Jonny Wilson, Ian Edgar and Geoff Gamlen are Eclectic Method (EM). Put simply, they’re artists who remix video musically–for sick parties and for your online viewing pleasure. Internationally renowned DVJs, I caught EM’s Ian Edgar and Jonny Wilson doing their thing live when they headlined at the Mattress Factory‘s 2010 Urban Garden Party.
What did Pittsburgh sound like on that night?
The future of open (source) video.
I met Edgar and Wilson the night before the party over a beer with some friends. “What’s up with this ringtone project,” Ian Edgar asked. After handing them some art cards and playing a few tones for them off my phone, I mentioned that all the content in the project was free to the public via Creative Commons’ Attribution Share Alike licensing. I told them I liked following Lawrence Lessig‘s work. (Lessig founded Creative Commons.)
“Oh, yeah, Lessig. Our remix video of him was on the Colbert show,” they shared.
Then Wilson grabbed their iPad to play The New Puppy for us. The remix is a video fashioned out of footage of President-Elect Obama’s speech on election night 2008 in Chicago. Having done some time in film school, I mentioned my interest in the compulsively repetitive (short) works of Martin Arnold and other avant-guard filmmakers.
Seeing that they were already into share culture, and wondering what they (or open source video) would sound like as a ringtone, I asked if they’d consider submitting an audio file to the project.
Fast forward a month or so later: a little remixed bundle of joy from Eclectic Method arrived on my Inbox doorstep! And Voilà! Here’s EM’s full-length (1 minute, 1 second) Babyacapella Tone.
I’ve got Wilson, Edgar and Gamlen to thank for producing and freely sharing the tone, but the Mattress Factory and its supporters deserve thanks, too, since they brought Eclectic Method to Pittsburgh!
The original audio for Babyacapella was taken from video sources made by parents who are friends with EM. The tone is structurally similar to their Baby Beats – part 1 video, an online remix of simple words and plain old baby gestures and sounds. (BTW, check out their Micro Sample Test for a more adult version of this approach to working with non-linguistic video.) Instead of cutting the images, words, sounds, and lyrics of famous people (or robots) together for a remix–what Eclectic Method is most known for–their Baby Beats video is a beautifully rhythmic treatment of excerpts from home videos composed via family-snapshot framing. The video itself is a venerable fanfare of common baby utterances and sneezes, man.
Here’s the Babyacapella (Short Version) Tone (30 seconds).
I recently spoke by phone with EM’s Jonny Wilson about their selection for Locally Toned.
“Is Babyacapella from another video that I wasn’t able to find?” I asked.
“Nope. Babyacapella is completely original for your project. We felt like it worked pretty well on its own as a sound. Sometimes we do purely sound-based work under aliases. We were not wanting to use a huge artist or pop song for your project. This audio comes from a concept we have out there on the web that was popular–it did pretty well.”
Before speaking with Wilson, I Googled “babyacapella.” Hilariously, the links appearing in the search results took me straight to Justin Bieber messing up while singing his hit song Baby a capella. It also led me to Internet Bieberites doing their version of his song a capella. It made me smile to think that when folks search for the title of the EM ringtone, they’ll be led to an information mashup of (literal) a capella baby-utterances and the Justin Bieber Baby phenomenon.
EM’s Ian Edgar has described their process as a “strange postmodern meaning-disintegration structure.” Wilson put it this way, “It’s really interesting–something like ‘a kid who’s just gone to the dentist‘ YouTube video being as important culturally as the latest Beyonce single.”
That’s exactly the sort of brand new [AV-media arts] bag you’ll encounter in an Eclectic Method performance or Internet-released mixtape. Pittsburgh has its “I’m not a DJ” resident (music mashup/digital audio sampling artist) GirlTalk, but EM works to create a new narritive of video and culture for the next generation of people who can perceive multiple channels of information at once, on the dance floors. When selecting clips, they generally choose video that represents a sound. You’ll see someone breaking a glass or playing a drum–you’ll hear the sound and its source. See their Computer On video for a conceptually clever representation of what they mean by “mixing video musically.”
Within their artful juxtapositions, and without the backing of a label, Wilson, Edgar and Gamlen make a new kind of music and prefer to interact with their audience in a more direct and immediate fashion. Their work exists in the stratosphere far outside the orbit of stuffier and older media-making and distribution channels that take weeks or months to polish and deliver content to audience. This newer medium’s method is fast. The ubiquitous (and more obscure) digital messages of our time are rapidly integrated into their live performances and on remixes that they self-publish online. They watch loads and loads of motion pics (television, YouTube, movies, video games), selectively record and store bits and pieces of motion pictures, and then make the clips available for live replay or for use in their archived mixtapes. Continually on the lookout for multi-media Zeitgeist moments–things that have happened culturally in the last 24 to 48 hours–they’re pros at responding to culture on the fly.
Whew! That’s quite the mouthful. And earful. And eyeful.
I’ll close by sharing a bit more from my Q&A with Jonny Wilson:
TERESA FOLEY: Have you ever produced ringtones for yourself or others before?
JONNY WILSON: Who wants standard ringtones? Yeah, we—especially Ian–make our own. Especially for alarms. Then we don’t have to travel with alarm clocks.
TF: What was it that made you decide to contribute to this public art project?
JW: You asked us very nicely. And we also like doing sound projects as well as video.
TF: Any upcoming shows, performances, talks, or appearances at conferences?
JW: We’re in NY all the time; our next big show is on September 24th, at the Electric Factory in Philly.
TF: Thanks for your generous contribution to the project, Eclectic Method.
JW: Our pleasure.