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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

CCMixter.org MP3 Contest Update

If you’ve been paying attention to the ccmixter.org site’s current remix competition, you’ve no doubt gained respect for the musicians who made tracks available for open-source sampling. Name-brand acts, including Matmos and David Byrne, Chuck D and Dan the Automator, Zap Mama and Danger Mouse, among others, provided original songs to Wired magazine for a CD that helped promote the Creative Commons license. The CC is an alternative to the standard grade copyright, in that it provides what it terms a “spectrum” of rights, ranging from full copyright (all rights reserved) to the public domain. More info, including a helpful desktop comic strip, at creativecommons.org.

The ccmixter.org site upped Wired’s initial ante by providing an Internet community in which fair citizens of the open-source public could transform those tracks into their own personal musical statements. As an exercise in creative rights, it’s been a success; some 126 songs and 187 remixes have been uploaded to ccmixter.org since the contest launched. As an exercise in interface design, it’s also been a success; just check out the page (ccmixter.org/tags) that allows you to browse entries by the “tags” associated with the individual MP3 files, and you’ll have a pleasing visual experience.

However, as a listening experience, the results have been less than stellar. A lot of routine drum’n’bass, a lot of GarageBand rudiments, a lot of third-rate hip-hop and generic lounge-jazz-house background music, a lot of first drafts. Yes, indeed, if you’ve been paying attention to ccmixter.org, you’ve gained a lot of respect for the artists who initially contributed tracks, because the results of the contest, by and large, suggest that making good music is more demanding than many people suspect. Searching for a diamond, let alone a potential gold record, among the entrants is a somewhat thankless task, but here are two good ones:

Henrik‘s “AAA final” is little more than a horn line and a dropkick of a beat, like Steely Dan’s catalog reduced over a low flame, but as a smoky exercise in the placement of downbeat, it’s well worth a listen.

The prolific Gerador Zero uploaded a small stack of efforts, one standout being “rm $x”; it makes Henrik’s jazz minimalism sound fully orchestrated by comparison, and has the lo-fi rasp of early Money Mike. More on GZ at geradorzero.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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