Audio: BBC Slippy

by Beauchamp Art


1 BBC Slippy

In BBC Slippy, I combined the 10 O’Clock BBC News Theme by David Lowe, and Underworld’s Born Slippy (.NUXX remix), a piece of dance music that became popularised by its use in the final scene of Danny Boyle’s 1996 film adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel, Trainspotting, involving drugs, clubs, and social depravity. This played on the popularity of the ‘Mashup’ style collage aesthetic utilised by amateur producers and editors on sites like Youtube, taking contemporary media materials and recombining them to generate humour, as a contemporary  successor to the surreal collages of the 1930s, but for a less high-brow, usually young demographic.

This was produced to be used in a number of the video projects, notably, EchoReFlex and Twenty-Four Delirium Rhythm as the final outcome of the Riot/Rave project, in which I had originally intended to set footage of raves and clubs against images of protests and riots, contrasting the alternative forms of collective movement, one for pleasure, one as a symptom of social struggle. However, the end product of TFHDR posited the images of protests against their own hyperbolic spectacle, embodied in the high visibility jackets worn by members of the police on their cars and horses alike. The images of news became the entertainment.

Although by the final variation of the video, it ad been combined with such a range of other media (including Genesis’ Land of Confusion, text-to-speech extracts from Trainspotting, and an article on the increasing output of apocalyptic fiction, and the title repeat by a robotic voice), it became the concrete in the wall of noise, which could be seen to be in acknowledgement of Creeber’s observation on the progress of TV towards a multi-layered windowed format, remediating the fragment screen of the computer, “Television’s overriding aesthetic may soon be akin to a form of ‘bricolage’ i.e. a mosaic of different but interconnecting elements that the viewer will be able to manipulate at will” [Creeber, 2013: 110].

The two pieces of music used in BBC Slippy could be seen to represent: reality, though the mediated lens of the news, and the unreal entertainment, through the same mediums but experienced socially in the music venue or cinema, as opposed to the domestic television environment. The contrast between the two formats can be understood through how the means of media consumption relates to the active or passive interaction with the content is being produced in relation to the potential audience. “In going out to cinema we tend to submit to its terms, to become subject to its discourse, but television comes to us, enters our cultural space, and becomes subject to our discourse” [Fiske, 1987: 74].

However, although the audio is separated from visual content here, it could still be seen to contain the interplay of the different modes of spectacle, and the afferent levels of banality associated with each. Whereas the BBC News Theme is heard (passively) as background music leading into the news report, Born Slippy is to be listened to (actively) but through its use in the cinematic environment, as background noise at a club, and as a culture cliché, it ascertains its own banality. Both are subjected to a diffusion of attention.

The television News media is also experience as short, quickly cut together section of information, the product designed to appeal to the rapid “attention economy” that posits that “attention is the commodity is in short supply” [Lanham, 2006: xii-xi], invariably (and here, seemingly ironically) endorsing the MTV aesthetic as on of “the ‘cutting edge’ of postmodernism applied to consumer media,” [Hurd, 2008] utilising “the genre’s incorporation of flashing graphics, more music, split-screens, rapidly-fire images and complex montage sequences” [Creeber, 2013: 60].

Whereas Born Slippy as a piece of ‘Trance’ music is design to be experienced in the continuum, as part of a larger body of music combined together in clubs by Disk Jockeys, blending various tracks seamlessly together. It is ironic that the music of the News embodies the format of Music Television more than the piece of music produced for popular consumption. And it is this inverted, somewhat paradoxical dichotomy that makes the combination of songs so uncanny; they share similar compositional style but are designed for converse purposes, yet simultaneously overlap how they applied and delivered to the public, both signifying the continuum that seeks to transform the world into one that is more cinematic, hyperreal, more real than the real, “turning society into what [James] Joyce called an “allnights newsery reel,” that substitutes a “reel” world for reality” [McLuhan, 1964: 193].

The piece was composed around Born Slippy, as that track remained unedited besides the reduction of its tempo to play alongside the News theme at 120 beats per minute. This was due to Underworld’s track being the longer of the two, but the pips/blips/beeps once a second in the News theme mark it as an indicator of time, that the hour is being counted down before the announcements that follow, giving it the authority of coinciding with the ticking of the clock. Born Slippy’s tempo for around 139 bpm is fairly typical of the genre of dance music that may be referred to as ‘House’ or ‘Hard Trance’, but also is approximately double the speed of a slightly elevated heart rate. The News them was cut into short sections of around 8 bars so that ostinato phases could be repeated to further coalescence between the tracks, extending the introduction to fit the composition of BBC Slippy, as well as extending the majority of the other sections to conform with one another. Alongside this was placed the basic drum beat of the News theme looping throughout the piece, alongside a newly composed drum track and a supporting ‘beep’.


 

2 BBC Slippy [139]

After completing the main mix of the piece at the 120bpm tempo of News track, I created an alternative 139bpm version, playing through the conjoined pieces at the speed of Born Slippy. Although this produced a more upbeat rhythm in line with the dance music genre, it meant that the the reinforced ‘beep’ sound was not ticking by the seconds, and the Underworld track dominated too greatly, with the News theme only reasserting itself towards the end when the string section builds to a climax (which coincidentally was in the same key at the other track, or at least the difference was not noticeable).

Another more significant downside to this remix was the issue of combining it with footage, as at 120bpm, footage can be cut by the second, and given the delicate frame-by-frame sections of the TFHDR video, where the visuals were synchronised to the (subsequently obscured) music, this would have been an unnecessary complication. This issue was so paramount that in editing the final version of the film, I shifted from working at the UK default of 25 frames per second to 24 fps, so that the clips could be subdivided further, as the smallest unit of film is the single frame, and must remain such an integer (for the same reason the hours of the day are divided into 24 hours to provide a greater number of potential fractions than would come with using 10, or some other such number, as before the establishment of the decimal system, all issues of subdivision had to be resolved with integers).

This meant that I could syncopate the frame rate, placing images and text, such as the number ’24’, on the screen for a single frame at the exact centre of a second, or distributed two or more alternating frames evenly without resulting in a remained (as was require when the bifurcated video flashed ‘Twenty-four’ then ‘Hour’, followed by ‘Delirium’ before ‘Rhythm’ at for one frame each an even number of times per second. This level of structural consideration could be seen to follow the likes of Paul Sharits in his analogue video works that make use of rapidly rhythmically flashing frames, such as in T.O.U.C.H.I.N.G. Or even in the complex composition experimental Minimalists such as Steve Reich, in his 1967 piece, Piano Phase, where two pianos play the same short melody simultaneously, then slowly one deliberately shifts out of time with the other.

Although the structural components of the video projects that came out of the investigations started here owe themselves to a macro examination of musical and film structure, the outline for this composition was in part influenced by the comedian Bill Bailey’s BBC news Apocalyptic Rave dance mix used as part of a stand up routine (which was later remade and recorded on In Metal), where he observed and expanded upon the piece’s innate liveliness and sense of foreboding.


3 BBC Slippy [Loop]

To accompany the EchoReFlex performance, a looping version of BBC Slippy was created with two modes of transition, one that continued the Born Slippy theme over into the next play through, the other repeated the closing phases of the News theme to produce continuous overlap (see EchoReFlex [3] [BBC Slippy Loop]).
Additional parts of the mix were extracted and used separately with the TFHDR video in particular, specifically: the combined bass drum kick, the BBC pips/beep, and the remixed version of the BBC News theme, without the Born Slippy component.


4 Land of BBC Slippy

Another mix of the piece was made, interweaving Genesis’s Land of Confusion, adjust to fit the time signature (115.4909 to 120 bpm). Though as the previous 2 songs, the News theme and Born Slippy, were electronically composed piece of music, and the Genesis track was instrumentally performed, so even with venerable practice, reversal, and post-production, the consistency of the tempo inevitably varies. Nevertheless, this was specifically made for the use with the TFHDR video, thusly making for a more disjointed, self-contradictory composition. Given for its use in the video, it was distorted and muffled, so the exact time and timbre of the tune were not audible, as it formed part of a background tapestry to off set the visual elements and more foreground sounds (including a text-to-speech reading of the lyrics to Land of Confusion).

Moreover, the tempo of the three main pieces of music brought together for this film, the 10 o’clock BBC News Theme, Born Slippy, and Land of Confusion, feature three different tempos that were modified to fit together. Born Slippy was slowed down to 120bpm to match the BBC theme, which was just over 120bpm, however as it was being cut into smaller sections, this difference was unnoticeable. Nevertheless, even after delicate adjustment, Land of Confusion fell out of time towards the latter half of the arrangement, but as it was so considerably distorted for the video it was used with, this was not significant, and if anything added to the chaos of the video, and could be described as echoing the shift of Reich’s Piano Phase, though less delicately.


 

References

  • Creeber, Glen. (2013) Small Screen Aesthetics: From TV to the Internet. Paperback Edition. Palgrave Macmillan. British Film Institute. London, UK.
  • Fiske, John. (1987) Television Culture. Routledge. London. Cited in Creeber, Glen. (2013) Small Screen Aesthetics: From TV to the Internet. Paperback Edition. Palgrave Macmillan. British Film Institute. London, UK: 1
  • Hurd, Wesley. (2008) Postmodernism. McKenzie Study Centre, an Institute pf Hutenberg College. <http://msc.guttenberg.edu/2001/02/postmodernism/&gt; Cited in Creeber, Glen. (2013) Small Screen Aesthetics: From TV to the Internet. Paperback Edition. Palgrave Macmillan. British Film Institute. London, UK: 61
  • Lanham, Richard A. (2006) The Economics of Attention. Hardback. University of Chicago Press Ltd. London.
  • McLuhan, Marshall (1964) Understanding Media. 1994 Edition. Routledge. Great Britain.

Music

  • Bailey, Bill. (2011) Apocalyptic Rave. [Music] In Metal. Glassbox Productions Ltd. UK
  • Genesis (1986) Land of Confusion. [Music] Invisible Touch. Virgin Records. UK
  • Lowe, David (1999) BBC News Theme. [Music] BBC.
  • Reich, Steve (1967) Piano Phase. [Music]
  • Underworld. (1995) Born Slippy. [Music] Junior Boy’s Own. UK.
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