Revolution and the Art of Protest

by MarianneShih

My immersion in the culture of music creation began when I was five years old, and tragically influenced by Ludwig van Beethoven. My siblings and I grew up in a household where all but classical music and hymns were banned. As a result, everything I made up until about the second grade were haphazard interpretations on works from Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Bach, and Schumann.

I met a boy in second grade who changed my life. His name was George, and he was everything that I wanted to be: a virtuoso musician, composer, and performer. I liked him so much, I actually ended up borrowing a few themes from his song, Rhapsody in Blue, and performed my remix for my piano teacher that next Tuesday. I’m not sure if she was more impressed or confused, but I do remember the long talk she gave me about not “stealing other people’s work.”

Of course, my eight-year-old self didn’t have a clue what she meant as it wasn’t like I was copying someone’s homework… so I blew her off and continued to safely manufacture Gershwin-imitations at home. My parents thought I was a genius (they had never heard of my friend George) and frequently made me display my ‘natural-born talents’ in front of their friends (who I guess didn’t know of George either).

In bex0r’s article, “Cut It Up: Copyright, Creativity, and Global Remix Culture,” she expands on how a good chunk of the entertainment industry sees music fans as “simply consumers,” rather than artists using music as a medium in a social context. Parties who adhere to this view are generally the ones in favor of expanding legal definitions of “piracy,” and “illegal” downloading, nevermind that genres like trance and dubstep (which often rely on sampling) are quickly gaining popularity with the college demographic.

One of the many exciting characteristics of electronic dance music lies in its fluidity. Take for example, the Lizard Lounge in Dallas, an after-hours night club known for featuring phenomenal DJs and its lively crowd. When artists make it back up to the stage, they’ll play some familiar tunes – but it’ll only be so long before it morphs into a completely different creature made up of bits and pieces of songs from all genres. The excitement of the experience comes from not knowing what to expect, then reacting as an individual or group to the new beats and melodies. This particular music culture is no longer centered around the music. Instead, the music becomes a platform for social bonding. It’s not something you can package and send out to sit on a shelf at Target for $9.99. But is it something you can arrest the DJs for?

The entertainment industry’s reluctance to change isn’t a product of their passion to protect artists as they currently exist; it’s a product of their passion to save their pocketbooks from the movement for free art. Like Francis Ford Coppola said, once upon a time, artists didn’t get paid. They got patrons. This is not to suggest that there are no flaws to this house of thought, as artists have become maybe more plentiful than their prospective patrons. Free art does make it considerably more difficult for the artist to survive. But college students, ravers, and DJs will attest quietly through their piracy and file-sharing that indeed, it is time for a change.