Vines and Threads and Feeds

One of my good friends recently shared this short Vine compilation with me.

It is fascinating because the video is set up as a theme and variation. The theme, however, is not based on a melody or harmonic progression. It is a segment from a viral Youtube series. There is only the rhythm of obscenities spewed and the chandelier smashed. Each variation takes this material and fits it within other popular artist’s work – from James Brown to Survivor. The result is something both inventive and comedic.

The variations in the compilation were probably grabbed from various uses across one outlet (Vine most likely). With the brevity of Vine and other social media like it, themes can quickly beget widespread variations without one painstaking creator. Other people find a certain theme with potential for variation and craft accordingly. They then only need to be compiled into a theme and variation.

That is another point: thematic material can be anything. From failed stunts to wolves howling, the sound bites from each can be manipulated to fit a hook or chorus from a particular tune. The resulting juxtaposition creates a surprise. Is this surprise not one of the reasons to watch these short clips? To get a dose of humor and originality from brevity?

What these Vine compilations suggest is not entirely new. Sampling and manipulating preexisting (non)music material have been around for quite awhile. Vine, however, has not. That is the kicker.

With Vine and social media like it, entire pieces can be created without knowing it. Like a plant, these works need a seed: the Tourette’s Guy clip for our example. From there little remixes spring forth and create a network of threads which are weaved together. Thus a composition is formed.

Social media creates a host of means of creating musical work that is beyond what we think of in the traditional sense of composing. That is why it is difficult to call these compilations musical pieces, let alone theme and variations. There has been a new wrinkle to what we thought the acts of creating and consuming music were.

Now there is the news feed, the Twitter feed, the Vine feed, the Youtube feed. Now there are millions of ten second clips spread and shared. That is the world we live in today.

The fascinating question from here on out is social medias implications to music making. Will we have bands who write music exclusively for distribution on Instagram? Will there be composers who write a theme and variation that is based exclusively on people sending in Vines of their variations upon her theme? Will there be more concertos scored for soloists that are of the feline variety?

What is next from what we have now?

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