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photos by Lara Shipley

Richard Wagner vs. Fatboy Slim

August 2nd, 2006 · No Comments

Via Boing Boing, I see that the Canadiian Broadcast Corporation is soliciting mash-ups and remixes of “The Ride of the Valkyries” from Die Walküre, the second opera of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Which is actually weirdly appropriate, since the Ring Cycle itself is basically a massive arrangement of remixes and mash-ups.

For the Ring operas, Wagner famously ditched the traditional aria/recitative structure in favor of continuous through-composed music made up of a series of leitmotifs, or musical themes associated with a character, object, or idea.

The most basic use of these was to directly complement the action on stage, as when the valkyrie Brunnhilde assures the doomed hero Siegmund he’ll see his father Walse in the afterlife, singing to the theme of Valhalla and the gods, and thereby informing the audience (if they hadn’t guessed) that Walse is really the god-king Wotan. Then we get remixes, where Wagner transforms one theme into another in order to tell us that two perhaps seemingly very distinct ideas or things are connected. The most obvious instance comes between the first and second act of Rheingold, when the sinister music of the ring of power forged by the evil dwarf Alberich gradually transitions into the brassy, triumphant Valhalla music—the idea being that the power of the seemingly noble gods is fundamentally similar to the corrupting power of the ring. Another example is the foreshadowing implicit in the similarity of the music associated with the curse on the ring and the main theme of the hero Siegfried. Finally, we get the mash-ups, where two different motifs are overlaid or juxtaposed in a particular scene (you’ll find a ton of examples at the link above and here too).

The remix most in the spirit of the original, then, would take that idea and run with it. You might just take and reuse the component motifs of the “Ride,” or from the rest of the Ring operas—maybe wind down a fast dance number with the sleep motif. More interestingly, you could pick well-known, thematically related music from other genres: the William Tell Overture, better known as the theme music for The Lone Ranger, or that perennial remix favorite, the theme from Knight Rider.

Of course, while we’re at it, some other remix possibilities suggest themselves. Say, Loge’s fire music with Franz Ferdinand’s “This Fire” or the music of the magic sword with Quasi’s “Sword of God.” (Actually listening to that last coupling… am I crazy or does it almost sound like they’re deliberately referencing it?) Any young operatically inclined mixmasters out there, get to it.

Tags: Art & Culture