Every once in a while someone comes along and gives you new eyes: totally reinvents the way you (and others) see things. Ophir Kutiel, an Israeli computer DJ is one of these revolutionaries. His project, né reinvention of internet media, entitled Thru-You, is an album comprised solely of samples taken from Youtube clips, disparate amateur musicians’ musical ideas merged into a single track, unbeknownst to the musicians themselves. He has hijacked clips of songs, a teenager’s basement drumbeat, a 10-second harmonica solo, a freestyle in the park, and made them work together. The truly amazing part is how good it all sounds, as if these musicians sat down to record together.
I will post the site below, along with an article that describes it more in detail. I would like to just point to the real majesty of possibilities that Kutiel, aka Kutiman, has opened up by re-imagining the way music gets made. First of all, as an amateur musician myself, I wonder (for example) how many guitar players would ever truly consider, getting down with an 85 year old mouth-piano player from Kansas. Besides the sheer absurdity of the idea, it would probably be quite hard to achieve. But that’s where the internet and people like Kutiel come in. You can (can is a sensitive word) now take the musical best of what’s out there, sift through it and combine its parts, and actually come out with a product that is worth much, much more than any of the original pieces. That piano line? Not bad. Your 5 seconds of beat-box, pretty good. But taken together, maybe it could be something. Bring in a gospel choir and a xylophone and now we’re talking! Most of the people who posted these clips will never sell a single record. Most probably they never had the thought in their wildest dreams to take their music seriously enough to create quality recordings of their ideas. But thankfully, they won’t have to. Kutiman will.
– Elchanan Clingman
Check out this article for an introduction to Thru-You. Click below to read and watch the video
Five years ago he’d never heard of the "godfather of soul," James Brown. Now an Israeli mashup artist is basking in the spotlight after making the funkiest tracks on the internet, using YouTube clips of musicians who’ve never met each other.
Earlier this month, Ophir Kutiel, aka Kutiman, released seven videos made by mixing and matching found footage for his project, called ThruYou. The clever musical mashups have since been viewed more than a million times, and Kutiman is basking in the glow of raves from MySpace commenters and mainstream media alike.
"I didn’t expect it to blow up like this, even in my wildest dreams," the 27-year-old Kutiman told Wired.com by phone from his self-described "crib" in Tel Aviv, Israel. "I live in a small city in a small neighborhood in a small house in a small country. I didn’t expect it to get this big this fast. It sometimes feels impossible to reach out to the world’s music scene from Tel Aviv, but now it’s all good."
The videos Kutiman used to create ThruYou are mostly low-budget recordings of amateur musicians playing at home or taking music lessons. Kutiman cut the performances together so that the musicians appear to be playing together in real time –- with truly astonishing results.
Kutiman compiles multiple video reels within a single frame, accentuating a particular lick, riff or vocal pattern being performed. Taken together, it’s beautiful, body-rocking music.
Just as sample-based hip-hop by innovators like De La Soul, The Bomb Squad and DJ Shadow changed the sound and style of pop culture back in the ’80s and ’90s, the work of Kutiman and other video remixers are doing the same for the YouTube age.
Kutiman spent two months mixing, matching and mining YouTube music
videos to create the seven funk, afrobeat, dance and
hip-hop tracks of ThruYou. Now he’s sitting back and watching the project go supernova. Although he
first shared his work with only a handful friends, it didn’t take
long for them to share the brilliant mashups with the rest of the world.
Thanks mostly to Twitter, it wasn’t long until Kutiman had logged more
than 1.5 million views on YouTube. Praise came from outlets as varied
as National Public Radio and Gawker, and Kutiman drew plaudits from
open source advocates like Lawrence Lessig, who called ThruYou a nail in the coffin of copyright as we know it.
Kutiman crafted his innovative upgrade of video scratching, which started with pioneers like Emergency Broadcast Network and Coldcut, with little in the way of technical expertise. He used hardly any pitch-shifting technology to merge the disparate tracks, mostly cutting and pasting what he found and little else. He used mostly his wits, junk food and Sony’s Vegas Pro video software to create ThruYou and his other work, which includes his acclaimed self-titled 2007 debut.
As for Kutiman’s computer? Don’t ask.
"I have no idea what kind of computer I am running, to be honest," he laughed, pausing to check his gear for a brand. "Yeah, it’s a Hewlett-Packard. Nothing special, just a laptop…. I also use Sony’s Acid for my music, which is not the drug, although it’s a great combination."
Kutiman is a relative newcomer to the very music he has mashed together so brilliantly. He hadn’t even heard of James Brown, DJ Shadow or any other funk or hip-hop star before he moved to Tel Aviv five or six years ago, he says. He grew up in a village with no record store, little in the way of internet connectivity and not much to listen to, save what he calls "boring" Israeli national radio.
"I moved to Tel Aviv when I was 18 or 19," Kutiman said, "and met friends who introduced me to all this wonderful music. I discovered Parliament-Funkadelic, Fela Kuti, King Crimson and so much more. It was like gold, and I discovered it all at once, so my mind was completely blown. Once I discovered funk, afrobeat and psychedelia, I locked myself in my studio and just started playing. On this project, I was searching for the same thing."
Searching is the key word. For Kutiman, time blurred as he crafted the project, punching musical search terms into YouTube to find and download what he was looking for. Once he did, ThruYou took on a life of its own.
"I downloaded a clip from a drummer, who I now realize is Bernard Purdie, who’s sessioned on all kinds of records," Kutiman said. "All it needed was some bass and guitar; I loved the idea that I was playing along with him and he didn’t even know it. But once I decided to download another clip and play over it, I thought, ‘Why not get another video to play over it?’ Since then, I haven’t really slept or eaten. I lost track of night and day. I’d just pass out and wake up on the computer. I was fascinated by the idea. It was so magical."
(Purdie couldn’t be reached for comment).
Kutiman sampled a staggering amount of professional and amateur music video for ThruYou. He attempted to list all the samples in the Credits section of the project.
"Some of them I know, some I knew but forgot and some of them I know only by their YouTube handles," he said of the musicians whose work he sampled. "I’m really bad with names. But I did talk to one of the singers on the phone; her name is Leslie, and I don’t remember her last name, but her YouTube handle is ‘Songdreamer.’ She loved it, so that was really personal."
Songdreamer, an amateur vocalist and part-time student, wrote about ThruYou on her YouTube profile: "It is complex and wondrous, full of different sounds I have never heard mashed together so skillfully. Basically, what he has done is revolutionized YouTube. I was lucky enough to be on the final track of his movement entitled ‘Just a Lady.’"
But while Songdreamer and other sampled artists are fans of Kutiman’s invigorating remixes, the potential for copyfight hangs over ThruYou. Although the young producer’s work has given the sampled artists loads of exposure they probably would not have enjoyed otherwise, the legal stake that was driven through sample-based hip-hop’s heart could threaten Kutiman’s revolutionary strain of video scratching. The twentysomething from Tel Aviv is taken aback by the possibility.
"If the musicians I sampled want a cut, I will give it to them, but I’m not earning anything from ThruYou," he said. "I guess that they uploaded their work to YouTube because they wanted it to be seen, so I thought that it was fine. If someone wants to sue me, I could probably take the site down. But I’m not earning any money, so I don’t see why anyone should be upset."
Neither did De La Soul, whose pioneering record 3 Feet High and Rising led to a lawsuit because the group used a snippet of The Turtles’ "You Showed Me" that had been slowed down and played backward.
Kutiman says he cannot understand why anyone would want to sue him for his work.
"It’s not like I went to their houses and filmed them playing for an audience without them knowing and then put it on a record," he said. "I’m trying to promote them all, and I’m happy to do so. When I was working on ThruYou, I thought, ‘How come nobody has did this before? How come no one has made an album using just YouTube? Why me?’ [Laughs] I’m kidding. But it’s a trip. After I finished my first album, all I could think about was how I could reach the people. So this is my dream, and I hope the people love it."
Shemspeed is an independent recording label and promotional agency highlighting cross-over music artists with positive and unifying messages. Founded by Erez Safar, an American-Israeli DJ/Producer, Shemspeed promotes over 15 dynamic artists representing a wide range of genres including hip-hop, reggae, and rock. These artists include Y-Love (revolutionary Jewish hip-hop), Diwon (Yemenite / Sephardic hip-hop, Israeli music and more), DeScribe (soul-awakening dancehall, hip-hop, & soul), and Electro Morocco (Israeli rock, dance music.) Shemspeed artists, collectively showcasing the diversity in world Jewish music, have performed with musicians as varied as Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Idan Raichel and Eminem; they’ve been profiled in Rolling Stone, SPIN, The New York Times and XXL; and they’ve been seen and heard around the world on various TV appearances (Conan O’Brien, CBS and BBC World) and global radio. Shemspeed’s mission is unifying people through culture and education, celebrating diversity and common ground. By way of this work, we add a public Jewish voice to multi-cultural, inter-faith, creative and collaborative bridge-building.