Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk was only the second most awesome video I watched yesterday while lying around the apartment with a cold. Kutiman’s THRU YOU is the kind of genius that takes more than a quick visit from Gilbert’s demon to achieve. If you haven’t watched it yet, please do so now. Now!
It’s not as if cut-and-paste music hasn’t been done before, but building a piece using nothing but found video from YouTube adds another layer of complexity that makes it all that much more impressive. Creating a mashup of this magnitude at all is an achievement in itself, but Kutiman went the extra mile and made it really, really good.
What’s especially wonderful about THRU YOU is the way in which Kutiman allows individual voices to come through. Most cut-and-paste music is built out of short, isolated samples and loops, and there’s plenty of that here, but there are also many long lines and melodies that are preserved and woven together, solos becoming duets, single notes becoming chords. Combined with the faces, hands, and instruments in the videos, the overall feel ends up being less laptop mashup and more impromptu chorus. No one is erased, everyone is present, and the sum of their parts ends up being greater than your average whole.
Things like this are why I get impatient when people rant about the Internet being a force for isolation or anonymity or whatever. THRU YOU shows Internet culture at its best: it’s a celebration of both the voice of the individual and the power of the collective, a nice end-run around one of society’s most troublesome binaries. As I’ve said before: “The ‘You’ is both singular and plural,” and nowhere is that more true than here.