What makes for a good remix? This is a question that comes up a lot when I present on themes related to my book, “A Convergent Model of Renewal: Remixing the Quaker Tradition in a Participatory Culture.” When we talk about how tradition can be revitalized and “remixed” within new cultures people ask how do we know that it is still a part of the same tradition?
Here are some basic thoughts on it.
- The original piece of art, sample, text, etc. is recognizable. The connection or reference to what the remix is drawing on is accessible those within that particular community.
There is genuinely something new about the remix. It is clear that it is original in some way. And this originality often leverages the past, while shedding new light or a new perspective on the old in a truly innovative way.
It works. Everything fits together in a new seamless production. There is a big difference between Lee Major in the “Six Million Dollar Man” and Frankenstein. The keys match, the beats line up. Whatever contradictions may have previously existed they are resolved within the new piece of art.
It is participatory: it moves people on the dance floor. Another way to say this is that it is affirmed, as well as created, through a consensus process within the community that is directly affected by the remix. The community is invested in the outcome of what is created.
It remains open to more remixes and modifications. It would be both tragic and ironic if a remix became proprietary, dogmatic and restricted under copyright. What is created through an open-ended process must seek to affirm further developments, remixes and new ways of sampling.