Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Where We're Going We Won't Need Disc Drives (because of...I don't know...the cloud?).

Some songs and themes are superimposed on our memories. A important part of our popular culture is the use of music to accompany visuals, film being one of the most powerful. Sometimes the themes used in certain films become more memorable than the film itself (and in turn, the theme relevance saves the film from total obscurity). We may at times even forget where the musical cue originated from but the connection is so powerful we still associate the film's mood with the score.

I once had a professor who played the 'Halloween' theme on a piano to illustrate the use of suspense through tone. He choose that particular piece not because it was a particularly frightening selection of music but more because most of us connect it to a foreboding sense of tension, even if we don't instantly recall which film it came from. We just "know that tune".

Not my professor, but the point is illustrated. Video by Ibish Comedy.

The same can go for the like of the 'Jurassic Park' theme or Singin' in the Rain, these songs are ingrained in our collective memories. Being part of our collective memory makes them easier for use to recognize when used in different contexts. Artists can play with this by taking these songs and reconfiguring them in unique mediums. Look at all the 8-bit chiptunes or a cappella renditions of cultural standards that are so plentiful on the internet. 

Well, today we bring you another interpretation made possible through the application of technology. The tune? The 'Back to the Future' theme. The mode for the delivery? Disk drives. 

Video by Arganalth.

 Originally brought to our attention through a tech culture feature on Cnet written by pop culture activist Rusty Blazenhof, what we see here is the combined efforts of a single-board computer (Raspberry Pi), several floppy disc drives, a couple hard disc drives, wiring, and a small monitor all self-contained in a suitcase (I assume some king of battery device is also at play but that's just a guess). It's not enough that someone decided to make a drive disc orchestra but to also make it portable is inspiring. It's like it was made to be traveled with, say to the future year of 2015. This looks like some Doc Brown could of carried around. Hell, it looks like something Doc Brown invented!

Seemingly designed by the video's poster, identified as Arganalth, this is not their first experiment in disc drive conducting. The associated Youtube channel is full of videos of disc drives turning out other pop culture gems such as the 'Duck Tales' theme and the song of time from 'Zelda'. Even more so, Arganalth is apparently not the only person making music using disc drives as other related videos dispaly. There is a whole army utilizing simple electric equipment in new, exciting ways in order to appreciate pop culture standards. How it all works is Greek to me but I respect the artistry that is takes to accomplish these builds.

The thing that is really so wonderful to me about the song and how it's used is not simply the acomplishment of using disk drives, which is a tremendous feat and cannot be understated, but that when you first hear the beeps and buzzes coming from the drives you fail to hear the notes of the 'Back to the Future' theme. Those familiar bars of what is one of the most famous scores of all time are lost to us, but you search on and as the wheels continue to turn (or drives...or whatever) the familiarity becomes apparent. Now we recognize it instantly. Watch it again and listen, it's so easy to pick up now. You imagine Marty and Doc attempting to capture lightning and you're taken back to a happy memory. That's why the remix culture and experiments like 'Our RoboCop Remake' have so much potential. It's more than just filing away nostalgia. It's taking that nostalgic artifact, cutting it apart, pasting it back together, and adding glitter. It's the same memory, only re-defined in a newer context (and sparkly).

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