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Culture & Religion

DJ Spooky’s Sound Expeditions

“My work is just trying to make sense of the disorienting and overloaded world that we inhabit,” says DJ Spooky. “We’re bombarded with sound at every level.” In his Big Think interview, the sound artist, who has been mixing beats since the mid-’90s, compares DJing to being a conductor, or a composer of collage—curating experience for the listener and “messing around with people’s memories of songs,” he says, is an art.  Today DJ Spooky begins the first blog he’s ever written, Now Is the What, here on Big Think.

Not unexpectedly, the DJ is a big proponent of open source and creative commons, and he says that he doesn’t even mind when people share his music for free online. “It’s all about I think thinking of digital music as the kind of new folk culture where everyone should share, and by sharing they create a more rich and robust narrative,” he says.

Spooky also says he thinks “the crisis of 21st century culture is standardization,” because “it really flatlines and just deadens a lot of amazing stuff.” But he also thinks that in the coming years we’ll see “mass customization,” where everyone adapts the same devices (like iPhones) to meet their specific needs.

In traveling to Antarctica to record his recent “symphony,” Spooky says he wanted to “hit the reset button” to see what happened to his creative process. “Let’s go to the most remote place that you can imagine, set up a studio and see what music comes out of it,” he said. The finished piece, a performance which debuted in 2009, is called “Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica,” and combines film of his trip, a string ensemble and, of course, remixed beats.

Spooky also spoke about his previous film, which took D.W. Griffith’s classic “Birth of a Nation” and remixed the sound to make it a commentary on issues of race and class. With “Rebirth of a Nation,” Spooky says, “the whole idea was to apply DJ technique to film in a way that kind of self-implodes the film.”


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