Creating something new from the magic of others


Recently I have been experimenting with remixing music, as a sabbatical of sorts from making my own. This activity is fundamentally different from passively consuming music, as it forces you to really get inside the mind of the original artist, to explore what they were trying to achieve, to break apart the musical elements they brought together to make the piece, and to imagine how these might be brought together in different ways to create something new that embraces and yet extends or even re-imagines what they have done.

Creating something new from the work of others is not trivial ... it's quite different from creating something of your own ... but it's no less complicated. In fact, to do it really well, may actually be more complicated.

In many respects (if you permit me to digress for a second) it's very similar to the challenges you face as the leader of a startup. You are seeking to mould something fresh and compelling from the creativity and capabilities of an entire team of people ... each with their own ideas, experiences, perspectives and skill-sets.  Running a startup is NOT about gathering a bunch of people together to blindly implement what is solely YOUR vision. You'll get beaten by companies who know how to leverage a chorus of individual voices every time. People working effectively together have the capability to create something that is far greater than sum of the parts. 

Anyone who has ever been in an orchestra, a band, quartet, or a choir of any kind knows that moment when things just click ... when you are all in complete musical sync ... that moment when you are all aware of each other, and are seamlessly complementing and building off each other ... blending and creating a new voice from the discrete voices of all participants. It's much more than just musical harmony ... and it's almost impossible to describe unless you have been part of it ... but boy, when it happens, it makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. It's magic ... and you don't want it to stop.

Great startups are a bit like this ....  there is something fundamental that happens when the team is in sync, working seamlessly together, and building off each other. 

Anyway, digression over ... back to re-mixing. 

With little or no experience in this area, I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of excellent tools available that reduce the learning curve, and let you stretch your inner creativity ... from iPad apps such as TraktorDJ (which are great for exploring ideas on the go) to the more full featured special purpose applications such as Traktor Pro

Musical kit  007.jpg

Of course, this space is a toy-lovers dream (see right). In fact, the software I have mentioned above, when equipped with hardware such as the Traktor Kontrol S4 and the Traktor Kontrol F1 can be a ridiculously amusing way to pass the time. 

At any rate, this phenomenon is part of the overall democratization of creativity that is happening across all forms of media including music, photography, film making ... and even (with the invention of 3D printers) physical objects. Tools are lowering the bar for people to create without the time, resource or capital investment that was often required before.

I haven't acquired much (if any) skill in this area as yet, but the technology has allowed me to begin to explore a whole new area of creativity ... and to have fun doing it.   

Here's a work in progress project. It is a remix of Manvel Ter-Pogosyan's Fallen In Too Deep using Traktor DJ on the iPad to create the core remix (essentially folding parts of the song on itself) and then Logic Pro X to add the additional string voices in order to create a more cinematic feel. It doesn't massively restructure the piece, it just subtly re-works it at the beginning, and later gets a bit more ambitious as I take parts of the original piece and fold them on top of each other to create a deeper soundscape.
The remix was done live, in one pass, and captured before then adding the strings on top in Logic. Harder that I ever thought ...


The next mix was done live, end-end, in one pass, using  TraktorDJ on an iPad.  It uses about 8 cue points (some loops) to restructure Mia Martina's Go Crazy. The challenge when doing this stuff live (i.e. without the safety net of a DAW), is that you need a pretty clear sense of how you want the remix to work before you begin the session. Given that a song can be 5-6 minutes long, it's easy to forget exactly what you were planning in any region, and so you sometimes have to ad-lib to recover. Well, a lot like startup pivots in a way :-)