SMT-V: The Society for Music Theory Videocast Journal

SMT-V is the open-access, peer-reviewed video journal of the Society for Music Theory. Founded in 2014, SMT-V publishes video essays that showcase research in music theory in a dynamic, audiovisual format, presented so as to have the potential to engage both specialists within the field as well as interested viewers outside the music theory community. The journal features a supportive and collaborative production process, and publishes several videos each year. Read more about SMT-V here.

Latest Issue: 9.2 (March 2023)

“Algorithmic Remixes”

Christine Boone (University of North Carolina, Asheville)


Link to bibliography

This video essay describes a type of viral remix where someone takes a well-known song and alters it with a pre-defined process, or, an algorithm. I have called these tracks algorithmic remixes, and identify three sub-types. The first is the semi-algorithmic remix, where a human creator is necessary to apply an algorithm to a song effectively; for instance, there is a version of “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles where every pitch has been transposed to either an E or an F. The second type is the fully-algorithmic remix, where an algorithm could be applied to any song, and would produce the exact same result without a human creator making artistic decisions. An example is taking the song “Africa” by Toto and remixing it so that all of the lyrics are in alphabetical order. Finally, a song-specific algorithmic remix is based on a process that was designed for a specific song, and would not necessarily have the same effect on any song. For example, “Hey Ya!” by Outkast has been remixed so that the tempo gets faster every time André 3000 sings the words, “uh,” or, “alright.” These remixes serve to exaggerate a particular feature of a song, and can reveal something about that song through humor and irony.

Keywords: Remix, meme, viral, YouTube


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