Ventrilo-Dialogue: A Conversation Between A Composer And A Remixer


Composer: I want to talk to you about creativity
and the differences between my musical work and yours.

Remixer: Sounds good.
But already I’m wondering why the differences are so crucial to you?

C: For one thing, it’s hard for me to consider what you do as music.

R: Ahh. Because I don’t play an “instrument”
or write down “notes” in one way or another?

C: Exactly that. But also it has to do with your sounds.

R: Well this is off to an awkward start.
Maybe I can convince you that what I do is music?

C: Maybe.
I guess I’m saying that I’ve always been clear about what I do:
I write melodies and chords at a keyboard,
I notate my parts,
and arrange them for various instruments.
I’m a builder who works with tangible sonic things.

R: I’m a builder too.

C: No, you’re a deconstructor.

R: Let me finish!
I build upon previously recorded music using my studio as a compositional tool.

C: But you don’t play an instrument, nor can you read music.

R: I play my laptop.

C: So does everyone else with GarageBand. And this means what exactly?

R: It means I do everything:
I can conjure a keyboard, a mixing desk, samplers, synthetic and acoustic sounds, effects—almost anything you can imagine or can’t yet imagine.

C: So you’re a master of none?

R: I never said I was a master of anything.

C: How do you stay focused?
Where are your constraints—
the way I’m constrained by the staves on my notation paper?

R: I can do anything. So no constraints.

C: But if you can do anything,
then why is so much of your work four-on-the-floor dance music?
You have to admit it’s kind of relentless, that music.

R: Because that’s where the money is
and remixing continues the tradition
of making music danceable.
Occasionally ambient, but usually danceable.
It’s a legacy from disco.

C: So you do have constraints after all—commercial ones.

R: I do, but so do you.
Your music needs a concert hall or a TV-film context
for people to listen to it,
let alone notice it.

C: True. But at least I write my own stuff.
You, on the other hand, take my music.

R: Your music is never finished.

C: No, I’m pretty sure it’s finished when I finish it.

R: But it can always become something else.
Music is mutable, protean, liquid and elastic.

C: But you’re playing with authorship here.

R: Well, aren’t you overvaluing authorship?

C: No, authorship is the only way we know who did what and when.

R: Why is that important?

C: So we get paid, and for the historical record.

R: Well, what if you were always paid?

C: I’d still feel ripped off by your work.
It takes me a long time to come up with my music, you know!
As I said, people should know who did what and when.

R: I guess I agree with that, though I don’t dwell on such questions.

C: But how are you agreeing when your work is derivative, parasitical even?

R: What do you expect me to do differently?

C: To start, do something original with your tools
and don’t depend on the work of others.

R: It seems that you’re hung up on defining.
Like what is original anyhow?
The wonderful thing about the technologies I use
is that they severely blur the lines between things—
between acoustic and virtual, between human and machine,
between original and copy.
My equipment encourages me to undefine.

C: Is that even a word?

R: It is.

C: Anyway, isn’t the goal of the composer to define
and not just accept musical things as they are?
As the critic John Berger once said, the given is a prison.
I don’t hear electronic musicians pushing boundaries.
I hear them hiding behind wild sounds.

R: Well, I never said that I’m composing. I’m assembling.

C: Deconstructing.

R: That too, fine, okay.

C: It’s just not clear to me what you stand for
besides being beholden the capabilities of your equipment
and being a digital dilettante.

R: It seems we have some philosophical differences when it comes to what we do.

C: I guess so. I have nothing against your work,
it’s just that I have yet to hear you do something interesting.

R: And what are the criteria that would make it so?

C: Something my body would recognize and understand as music.

R: Let’s continue this conversation again. I think there’s more to unpack.

C: We can agree on that!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s