The Rise of a Mash-up Culture

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A great deal has been said about the move from physical media to a ubiquitous, digital culture. Some decry the downfall of the vinyl record, falling compact disc sales, the cheapening and degrading of an art form. I’ll try to stay away from unverifiable judgements about the direction modern culture is moving in. More interesting is the way musical creation is changing as a result of new technologies, whether we like it or not. What comes to mind is hyperreality - what Jean Baudrillard called “the generation by models of a real without origin or reality” (166). Digital representations, originally intended to recreate the original sound waves of the music, are losing their point of origin and becoming musical works on their own. Technological developments in the 21st century have given us profoundly new ways of interacting with and perceiving representations. Hyperreality is becoming more pervasive in society, present in almost every part of everyday life. The distinction between original and copy is fading fast, as culture becomes a densely interlinked hypertext of information. Here, I will explore how digital music has changed the way we listen, and more specifically, how the mash-up genre embodies the advancing hyperreality.

Before exploring the realm of digital music, we must go back to what enables the shift into the hyperreal to take place: digital computers. Computers allow information present in the physical world to be broken down into discrete chunks, and stored as a representation in digital memory. Digital memory stores information as a series of bits (the fundamental unit of information - a choice between 2 distinct possibilities), encoded in a series of transistors. This act of abstraction is very powerful, as it all...

... middle of paper ... a seeping into the global culture, a pervasiveness as no other century has experienced. Very few people today would question the concept of conveying emotion across thousands of miles encoded in a series of ones and zeroes, but this must have sounded like a preposterous idea at one time. The levels of abstraction allowed by digital computing has irreversibly changed the music world and brought new forms of creation into being.

Works Cited

Baudrillard, Jean. Selected Writings. Ed. Mark Poster. Stanford: Stanford University, 1988. Print.

Eco, Umberto. Travels in Hyperreality. Trans. William Weaver. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986. Print.

Butler, Mark J. Unlocking the Groove. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006. Print

"Sampling (music)" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 17 October

2011. Web. 11 Oct. 2011.
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