I have finally delved into the world of Podcasting. No, don’t expect a feed from here anytime soon. I’ve just gotten started looking at various subscriptions. Right now I’m probably oversubscribed – kind of like the early heady days of e-mail when you would subscribe to a ton of distribution lists, only later to regret an inbox cluttered beyond belief.
Most of my subscriptions have been from NPR, including a Pod version of "All Songs Considered". This particular episode they highlighted a mash-up of Blondie’s "Rapture" with the Doors’ "Riders on the Storm." Amazingly, the two fit together beautifully, having a similar harmonic and rhythmic structure. This got me thinking about other mash-ups, and about the phrase itself. I finally caught the trailer to "Brokeback to the Future" (link), which is a hilarious editing of snipits of dialog from the Back to the Future trilogy implying an affair betweeen McFly and Doc Brown. The concept is far from new. I have an MP3 (obtained from somewhere) with similar dialog telling of the steamy relationship between Kirk and Spock.
Mash-ups aren’t exclusively the domain of the digital or electronic age, either. Even J. S. Bach employed the concept to create amusing compositions by interposing two different popular tunes. The name for this type of composition was a "quodlibet", a Latin term that literally translates to "whatever." A quodlibet is very different from a medly. A medly presents each them or melody separately, whereas in a quodlibet, the melodies become integral parts of each other.
I’ve seen the quodlibet style of composition quite a bit in choral literature. Sometimes it’s very well thought out, but other times it’s the sign of a lazy composer. There is the Gonoud/Bach "Ave Maria", which overlays a new melody on top of Bach’s Prelude in C Major. I’ve also done an arrangement which used a Bach Prelude in B Minor as the accompaniment to "O Come, O Come Emannuel", and another which used Pachabel’s Canon as the accompaniment to the chorale tune "Deck Thyself, My Soul with Gladness." An example of lazy composition is my own pairing of Handel’s Allemande from Suite 11 with "Lord Jesus, Think on Me."
So whether you call it a mash-up or a quodlibet, the concept of taking exisitng works and creating something new has been around a long time.