Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rootmap & ccMixter

Following on from last month's conundrum over what to do for my MA practical project, I made my mind up quite quickly in the end and decided to go with the Lessig/ccMixter option. Given time constraints, etc, it seemed to make sense to go for something where the content had already been created rather than trying to also get a whole raft of new stuff made. On top of that, as a main theoretical component of the project will be drawn from Lessig's writing on remixes, a sound map of remixes of works that build on his words seemed like a pretty cool way forward.

It took weeks of trying to figure out how to get an audio player into a Google Map, but eventually I got there via the fantastic Map Maker tool at Donkey Magic (so simple too). However, I've also ended up having to skill-up on bits of HTML, CSS and Javascript to style the placemarks as I'd want them to be, which has added to the prep time.

Below is a sample of a couple of styled placemarks. Click on the lower one to hear Lessig's original spoken word file, which was used to launch this particular remix contest. Click on the higher one to hear one ccMixter community response to that file, a blues take from Admiral Bob. My project, which I've titled Rootmap, will be mapping the journey that the idea took - from one spoken word file on a website to around 70 full songs from several different countries.

The submission deadline for this piece of work is about a month away, so I do still have some time on my side. However, I'd expect that to go quite quickly and there's also another essay to be getting on with at the same time.

In the meantime (and something that I'd been meaning to do for a long time anyway), I've signed up to ccMixter and uploaded a few files to offer up for remix. The files are all mono vocal recordings/acappellas of a handful of lyric sets I've written over the past few years. There are no effects on them (nor music around them), as that is the format requested for the submission, leaving choices like that up to the producers.

It can make you feel somewhat naked from a musicianly point of view to publish such a part of a song without it being clothed in any of the rest of what might ultimately constitute a song! Still, I'm taking from others' work to create this project, and although the Creative Commons licences that the works are released under give me the right to do that, as with any community there needs to be some sort of balance between laws and practices. In other words, I'm getting so I think I should also give.

Going to each page of an artist that contributed a remix and clicking through on whatever links they've put on their profiles, I've managed to get something resembling locational data for most of them. I'm not looking for anything particularly detailed like full GPS co-ordinates as that's not the point of the project and I wouldn't want to plot uploads that closely (others may also not want their location published either). However, I'm aiming to at least have a city as a means of locating where the original remix contributor is from, in order to gain a sense of how far this particular idea spread and the scale of that journey.

The next major step is getting in touch with the handful of ccMixter members that I couldn't find any form of locational data for and asking them if they're willing to provide anything towards that. I'm also planning to let all contributors know about the project once I've got a bit more to show for it. As Rootmap is a kind of re-imagining of a series of remixes, it would be great to involve that community a little more in the final work than just presenting their music in a different way. Still, I didn't want to start approaching anyone at ccMixter until I had a little something to give too (thus the pella uploads).

Really intrigued to see how this project's going to turn out (as well as what might happen to my tracks)!

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