MÚSICA DISPERSA

    Apropiación, influencias, robos y remix en la era de la escucha digital

    Música Dispersa: appropriation, influences, theft, and remixes in the era of digital listening

    Rubén López-Cano

    Quotes, allusions, paraphrasing, appropriations, collages, arrangements, adaptations, covers, versions, samplings, remixes and memes; these are all ways of revisiting pre-existing music, appropriating some of its elements and reusing them—legitimately or otherwise—to produce more music. From Hildegard von Bingen to DJ Danger Mouse, all musical cultures from all eras have employed such resources. But while there are only several procedures, which have not changed much throughout history, their evaluation and relation to aesthetic ideals, legal principles, and authenticity discourse and artistic legitimacy have all gone through radical changes. So, if using constant references to the pieces of past greats was an aesthetic value in itself for the composers of the courts of Aviñon or Milan in the 14th and 15th centuries, under current laws governing intellectual property, Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms would have to classed as no more than common delinquents. Digital listening is not limited merely to portability, ubiquity, and immediate recovery of our private content. It is also rapid access—as never before—to an incredible quantity of musical practices, times, and far-flung spaces. It means the possibility to listen in series, almost simultaneously, to several performances, arrangements, and variations of the same piece, and so too the direct perception of similarities and coincidences whose detection used to be the exclusive prerogative of specialists. Surfing the net in search of a song, version, or good performance of the same shows us the degree to which notions of innovation and originality, ex novo creation, and the solitary genie who creates a personal universe without owing anything to the past or immediate surroundings, all constitute ideals that frequently clash with real practices.

    Música Dispersa reveals musical creaton to be less an epiphany and more an infinite conversation between creators from all times who, through their exchanges, appropriations, and repetitions, structure their own musical civilisation, filling our own listening experiences with meaning. It takes us on a journey through the ins and outs of many different processes and registers of recycling; it critically analyses the reflections on authenticity at the centre of our relation with musical questions from the time of papyrus to the iPad or mobile phone; it details the various implicit perceptual pacts we use to “excuse” our pleasures from recorded music; it lists the vain attempts to reduce music to the status of a closed, concluded, complete, and manageable object; and it puts forward that the greatest challenge of the recent phase of digital remixing and recycling lies not in its apparent indiscriminate pillaging from a vast musical archive treasured over two thousand years and now seemingly crashing down upon us, but in its transparent capacity for showing us that music is an unstoppable flow whose power and originality is much more grounded in its physical matter, its structures and components, or even in the infinite genius of its creators, composers, producers, and post-producers. Its value emanates fundamentally from our own intimate personal history with each piece, work, or song.

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