Patchwork Symphony: YouTube as an artistic channel

I recently tuned in halfway to an NPR interview featuring a female vocalist singing a-cappella, as captured on a homemade video posted on YouTube. Moments later, the same female, singing the same melody began, however this time furnished with a musical ensemble consisting of piano, guitar, bass and drums, augmented by a string quartet and  a series of futuristic synthesizers added further colour to the arrangement.

As music today is predictably trendy, formulated specifically to target audiences with clever lingo disguised as lyrics, sung in syncopated phrasing over incredibly well produced backing tracks, the immediate appeal is as emotional as it is subconscious. However, this track sounded, well… different. Different in texture and different sonically; the song and all of its parts existed separate, despite the achy undertone captured in the vocals with each passing minor chord, bringing the collective parts together, united by one lover’s lament.

The interview then continued with the creator of the song, an Israeli musician and producer named “Kutiman”. Kutiman revealed that the song, and all of its respective musical parts, comprised of individual musicians performing original songs (he) found on YouTube. In a time-consuming, meticulously structured exercise of edit, copy and paste, Kutiman aligned various music samples into one cohesive patchwork symphony,                all without leaving his workstation, or even having spoken with the musicians.

In fact, this type collage music production has been a staple of Kutiman’s creative repertoire for nearly ten years. With two albums (“Thru You” 2009 and “Thru You Too” 2015), both comprised of various tracks and samples found on YouTube artistically mashed into individual songs, Kutiman harnesses his own creativity and utilizes the musicianship of others to create a unique style of music that would top both Indie and Top 40 charts, without the trendy polish of current popular music. Kutiman’s approach to producing music speaks to the possibility that exists in the social world: the possibility to share unlimited information, culture and perspective

Kutiman’s work is an ideal example of this possibility. Kutiman, in Israel, views Princess Shaw’s video on YouTube; a video made halfway across the world in USA. Kutiman then scours YouTube for appropriate music samplings to support Shaw’s vocal styling’s where he finds a string quartet from Germany and a pianist from Australia. In any other setting, the musicians would have spoken by email, by phone or by Skype to discuss the song then compose the music. The musicians would enter a studio to record their parts, most likely in their native countries, and Kutiman would then do his magic in the studio. Instead, Kutiman used great content that already lived on YouTube and binded the parts together, bridging kilometers, cultural differences and personal perspectives under the collective umbrella of art, collaboration and passion.

This type of unification for one specific cause exists every day in the social world; the role social media played to organize protests in the Egyptian uprising, or how world health organizations share information about potential health threats aimed at keeping the public safe.

It is the natural aspect of the human experience to share ideas, feelings and opinions, sometimes agreeable, sometimes not, however social media, as demonstrated through the work of Kutiman, allows individuals to have an outlet, a voice, a safe place to express themselves. For Princess Shaw, the authentic tone in her voice speaks of an experience and the residual pain that was felt singularly, however the feeling in Shaw’s song is one that is known to all at some point in life and as we recall that moment we are unified in the specific cause of healing, one beat and chorus at a time. Without YouTube, Princess Shaw would have still have had a broken heart, and Kutiman would still produce music, however it is unlikely their paths would have crossed to be able to share and create this special moment.

To some, Kutiman’s music may just seem like an interesting experiment, however, judging by the comments on his YouTube page, the music holds special meaning to many people. You can view Kutiman’s YouTube channel and watch the music video for Princess Shaw’s “Stay Here” by clicking here.

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