This is the Remix

This is the Remix - Final

I was able to finish the Photoshop mashup piece as well as an interactive clickthrough prototype of how the gallery would work for my presentation at the last class. Here is the remixed take on American Gothic

Click to see full image

This was definitely an exercise in restraint; I wanted to exaggerate the appropriation of Indian culture but still present something that was aesthetically pleasing. I also decided to showcase different parts of India with each piece in the gallery; this one in particular shows off the different pieces of Rajasthan.

What's funny is that I've only ever seen this piece parodied with wives and husbands, so I assumed the original was the same; it turns out it's the farmer's spinster daughter in the portrait. In this scenario she's married, but still... note to self, do my research more carefully! 

I got some great feedback in class, but the question was posed about what the line between respect and appropriation is. The example was that the questioner would be excited to see people at ITP wearing clothing from her culture. I agree with that as well, I think educating people on one's own culture is great. I have friends who love Indian food, clothing, and so much more, but they make it a point to ask me about where it comes from and what it means. That's why I felt that having the educational piece of the gallery was necessary - that's what leads to more understanding across cultures and stops cultural appropriation, which uses without understanding the context of the objects being used. 

Another piece of interesting feedback was recreating the piece as a physical object - it was suggested that I could make canvas reproductions of the piece and then layout the fabrics and items on top. I really like that idea as a lot of museum-type pieces don't allow for touch, but the textures and fabrics here almost beg for tactile interaction. 

As much as I struggled with Photoshop (I will definitely be sticking to Illustrator!), I had a great time with this piece. It forced me to reflect on my views on my culture as well as cultural appropriation, and maybe someday I'll continue on with this project. I hope to!

This is the Remix - Final Project Idea

I realize I never documented on my final project idea (oops), but I realized that proposing the idea without the background of why it's important to me would be presenting only part of the picture.

I'm a first generation Indian-American, so I was caught between the culture of my parents and the one I was surrounded by. Finding the balance between these two very different cultures was difficult, especially because often enough my American friends just couldn't understand why my life was the way it was. Fast forward to many years later and suddenly my culture is... cool? Or at least, cool to practice. Bindis are a fashion statement now rather than something to be pointed at and mocked (or at least, in some circles). I remember be shocked when I heard Tunak Tunak Tun, a popular bhangra song, being blasted by a robot at a contest when I was in undergrad. When I looked it up, it turns out the song is now a meme where people riff on the original video by dressing up in capes and wrapping cloth to be turbans around their heads. And of course, there's the infamous Kama Sutra. 

My feelings are best summed up by the last panel of this comic, which was actually the inspiration for what I wanted to do for the final. I did some brainstorming with Roopa and ultimately came up with the idea to mash classic American art with Indian concepts. By inserting an absurd amount of Indian things into the art, I intended to parody the idea of cultural appropriation. You like bindis? You'll love having Indian architecture in your house too!

I realized that just having a parody piece wasn't enough to really bring the point home, which is that in appropriating something from another culture you lose its original meaning and the rich heritage it comes from. So I wanted to make the piece interactive so that the viewer could actually learn what each piece is. 

So in conclusion: I'm making a prototype of an interactive art piece around cultural appropriation (specifically around Indian culture) for the viewer to learn about each part that comprises the parody.

Fanfiction as a Remix Technique

As part of the class we present on remix techniques in different mediums, and for the week I presented the topic was written media. One of the recommended topics was fanfiction, which is of huge interest to me. 

This presentation was written for an audience that was assumed to have very little background knowledge of fanfiction and fanwork. As such, there are many topics in fandom that are not touched on. As you'll see below, fanfiction is a very rich topic but I could only scratch the surface given that I had to present in only 15 minutes. 

Here are the slides; below you'll find the corrected transcript of my notes for the presentation since SlideShare was unable to process my presenter notes. You'll see the slide number and then the text associated with that slide 

  1. Most of you have heard of a little book called Fifty Shades of Grey. You’ve also probably heard of that infamous vampire series Twilight (which I maintain is vastly inferior to Buffy the Vampire Slayer in terms of vampire related media). But it’s not as well known that Fifty Shades of Grey has its origins in Twilight - its first life was as Twilight fan fiction. Fifty Shades was altered in order to be published as a novel in its own right. But why would someone take an existing story and spin it this way? 
  2. Before we get to that question, let’s examine exactly what fan fiction is. In order to understand fanfiction, we look at where it originates from.
  3. Meet the current state of media. We have movies, books, video games, and a vast number of entertainment out in the world. Each has a story, different characters, and narrative themes that are unique to that story. The stories they tell and the associated elements are collectively called…
  4. Canon

  5. (Which is in no way related to cameras)

  6. Canon is defined as the material accepted as part of the story in an individual universe of that story. Example: it’s canon that Luke and Leia are twins in Star Wars. Nothing will change that. These are the rules of the universe within each story, and they are managed by the creators of the universe or any approved authors.

  7. Fan work, on the other hand, is material created by people who aren’t associated with the original work. This comes in two key formats: fan art and fan fiction. 

  8. What’s great about fanfiction is the level of creativity that is brought to the original story. Where entertainment today can a very specific type of storytelling, fan fiction can play with all kinds of storytelling techniques from the type of story…

  9. To fun combinations of storytelling tropes. In fanfiction there exists the universe where the characters of Star Trek compete in an Iron Chef competition, where Uncle Ben doesn’t die, where Sirius Black totally gets a drink with Bruce Banner. Fan fiction is a core part of being in a fandom, where fans gather to share their enthusiasm for their favorite media. 

  10. It’s a culture that stretches from repurposed journaling sites like LiveJournal to dedicated sites such as and Even Amazon has a service called Kindle Worlds dedicated to publishing fanfiction in light of the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, so fanfic writers can now publish their fiction in the hopes of getting noticed by publishers. (Also of note, the book and subsequent Broadway play Wicked).

  11. There is a ton of material to be covered when it comes to fandom and fan fiction, it could take days. But the core question is… why? Why do we care about fan fiction as a remix technique? 

  12. We could very easily dismiss fanfiction as irrelevant because of who makes up the core audience, which is teenage girls. In fact, a lot of people do brush it off as such. It’s true that fan fiction is a way of putting wish fulfillment into words. The Mary Sue trope, in which a character that is too perfect is introduced, is often a way for the author to insert themselves into the story. But let’s examine that for a minute. Wish fulfillment. If fan fiction is being written by fans, why would they write this stories if they enjoy the source material? What are they finding not fulfilling in the canon?

  13. Let’s take a look at the cast of some of the shows and movies that have a lot of fanfic associated with it. 

  14. Here’s the cast of the Avengers. Keep in mind what you see here.

  15. Now take a look at the main characters from some of the most popular shows on the CW Network. 

  16. And here are some other examples of very popular media that have a ton of fan fiction. Found a pattern yet?

  17. So what do they all have in common? There’s barely any diversity. All of these shows have very few, if any, people of color. Most of them are conventionally attractive. And yet the way shows in the United States measure their success is in what percentage of the 18-49 demographic they get, the younger part of which is a huge part of the community that partakes in fan fiction consumption. This demographic is very diverse indeed and informed of current socio-economic issues facing society today.

  18. In fanfic all of the rules change. Writers add new characters, change the characters’ genders, and do so much more that brings in their opinion of the show and alters it to fit their view... which often addresses the shortcomings they find in the canonical content. Fanfiction therefore serves as a means of critique from the audience of the story.

  19. By taking the source content and tweaking it, the writers can demonstrate the weaknesses in the original media and offer their views on how it can be changed. And very frequently, the content of today’s entertainment is a reflection of societal values and current issues, so in this way fan fiction becomes a critique of society at large as well. 

  20. So yes. There is poorly written fanfiction. Case in point: My Immortal, which is an infamous Harry Potter fanfic noted for just how terrible it is with poor grammar and bad storytelling. But fanfic is a method of expression. It’s where creativity melds together with critique to form a rich storytelling technique that enhances the stories that we love. 

Heartproof - Mashup using Echo Nest API

For whatever reason I got Kanye West's Heartless stuck in my head when I was thinking about this assignment, so I looked at the lyrics. There is something about it that irked me a little, because every story has two sides. So I paired it with La Roux's Bulletproof, which takes a different spin on being with someone where you want to have fun and don't want to get hurt.

I used the Echo Nest Remix API to create a sort of glitchy effect where Heartless gets transposed onto Bulletproof. Thanks to one of their Python example scripts, Kanye's song now gets mashed to the tune of Bulletproof to create a version where he flashes back on different moments with different women. It's not entirely successful - there are parts where the glitch sound is a little too glitchy to be enjoyable - but it was an interesting experiment for a first foray into mashing. In an earlier version, I tried mashing up the two original songs but ultimately ran into more cacophonous results when the lyrics and instrumental sections of the songs didn't match. This final version is a mash of Kanye's original song with the instrumental version of Bulletproof.

Analysis of Do What You Want to Do - DJ Earworm's United States of Pop 2014


Assignment: Choose a song that is based heavily around samples. Research the origin of those samples and analyze how they are being used. Were the samples chosen for any intent other than simply sounding good?

My favorite type of song remix is the mashup, so I had to go for one of my current earworms: DJ Earworm's United States of Pop 2014. Since 2007, DJ Earworm releases an annual remix of the 25 biggest hits in the US according to Billboard's weekly Hot 100 Charts. 

What I love about this mashup is the message in addition to how danceable it is, which I'll break down below.

Songs Used

Here are the songs used in the mashup (source: the official video)

A Great Big World feat. Christina Aguilera - Say Something
Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea - Problem
Bastille - Pompeii
Dj Snake & Lil Jon - Turn Down For What
Hozier - Take Me to Church
Idina Menzel - Let It Go
Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX - Fancy
Iggy Azalea feat. Rita Ora - Black Widow
Jason Derulo feat. 2 Chainz - Talk Dirty
Jeremih feat. YG - Don't Tell 'Em
Jessie J feat. Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj - Bang Bang 
John Legend - All Of Me
Katy Perry feat. Juicy J - Dark Horse
Lorde - Team
Magic! - Rude
Maroon 5 - Animals
Meghan Trainor - All About That Bass
Nico & Vinz - Am I Wrong
One Direction - Story of My Life
Passenger - Let Her Go
Pharrell Williams - Happy
Pitbull feat. Ke$ha - Timber
Sam Smith - stay with me
Taylor Swift - Shake It Off
Tove Lo - Habits

So we have twenty five songs to look at! All of them are utilized very differently - some are much more prominent than others, which makes sense since there are 25 songs to use. 

Core Message and Sample Usage Themes

The main message of the mashup is basically in the title: you can do what you want to do. DJ Earworm weaves a pretty uplifting story about making choices regardless of what others say, that  we are already enabled to do these things internally. 

The core themes I found with the utilization of the song samples are

  1. Original lyrics
  2. Baseline/underlying instrumental part
  3. Lyric mashup, message shift
  4. Similarities across songs

Original Lyrics

Some of the songs have a group of their lyrics pulled to build on the story of being happy  and knowing that one's self is good enough. Two big examples are the choruses from Shake It Off and Fancy . While Fancy is a little more prideful than Shake It Off, which comes off as self affirming, both put the listener in a position of empowerment beyond what 

Baseline/underlying instrumental part

Some pieces are used purely for instrumental purposes, . When you listen to the individual songs, there isn't anything lyrically that could have been spun to add to the message. Thus, the mashup in these songs is done to either

  • Create a baseline - this is primarily Dark Horse and Black Widow (which funnily enough have very similar baselines)
  • Add a riff on a repeated musical technique - Pompeii and Turn Down for What are used to create variants on the mashup of All About that Bass/Don't Tell Them

Lyric mashup, message shift

In some cases the message could be totally changed for the source song by throwing in lyrics from other samples. For example, let's take Jason Derulo's Talk Dirty to Me: 

Been around the world, don’t speak the language
But your booty don’t need explainin’
All I really need to understand is
When you talk dirty to me
— Talk Dirty to Me, Jason Derulo feat. 2 Chainz

But by tossing in some Taylor Swift, you get this: 

(Can’t stop won’t stop moving)
Don’t speak the language
(Music) don’t need explainin’
— United States of Pop 2014

It's now about music and dancing to your own tune.

Similarities (lyrics and instrumentation) across songs

DJ Earworm takes advantage of (or perhaps intended to highlight) some of the similarities across songs that are entirely different from each other. Some of the ones that I picked up were: 

  • Let It Go/ Let Her Go (Frozen and Let Her Go)
  • Use of brass instruments in Problem and Talk Dirty to Me
  • The baseline of Black Widow and Dark Horse
  • Artists saying their own name or the name of other artists on the track

...and countless more. 

So in conclusion...

The goal was to take 25 songs and somehow fit them into one big mashup. DJ Earworm could very easily have just cycled through each song somehow, kind of like what Norwegian Recycling did with 8 Become 1 (Where is the Love? by the Black Eyed Peas was the underlying baseline while the rest of the selected songs were sampled briefly in sequence). He opted instead to create this story that is very uplifting and meaningful, and I think that the end product is highly successful.

Summary of Samples

A Great Big World feat. Christina Aguilera - Say Something: instrumental (intro)
Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea - Problem: lyrics, some instruments
Bastille - Pompeii: baseline (first use of All About that Bass)
Dj Snake & Lil Jon - Turn Down For What:  (prominent in the second use of All About that Base)
Hozier - Take Me to Church: lyric (one line)
Idina Menzel - Let It Go: lyric (one line)
Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX - Fancy: original lyrics, lyric mashup
Iggy Azalea feat. Rita Ora - Black Widow: baseline
Jason Derulo feat. 2 Chainz - Talk Dirty: lyrics
Jeremih feat. YG - Don't Tell 'Em: lyrics
Jessie J feat. Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj - Bang Bang: instrumentals
John Legend - All Of Me: lyrics
Katy Perry feat. Juicy J - Dark Horse: baseline
Lorde - Team: lyrics (one line)
Magic! - Rude
Maroon 5 - Animals:
lyrics, source of song title
Meghan Trainor - All About That Bass: lyrics
Nico & Vinz - Am I Wrong: lyrics
One Direction - Story of My Life: lyrics (one line)
Passenger - Let Her Go: lyric (one line)
Pharrell Williams - Happy: lyrics
Pitbull feat. Ke$ha - Timber: instrumentation? (I wasn't too sure about this one, I couldn't really find it)
Sam Smith - stay with me: lyrics
Taylor Swift - Shake It Off: lyrics
Tove Lo - Habits: lyrics (used as instrumentation)