mashups is all about selection.  In the same way that a poet must select just the right words in just the right order to build a poem, a mashup artist must steal just the right pieces and arrange them in just the right way to create a project with new life and soul.

To maintain a sense of originality with my memes, I tried to take images and texts that don't immediately seem to fit together and turn them into memes.  I had to come up with original ideas that I hoped would be born out of the juxtaposition of certain images and words.  They might not be perfectly original as concepts, but they at least take old ideas (like the phrase "mind blown") and give them a fresh face (a skeleton on fire).  Placed beneath the phrase "Imagine, if you will, an America without hippos," the image should invoke a strange response in a viewer whereupon they are momentarily dazzled by the idea of a hippo-less America, despite the fact that there are few places in America that hippos have any reason to be at, if any.  Then a neat little mental conversation can start in the viewer's brain.  What fun!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Full Ashtray

My remix project, titled "A Full Ashtray," expanded as it went, one burnt-out cigarette at a time, you might say.  The original spark came from dramatic readings of Justin Bieber's "Love Yourself" by Morgan Freeman and myself.  Separate dramatic readings, of course. (But that would be awesome.  I'm not actually certain who had the idea first.)  My first inclination for this project was to do a reading of "Closer" by The Chainsmokers, but I decided that I wanted a more complex and time-consuming project.  I decided to use the whole EP on which "Closer" resides: Collage.  When I saw the EP's name, I thought it was fate.  Later, I decided to do a mash-up of the Collage EP with Xenia's EP Artemisa.  Xenia is an indie pop/jazz singer who competed on the first season of The Voice.  I thought that her songs had a lot of running threads in them, and they do, but they actually don't have as many threads running through their refrains.  But wait.  When you put the Xenia refrains up against the Chainsmoker refrains, threads suddenly appear.  What is going on?  I'm still not quite sure.  Both artists have an indie pop sort of core, though Xenia is influenced by jazz and The Chainsmokers is influenced by EDM.  The two EP's I've used have a lot of similar content, if different poetic structures.  I guess it's an indie thing.

This project has three parts.  The first part is a simple Word document with the lyrics of my mash-up.  You can find it here.  The second part is a dramatic dialogue interpreting my mash-up.  Kiri McCoy helped me out by playing the female character. She performed the Xenia parts. You can find that video here.  The third part is a sung interpretation of my mash-up.  I tried to stay true to how the song-pieces were originally performed, but I linked the full remix loosely.  It should be fairly easy to hear when I switched songs since the Xenia parts are so much slower and jazzier.  You can find the sung video here.  My goals were to create entertaining remixes that examine music, specifically indie pop music, more closely.  The dramatic dialogue I shot may have ended up a bit too Shakespearean, but I think it gives a glimpse into a different sense of emotion resonating from the songs.  Especially with the Chainsmokers' songs, emotion has been stripped away to allow for more fun and musicality to seep in; I wanted to let the emotion show through in dramatic form.  With my video, I give a less-modified depiction of my mash-up.  It should be relatively similar to a cut-and-paste video of song clips.  My voice doesn't sound all too similar to the voices from the songs, but the tunes and emotional bases are similar.  I think the remix works pretty well in this way.  It should sound pretty cool, if I did a good job with it.  The point of this assignment, I think, was to create a remix that steals from someone else, but with such theft being eventually justified by some artistic reinvigoration of the appropriated parts.  I feel that my remixes have done just this by shining a different sort of light on the stolen lyrics and tunes.  They have been reenvisioned in a new way, and they are serving a function that may've never been thought of by their original artists.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Battle of the Bands + Profit

This week's prompt in my uncreative journal is about starting a tipping war by putting out two tip jars and having people "vote" with their change.  While I could get digital tip jars without a whole lot of strife, I'm more interested in social media exposure right now.  (Well, unless you wanna drop some Benjamins in the tip jar.)  I propose a battle of the bands.  Except both bands are me.  But playing covers.

From my four pairs of jars here, I picked musical artists for three pairs.  The Army v. Navy idea may or may not translate to the digital for this theoretical project.  I could easily record covers of one song from each of these pairs of artists/bands, tweet them out right after the other, and have people vote for their favorite by retweeting one or the other.  Or both, if they really can't choose.  This would increase incentive to retweet links to my videos, boosting traffic to both my Twitter page and my YouTube channel.

As a little precursor to this project (if I do indeed pursue it), comment below which of the following songs you prefer:

Friday, February 10, 2017

White Lightnin’ in the Jar: A Folk Song with a Legacy

My group member Chelsea Furnari wrote up a great introduction for our project, as well as a short history of the legacy to which our project owes much.  Those can be found here.  Hundreds of hands touched the song we created and filmed in one way or another, many of them unwitting, but some contributory or conscious.  The video for the song can be found here, and a video I made in order to try to bring in collaborations for lyrics can be found here.  You can see a visual breakdown of who devised the lyrics to our song (titled "White Lightnin' in the Jar") here.  That Google Doc also contains some notes on the collaborations we had.

Artist's Statement:

I had the idea of a music video in my head as soon as I saw that one of the projects for this class was collaborative.  But in a twist of fate, it wasn't me who initially had the idea for our video, it was Roberta Dostal.  She thought that we should use skills that we listed in class for our initial group meeting.  Both of us write poetry, so we could handle song lyrics without two much trouble, and I play the mandolin.  She asked me for a song that I could play very well, and I said "Whiskey in the Jar."  Chelsea signed off on the idea, and we went about our way writing a new song to the Irish folk tune beloved by many.

My group wanted to have as many hands as possible touching our project.  About five individuals ultimately contributed to the lyrics of our song.  Likely hundreds contributed to the tune we used.  While I was most chiefly inspired by the band The High Kings and their version of "Whiskey in the Jar" for my performance, The High Kings in turn were inspired by other bands, and those bands by other bands, and those bands by Irish "folks" stretching back into the 16th-century.  About three-quarters of the choruses in our song are modified only slightly from the traditional (though I cannot say for sure how old the words are), and most versions of "Whiskey in the Jar" use a similar rhyming scheme to the one I created in my revisions of "White Lightnin' in the Jar."  (Roberta's draft did not have a rhyming scheme.)  While my group did not use the same forms of collaboration that other groups in the class did, we still embraced the idea of collaboration.  I can tell you this: I am not a skilled songwriter.  Even if I can get lyrics, I've only written one short song for both lyrics and music.  Using a musical framework shaped in the furnace of centuries and a plot-driven draft by Roberta, and with the additional help of several other individuals, I believe that we ended up with a solid set of lyrics and a beautiful tune.  You may notice that the details of our video do not line up perfectly with the details of our song.  Among other reasons, this is meant to poke a little fun at those exaggerating Irishmen throughout history.  Putting our song to video gave it a digital presence that may allow it to some day extend the chain of folks playing songs to the "Whisky in the Jar" tune by taking our video as inspiration.  I think that prospect is pretty awesome.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Lights Weren't Enough to Escape Darkness

A photograph: "Monongahela River from Mount Washington" by W. Eugene Smith
(The title to this drabble was stolen from @KiriMcCoy's tweet for #cmoa6words.  I decided to experiment with this story, both with narrative structure and physical structure.  The W. Eugene Smith photograph above served as the inspiration.)

At night, the city grins at me with glittering teeth, but its jaws do naught but taunt me.
*   *   *
I duck into an alley, and I remember. I retched here last Tuesday. Or was it Friday, before the fish-fry? I had a bottle, my last one, and I almost smashed it. I didn’t have the heart.
*   *   *
It came as a rolling tide against the sands of my sanity, that bleakness where she was but is no more. I saw her, last Monday—or maybe Sunday—but I now a beggar, she gave me naught a glance.
*   *   *
I find a liquor shop.

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Request for Creative Aid

(Edit: I've gotten all of the feedback I need at this stage of the game [tight deadline].  Thanks for dropping in.)

In my Writing for Digital Media class, I'm in a group of three for a collaborative project, and the project requires collaboration both within the group and outside.  If you have a few minutes to spare and some creative energy flowing, please consider watching this video and commenting below advice for possible chorus lines or suggestions for lyrics or any other aspect of the song we are making.  Thanks!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Awake Wide Came He Night

You probably need to read the whole novel to fully appreciate one of my two favorite quotes from Robert A. Heinlein's YA science-fic Citizen of the Galaxy, but you don't need to have read any particular novel to join in the collaborative exercise that I am about to propose.

All you need for this collab is a group of people and a Google Doc.  The more people who join in, the better.  Here is the plan: type out a sentence from some work of fiction (it could be a favorite quote, or it could be a random sentence, and it should be running forwards), have the next person add a sentence in front of your sentence, have someone else add a sentence in front of that catch my drift, non?  By the end, you should have a bunch of cool sentences, with perhaps a few mundane or weird sentence mixed in.

Now I'm going to do a little variation on this exercise.  I'm going to take five books on my bookshelf and use random sentences to construct a six-sentence narrative, with the sentence I used for my prompt (running forwards) as the base.  It won't be a collaborative exercise, but it should give an idea of what such an exercise may yield.

Sophie had half a mind to stump straight out of the castle again, and away down the drive.  "Tell me when it's over," Thalia said.  Even in the darkness she could see the anger blazing in those eyes, feel them pierce her like two jagged shards of glass.  There the great beeches came right down to the bank, till their feet were in the stream.  "I can get out, and I can get help."  But as he was dropping to sleep one night he came wide awake with the black, ironic thought that one of those slave ships in whose stinking holds he had ridden might have been, at that very time, the property of the scabby, frightened slave he was then.

(From beginning to end: Howl's Moving Castle, The Titan's Curse, The Paper Magician, The Hobbit, Mr. Monster, Citizen of the Galaxy.)

This looks like it could be fun, right?  I hope so.  Using random sentences may actually be the most enjoyable method for this exercise, but I'll allow you to experiment with it both ways, if you wish.