Sunday, August 28, 2011

Climbing in your Windows: Snatching your Culture Up

Chatting with my Music Theory grad student brother-extraordinaire recently I learned of the developing field known as Music Cognition. "What's that?" I immediately got excited. He explained its a mix of hard cognitive psychology, aesthetics, philosophy, and sociology used to figure out how we understand music. I thought of a dozen lab-coat clad academics gathered around some dude with headphones on. Creepy.

So many parallels between music and art, I thought. So, why not Art Cognition, or Media Cognition? (it does exist in scattered texts). If used for the forces of evil, much money could be made. Today's communicators must be psychologists as well as designers.

So who succeeds in an age where novel content is outshadowed by even more novel media? YouTube's most popular video of 2010; The "Auto-Tune the News" Bed Intruder Song exemplifies a familiar phenomenalism, but with viral videos taking the place of radio tunes or blockbuster movies. This well produced hip-hop mash up caught us off guard with its shockingly relevant mix of music and media. It elicits no response from the self-centered viewer, but is interactive in that it inspires them to afterwards view and create other remixes.

But if it wasn't the Gregory Brother's skill with software then it was their specific choice of each elements; a cliche snippet of network news, the auto-tuned voice of an urban black figure, a shiny pop song. It's classic yet avant-garde, a collision of the old and new, familiar yet fresh, safe yet edgy. A similar aesthetic is present in Dub-step, where the DJ/musician combines left-over 90's hip hop, drum n' bass, and reggae tropes with digitally produced sounds that early electronic artists only dreamed of.

But these cultural phenomenon have little to do with furthering art unless using the former to achieve the latter. Both will continue to change in appearance according to the spirit of the times, but for now the Gregory brothers seem to have the winning formula.

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