Thursday, August 19, 2010

Transformative works: Music.

Major hat tip to Whedonesque for posting the link to Charlie Jane Anders' io9 article on this.

I first noticed this recent trend of "time stretching" popular music when NPR's "All Things Considered" broadcast a segment on Timberbrit, reported by Claire Happel, the contemporary opera by Jacob Cooper -- "a tragic tale that imagines Spears' last concert."  Britney's popular songs were slowed down into haunting dirges, and then Cooper collaborated with Yuka Igarashi who wrote lyrics to layer on top of the music inspired by the time stretched pop hits.
Cooper has expanded on that distinctive musical tradition by creating an entire opera enveloped by a fatal slowness of action. The idea is that in Timberbrit, Spears' prolonged destruction amplifies the tragedy of her downfall.
The concept was interesting, but I wasn't so much a fan of the final product.  So, I just filed this away under "intriguing."  Then a few days ago, a musician named Nicholas Pittsinger time stretched Justin Bieber's innocuous "U Smile" into a 35 minute long Eno-alike (which is to say: suddenly, strangely awesome).  The filing system in my brain kicked open and was all, "Hey!  Hey!  Hey!  Remember Timberbrit?"  Yeah, Brain!  I totally do.

Okay, so now to the point that ties this whole thing into something remotely related to Whedon Studies: The Anders piece "Classic Science Fiction Theme Tunes Sound Even Spacier When Slowed Down."  The sci-fi time stretches and the Bieber time stretch may not be as "high concept" as composing an entire opera around time stretched pop music, but I'm a fan of taking one thing, tinkering with it, and making it something totally different.  Charlie Jane Anders provides us with an entire playlist of music that, at first listen, sounds like fantastic atmospheric, trance-y ambiance.  It's an unexpectedly good way to trigger nostalgia for the programs whose themes are featured: Buffy, BSG, and Babylon 5, to name a few.

Go!  Listen!  Love!  It's a weird metamorphosis, but it's beautiful.

Can you imagine the final battle in Season 7 to the time stretched Buffy theme?  In a cyberpunk re-imagined way, I totally can.

ETA: As I remember before I lay me down to sleep... A very recent, very mainstream example of this time stretching technique can be heard in Hans Zimmer's score for the film Inception.  It's something that I noticed while watching in the theatre, and several other people picked up on it as well.  I'll keep my personal opinions of Mr. Zimmer's work to myself, but here's a link to a comparison of the score and a time stretch of Edith Piaf's (ubiquitous) "Non, je ne regrette rien."  Yes, even Hollywood has caught on to this trend.  Good night!