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What is old is new again: the art of remix

Posted on July 14, 2016 by Vauxhall Advance

At the end of May, Disney released a teaser trailer for its live adaptation of its 1991 animated classic Beauty and the Beast. My Facebook friends and I all squealed in delight — the scenes looking good in this trailer means that Disney will very likely not mess-up a beloved childhood memory, and as of press deadline we don’t have any tangible evidence of how the cast of actors will work out in it.

Last month, my mom surprised me by saying that she loves this one Disturbed song. Shocked, I asked her what songs — Disturbed is a heavy metal band, not the typical genre one would think she would enjoy. But the song she heard was ‘Sound of Silence’, a ballad originally released in 1965 by folk-rock duo Simon and Garfunkel. She hated the original version, but found Disturbed frontman David Draiman to have an operatic voice — now that is a music genre she does enjoy.

Just the previous week, some coworkers and I were playing pool,when a song came on that turned out to be a remix, something they said was a shame. I quite liked it, although I’ve never heard the original version.

I have grown up in the age, where countless people have told me that all of the best music has been written and the best stories have been told. To be fair, the 90s were the decade that brought back the Boy Band — something we have apologized profusely for, but have never been allowed to live down — but we had the Spice Girls, Rage Against the Machine, Silence of the Lambs, Jurassic Park and the Harry Potter book series, so that has to count for something. But as such, over the past couple of decades we have seen various mediums rewritten, adapted and revamped; in short, they have been remixed.

A remix, in it’s strictest definition, is a piece of media that has been changed in some way to create a new piece. In the age of connectivity, a lot of older classics have been rewritten for different mediums, sometimes for the worst — think about every single Fantastic Four movie that has ever been made — but often times, it can be for the better — think of the how the Lord of the Ring film trilogy only added to the Tolkien brand, and allowed a larger range of people to enjoy it.

While it used to be that only true best sellers received movie adaptations and the oldest songs got covered by a different singer. Nowadays, anything can get a film deal, anyone can share a cover of a song and anything can be rewritten. While copyright laws are still a very real thing and must be abide by at all times, it stops no one on Youtube from posting and reposting on different accounts or someone changing something slightly and stamping their name on it. That is not remixing, that is plagiarism, and it will get you kicked out of university.

To be clear, remixing is not copying then changing a few things.
Remixing is acknowledging the original and its owner, then doing something new with it. Not even Disney could take someone’s book and make a movie from it, they need the author’s permission first (although lets face it, if some big movie giant wants to turn your book into a movie, are you really going to say no?), and only then, once all the contracts have been signed, can they make said film based on the book.

That being said, the vast majority of remixing has been done legally — DJs will be out of a job otherwise. Taking something and adapting it even slightly requires the approval of the owner, but it can create something new and wonderful. The question is though, is it better then the original?

Having only known a time with quickly changing technology, I might have a different view of remixes then someone who has grown up during the 60s or 70s, listening to said ‘good music’. But I can’t say that they are a bad thing. Yes, the original always came first, but if you can add something to it, why not?

In some cases, the original will prove to be the gold standard; look at what happened when they made that modern, live 1996 film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. If that wasn’t a complete butchering of classic tale, I don’t know what is. But the opposite can also hold true, just look at the 1986 film Little Shop of Horrors — based off the musical of the same name which was based off a 1960 film of the same name — it became a cult classic and outperformed the original film.

But most of the time — although many will say the original is always better — the remixed version adds to the experience, and allows a wider audience to enjoy it. Popularity of the new version often leads to renewed interest of the original — an example in point is Canadian Netflix putting the entire lineup of the Star Trek television series, including the cartoon, up for viewing before Star Trek: Beyond is released in theatres later this month. Coincidence? I think not.

Classics are great, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the new version. Whether it is to a new beat or on a different medium, as long as it was done nicely, feel free to enjoy it.

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