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In the Postscript, I turn to Anne Washburn’s 2012 Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play. Set in a postapocalyptic near-future after the electrical grid has collapsed, Mr. Burns offers a meditation on the persistence of storytelling in a postdigital age. Although the premise is simple, even comical -- a band of survivors try to recall and restage episodes of the The Simpsons -- the play’s remix of the detritus of contemporary popular culture offers a more serious appraisal of the digital era and the nature of art. However, my own reading reveals surprising ironies about even the most digitally resistant genre (theatre) and the embeddedness of sound recording in present-day writing practices. The questions posited about the relationships between new and old media, and between sound recording, writing, and performance, are ones that reverberate across this book.
The fifth chapter reads contemporary remix culture against the long history of literary engagement with technologies of sound. While the literary remixes of poet Kevin Young (To Repel Ghosts: The Remix ) and novelist Chuck Palahniuk (Invisible Monsters Remix ) serve as case studies of the ways writers have adapted the practice of remix to the medium of print, the scope of this chapter is more wide ranging, investigating remix as a cross-disciplinary aesthetic mode. I explore the origins of remix in the dance hall but also in the cut-up techniques of William S. Burroughs; I examine how remix inflects more traditional literary publications but also its impact on digital spaces for iterative writing (such as fan fiction). This chapter reveals that remix’s inherently textual bent has been embedded in the practice since the beginning.
We describe two improvised performances in which a variety of source materials are algorithmically mashed up, using software code that is created on stage before a live audience. Each of us works with an original programming language that we designed and implemented ourselves, with significant influence from the live coding movement. Blackwell’s Palimpsest is an experimental art language, used only in research settings, while Aaron’s Sonic Pi is a free open-source product that has more than a million users worldwide. Working together to transform found and re-purposed material in ways that step outside traditional genres, this creative technical work raises profound questions about the nature of copyright and authorship in the digital era.