With the gusto of a humpback whales mating call, I’m sure we can all recount the harmonious groan of our 7th grade English class upon hearing that Shakespeare is next up on the syllabus. Be it Romeo & Juliet or MacBeth, the classics of the 13th century certainly don’t mandate a positive response from readers centuries removed from the origins of the content. Whether it’s the language or the subject, it makes sense as to why No Fear Shakespeare is at the top of the cache; the relic-like sonnets don’t excite an audience so distant from the production itself…simply put, it’s too dated. For that reason alone, I’m sure you can all empathize with me upon hearing that I’d be attending an Off-Broadway production of Shakespeare’s “Othello,” with the company of my own mother. While I’m not an uncultured snob imprinted with the millennial theme of “don’t care” whenever it comes to topics other than sex, drugs, and rock and roll, a Wednesday night fueled by Shakespearean tragedy just didn’t get my blood flowing. With led feet and a stone heart I took my seat amongst the midtown Manhattan theatre and awaited my fate…can’t i just read the sparknotes? To my surprise, the waiting room was soundtracked by Jay Zs Black Album and rather than a string a quartet the pit housed a DJ with turn tables and the characters entered sans spandex and instead clad in Jordan 7s. Ok, you have my attention. Akin to Hamilton, the MC explained that the story of Othello would be remixed in freestyle. Sonnets would be rapped and double entendres were delivered in 16 bar flows and to my pleasant surprise, my foot tapped throughout the plays entirety as “O Remix” was a hip hop rendition of an old English classic, recounted by Young Shakes and OG Speare. If only Mrs. Conklin rapped the play all those years ago…A+’s all around! As the name suggests, O Remix was just that, a fresh spin on a century old tale. Appealing to 21st century tastebuds, the Remix livened the text that was laid years ago, illustrating the same plot and character development, only this time the verse would be better received with a Metro Boomin production tag rather than with a cross-referencing dictionary handy. With that, the art of the remix was executed masterfully and the off-Broadway production earned a gold star and two thumbs up. If Kanye can be remixed then I suppose Shakespeare can too…the question is not only one of WHY but also HOW, so, ‘to remix or not to remix? That is the question.” Here’s how it’s done…
KEEP THE INTEGRITY
Break the stigma that this post is all about music and more specifically, individual songs. While the word remix is normally affixed to a 120 bpm dancehall track or the original radio hit with the addition of a few extra artists or two, a remix can be applied to almost anything. Whether it’s a song, a story, or your grandmothers meatloaf recipe, a remix can be done! The important thing to remember is to not repurpose the content but instead reproduce it. The reason why a subject deserves to be remixed is because at some point in time, the art worked. The subject was received with laud and the recipient was satiated by the content. With that, a good remix stays true to the original art form. It not only includes, but structures itself around the aspects that made the original great. While the tweaks can venture into the realm of complete abstractness, the remix and the original must ALWAYS share a link and be indisputably congruent when it comes to the overall message, storyline, and purpose.
MODERNIZE THE SUBJECT
R Kelly said it best in perhaps the most well known remix of all time…”it’s the remix to ignition HOT and FRESH out the kitchen.” Shakespeare will seldomly resonate with 7th grade ears as the subject is as old as the audience is young. Perhaps, that’s why the best and most unexpected remixes are found as the original content and the new one grow farther and farther apart. We can attribute Pokemon Go’s success to its ability to merge the original 90’s fantasy with modern 2000’s technology. The glory that is Ghostbusters only solidified itself in the Hollywood hall of fame when Bill Murray was recasted as Kate McKinnon and the ghosts boasted the proper CGI treatment. Ugly sweaters hand-knitted by Grandma become wearable once 2 Chainz and Drake are slapped on the front. Past meet present.
CHOOSE THE VEHICLE
English was to Shakespeare as social studies was to the Native Americans circa 7th grade. With that, the art of story telling and our ‘word of mouth’ upbringing was the century old method of transferring ideas from one person to another. The Rosetta Stone and moveable text thrust us into the age of the written language…fast forward a couple decades to the now and we see deliverance come in all shapes and forms. Podcasts, iPhone applications, and YouTube subscriptions only scratch the surface as to how art is shared in the present. With that, sometimes a remix modifies the arts vehicle to be best received by the audience. For me, a marvel comic book fails in comparison to a multimillion dollar Hollywood production when it comes to watching grown men in tights. I’d never read 50 Shades of Grey but, yes, I’d watch it with a girlfriend. And of course, Shakespeare’s Othello was a good replacement for counting sheep when it was text, but as a hip hop production on Broadway, it was palpable to say the least. Call it modernization or a shift in consumerism, but whatever it is, sometimes the content just needs a new canon.
It seems like any and all creative content is served with the tiny “TM” for trademark or circled C for copywrite. Just like in HBOs hit series Westworld, often times the deliverable product isn’t as important as the intellectual property itself. The same holds true for anything that dons the suffix “remix.” If you’re attempting to give an art a complete makeover or simply tweaking the original, credit must be given to where credit is due. You could make a fortune running off and being a patent attorney, limiting the progression of a new idea in order to preserve the brainchilds bank account, but what’s the fun in that? There’s a far nobler road to take when it comes to creativity and that’s to share it, freely and willingly. Nicola Tesla invented…. and placed no patent on it so that…. artistry is drawn from the world around the creator and I find it hard to articulate a scenario where something can be conjured out of a void or vacuum. With that, when it comes to the original, I urge the artist to be open to sharing it. As importantly, when it comes the remix, pay homage to the original forethought for without Gates, Jobs would be nothing.