Endless Possibilities Part 1: “In Bb”

23 Jun

Darren Solomon in BbLately I’ve been finding myself faced with creations, both artistic and otherwise, that suggest never-ending possibilities. Websites, video games, music applications, mash-up art… the more I see this stuff, the clearer it is that, thanks to the ubiquity of high-speed communication, an age of endless user-generated content is upon us, and it’s growing, growing, growing, with no escape in sight. Mwa ha ha.

There are a few particularly noteworthy sites and concepts that I’ve come across recently that I wanted to share here – the first one is a live music mash-up experiment entitled “In Bb.” Seriously. Put on some headphones and play around with it.  It is very cool, irresistibly simple, and the possibilities are truly endless.

It’s like this – Darren Solomon, a musician and bandleader for a group called Science for Girls, had the inspired idea to get a ton of musicians to record short videos of themselves playing something in the key of Bb (a key that, incidentally, some say exists as a fundamental frequency for the whole of the Earth).  He then put all of their videos on YouTube and created a page that allows some or all of the clips to be played simultaneously.  The end result is, in effect, a giant video-sampler, and it is a blast to play around with.  Any combination of videos creates a soothing, musically abstract experience, sort of Shh… Peaceful by way of Brian Eno.  Admittedly, the music itself veers slightly into “Japanese Tourism Video” territory from time to time, but since any dissonance whatsoever would add the possibility of running the whole thing off the rails, it’s not to hard to let the over-consonance slide.  If you want a complex video-mashup, check out Kutiman’s stuff.  If you want to do it yourself, you’re gonna have to settle for ambient prettiness.

For me, the most interesting part is how “In Bb” plays with the term “User-Generated Content.”  For several years now, that’s been the big buzzword (buzzphrase?) on everyone’s lips – put the power in the hands of the people, create software that will endlessly refresh itself with the energy of the consumer, blah blah synergy-cakes. With video games of every stripe and color, iPhone applications, and, of course, YouTube itself, it seems clear that we’re at the dawn of a new era of perpetually updated, individually-generated art.  What makes “In Bb” so compelling to me is that it steps one level above user-generation by making the concept visual… since you’re controlling videos of the musicians themselves, you generate your soundscape not merely by manipulating its various parts, but by manipulating their very creation.  Watching and controlling the musicians on the screen brings the entire thing full circle – they have each performed their part, and your role is to take those parts and plug them into a larger whole.

I mean, if we could videotape fifty people using this site, then put THOSE videos together for manipulation, well…. do I need to say it? Mirrors of mirrors! Dogs  and cats! Living together! Mass hysteria!

Before that happens, I recommend that you check it out for yourself. (And thanks, Greg, for sending the link!)

%d bloggers like this: