Arts & Culture: Diversity Dialogue

Cultural Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts in New York State’s Southern Tier

Of Mashups and such

Sorry to continue on the tangent rather than confronting the issue I said I would. There’s still time in the month, so I will get to it soon. I also promise that before the month ends, I will critique a news photo of a dead person; it’s something I wanted to do at the beginning of the month, but I thought starting off with a picture of a dead person would be too jarring and shocking.

Anyway, after I linked DJ Earworm’s track in the previous post, it got me to thinking about how Mashups were done before producers had all of this digital equipment that could magically change the speed and pitch of a sound to make it fit perfectly. And the best I could think of was that they wrote medleys and performed them.

That got me thinking about Hooked on Classics, a series of albums produced in the 1980s (and perhaps later) that wove together memorable parts of classical music and set them to beats from an electronic drum machine. I knew I had to listen to them again. So I went on a music-buying expedition on iTunes, and now I have the entire Hooked on Classics collection, as well as another album called Jazz for Kids – Sing, Clap, Wiggle and Shake, because every track in the collection is a good one. (I was looking for the song about Potato Chips from the 1930s that I heard 10 years ago on a public radio station as I was driving to New York City.) I also picked up Vanessa-Mae’s Storm album (which I already bought once, but haven’t been able to find for years), as well as Hush, the album Bobby McFerrin did with Yo-Yo Ma.

With the exception of Jazz for Kids, all the rest are mashups of some kind: Hooked on Classics is a poppy re-imagination of classical tunes; Vanessa-Mae called her genre “Classical Techno fusion” in which the notes she played on her Stardivarius violin were accompanied by digital samples and sequences on a Macintosh XL and an Atari ST; Bobby McFerrin’s voice and Yo-Yo Ma’s cello blend to make a totally odd but pleasant, compelling sound. (Though Jazz for Kids is not a mashup of individual songs, it is somewhat unconventional since it’s a compilation of songs from three generations ago targeted at children.)

It’s hard to say whether everyone in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra got a kick out of recording Hooked on Classics, but when I listen to Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma, I can hear their joy in their collaboration, and I sense a little more of this joy from Hush than I do from Storm. I’m not one to assign emotions to other people, but that’s the sense I get.

The most popular track on “Hooked on Classics” is “Hooked on Classics (parts 1 and 2)” which, though I like it for nostalgic reasons, I can’t help but cringe at how cheesy the drum machine’s “clap” sounds on the 2 and 4 beats. As I listen to it now, I feel like I am laughing at myself for liking this so much in second grade.

There’s no better way to end a post about mashups than to include an audiovisual example of a mashup of a mashup. That’s right, in my quest to find Hooked on Classics, I stumbled across something so silly I woke my wife laughing. It’s called “Hooked on Airwolf”, and it was edited by YouTube user TheWraith, who loves 1980s television.

I don’t remember much of the plot of Airwolf, a 1980’s show about some people that flew military spy/attack helicopters (There were actually two shows about this that I can remember). Apparently, one of the characters liked to listen to classical music when he was blowing stuff up. So if you’re a fan of the show, maybe the juxtaposition makes sense. I found the clip absurd (which may not have been what the TheWraith was going for). Something about watching a helicopter shoot missiles while listening to the drum machine overpower the orchestra just demands my laughter.

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This entry was posted on February 26, 2009 by .
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