Preceded by a short rant about remixing and copyright…
I have a few strongly-held opinions on copyright. I support the idea of some kind of mechanism to provide artists with monetary compensation for their labours. We all need money to live. But as a creator, I also want to be free to remix and explore the work of others through my own work. It all hinges on ‘fair use’, a concept whose interpretation has been stretched on both sides of the debate.
There has been an aggressively prosecutorial disregard for actual fair use cases, genuine transformative work which may include some copyrighted material but by no means cannibalises the prospective market for the original work. On the other side of the ‘fair use’ coin, you’ve got a parasitic vein of plagiaristic opportunists who repost freebooted material largely unaltered and hide behind the words ‘fair use’ or the hilarious ‘copyright not intended’ for as long as they can get away with it.
For me, copyright is mostly a creative inconvenience. Though it may be rewarding to remix whatever you want, it’s not fun to be in the position of having made something that you are (for legal reasons) not at liberty to share with the world. It’s not fun receiving copyright notices on YouTube. To counter the take-down culture, I became a public domain junkie and my videos took on a decidedly vintage flavour. Old video could be edited to accompany songs, to create new meaning from old imagery in a new lyrical and sonic context. I became an audiovisual collagist (and I recorded an album of hundred-year-old songs… long story).
That was just a little bit of context to explain how I came across this album, because I am by no means a jazz aficionado. But I am always on the lookout for quality audio and video material that is in the public domain and free to remix for any purpose. Did you know that United States government agencies such as the United States Army and NASA release a lot of material into the public domain? If you’re a public domain nerd, you probably knew about NASA. But you may not have realised that there are a lot of Army bands that have released music into the public domain. There’s a jazz band called U.S. Army Blues and they recorded an album called Live In Blues Alley. I was looking for music I could use in video projects unrelated to my own music, this album became one of my favourites. You need to immediately check out this drum solo.
That is the fantastic drumming of Steve Fidyk on the song Dance Of The Stargazer. I ended up remixing a few bars of that drum solo for BANG GOES THE TV (from the album GIVE ME A SINE). I’m sure I credited the sample but I’m not sure I name-checked the drummer in the notes. For most of my song there’s a hypnotising electro beat with triggered samples, but for the last minute of the song it’s the drums from ‘Dance Of The Stargazer’. I love the public domain, I love that I get to collaborate with amazingly talented musicians like Steve Fidyk and maybe he doesn’t ever even know about it. I was able to take some of that drum solo and allow it to infuse the song with such energy and urgency. Listen. Don’t just listen, watch. I made a video.
That’s what I meant by audiovisual collage. The public domain is a wonderful thing. The video credits are in a previous blog post. The audio credit gets its own blog post. That sample makes this song feel so much more special to me, I just wanted to acknowledge that. And I’d better pay it forward. Here’s a link to Steve Fidyk’s website where you can check out his discography.