There’s something understandably derivative about the remix. It is, by definition, a secondary object. Even though the word “mix” would be sufficiently descriptive, the “re” just, well, reinforces this sense that it’s a subsidiary development. At a communal-remix website like the one set up to celebrate the rerelease of David Byrne and Brian Eno‘s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, bush-of-ghosts.com/remix, this class distinction is even more intrinsic to what’s going on. The downloadable original tracks were recorded by two super-famous musicians. The uploaded ones were produced by people named Chickenfeed and Asbestos.
That needn’t be the case. When the magazine Future Music hosted a contest to remix a song by Wagon Christ, the winner was his friend, Aphex Twin, who entered under the pseudonym Tahnaiya Russell (see digitalmusicmag.blogspot.com). More recently, the BBC commissioned the globe-trotting, laptop-enabled musician Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud, to remix the Byrne/Eno matter, and interviewed him on the subject. The mix, which Scanner titled “Front Row” (for the name of the BBC show), is available for free via rapidshare.de. (That system is a bit complicated, and the following link may work more efficiently, albeit it at about half the fidelity: MP3.)
The interview is temporarily available at the BBC site (bbc.co.uk), but Radio 4 only archives most of its program(me)s for a week, so today may be the last day to listen to it, as it was originally broadcast on Tuesday, May 23. In the interview, Scanner refers to himself as a “reductioninst,” a description borne out by “Front Row,” which revels in light percussion and a minimal electric-keyboard tone. (The Scanner conversation is well-programmed between an interview with Paul Simon, on the subject of his latest album, Surprise, which was recorded in collaboration with Eno, and the sort of thing you only could experience on radio: a walking tour of the Underground Gallery at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Yorksire.)
And as with Aphex’s entry into the Wagon Christ contest, Scanner is a full-fledged participant. His remix is in the Bush of Ghosts site’s database. In the site’s whimsically qualitative index, “Front Row” is listed toward the high end of menacing/comforting and abstract/familiar, and the low end of empty/full and spare/dense. Sounds about right.