I’ve been grooving on the Grey Album for the last couple of days. (This post from Mathowie reminded me to look for it. I had heard about the project about a month before that, but hadn’t thought to look for it where Matt found it.) The concept is pretty simple, Danger Mouse remixed Jay-Z’s Black Album with only samples from The Beatles White Album. The resulting full cd of music is a phenomenal combination of the two, and I would say that it is greater than the sum of its parts, but I have too much respect for the original works. The more familiar with The White Album you are, the more nuggets of listening goodness there seem to be for you. It really is pretty amazing what Danger Mouse managed to create.
Now, having said that, there is a point I would love to make about this. This work cannot be released through normal music distribution channels. The samples would never be cleared, or the sheer cost of licensing them would make it impossible to released. Danger Mouse has taken two pieces of art, and combined them into a new beautifully crafted piece of art which stands out in it’s own right. Increasingly, I have been seeking out these types of musical quiltworks. People like Z-Trip and Reset are creating phenomenal pieces of work that is purely derived from source material they could never get clearance for through legal channels. I am forced to wonder how many of these pieces of art that our current music sampling and copyright laws are costing us. There is a capitalistic governor on artistic creations of this kind. It’s truly a shame. It is a stark example of what Mr. Lessig has been railing and fighting against for years, and it makes me realize just how important the ability to create derivative works can be.