Remixing involves deconstructing a pre-existing work to isolate fragments that can later be used to construct a version of the deconstructed work. This method of sampling was later applied to creating novel works that are not variants of the earlier work from which the fragments were sourced but instead constitute independent compositions. I refer to this practice as Remix (as contrasted to 'remix' being a variant of an earlier work).

Remix is only possible at a stage of advanced technological development where media-processing equipment exists that can deconstruct available recordings – of sound, film, or even photography (photographs are recordings of the real world). At the very least, the source material must exist that is to be sampled. William Burroughs popularised in the late 1950s a literary technique that had been invented by the Dadaists in the 1920s who would cut up written text and rearrange it to create new texts.

This practice was, however, predated by almost two hundred years by Musikalisches Würfelspiel, meaning 'musical dice game' in German. In this game, the player would generate music from pre-composed options where the fragments of the music score were materially available in the form of pieces of sheet music. The 'composer' would roll dice to randomly select pieces to patch up.

The earliest known example is Johann Philipp Kirnberger's Der allezeit fertige Menuetten- und Polonaisencomponist (German for "The Ever-Ready Minuet and Polonaise Composer") (1757). Later examples are by C. P. E. Bach (one of Johann Sebastian Bach's sons) (1758) and by Maximilian Stadler (1780) (Nierhaus 2009: 36–38). But perhaps the best known example is attributed to Mozart himself. A 1787 manuscript exists that consists of 176 one-bar musical fragments; there no instructions and no evidence that dice were used, but this fact is of no interest to us. What matters is that pre-composed music had been deconstructed into actual prototypes of modern-day sample banks that are found in every music composition software.

Notwithstanding the fact that the player of this game still had to actually play the patched-up novel composition, this is a veritable example of the principles of Remix in action. The fact that randomness also played an important role in this method of composition is of interest to game-design researchers and mathematicians, but of little relevance to Remix Studies researchers such as myself. 

 

References

Nierhaus, Gerhard (2009). Algorithmic Composition: Paradigms of Automated Music Generation, pp. 36 & 38n7.

Cope, David (1996). Experiments in Musical Intelligence, p. 7. Madison, Wisconsin: A–R Editions, Inc.

DJ Moazrt image taken from the Domrebel t-shirt.