I might be giving away my age here, but my very first record (that’s the 33 R.P.M., 12-inch, black vinyl kind, with a hole punched in the middle, then inserted into a plastic sheath and a printed cardboard sleeve, that you listen to by scraping a diamond across it) was Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett’s “Monster Mash” – a devilishly funny (to a 10-year-old) combination of old horror movie themes and 50s rock and roll. It was my first encounter with a ‘mash’.
It seems we are predisposed to enjoying serendipitous contradiction – from the early baroque musical concepts of counterpoint and fugue to the hip-hop sampling of collections of sounds into new musical forms – our brains love to be stimulated by the unexpected, anachronistic, counter-intuitive, oxymoronic, incongruous outpourings of those among us who see the world differently. It’s an analogy to life itself – take two sets of genetic code, twist them together in a unique new combination and out pops the next generation. What is the act of procreation, if not the ultimate mash-up?
I’ve spent the past week giggling uncontrollably over www.stsanders.com catalogue of ‘shreds’, where the masher finds musicians who take themselves way too seriously and over-dubs horrendously bad playing that fits perfectly to the original clips. If I type “mash-ups” into YouTube search, the next couple of decades could disappear before I get through the results.
The mash-up has grown up. It is the future of human creative expression, but it is also – when applied to science, politics, medicine, or any other discipline – the future of everything. Biologists are mashing with physicists, cosmologists with chemists. The universe is our chemistry set and when we mix the right elements, things explode.
Perhaps the big bang was a result of some 9th dimensional mash-up artist collective combining a few random theories to ‘see what would happen’. “Oops! Oh look, a universe! …Damn, we can’t touch it now – let’s just watch what happens for the next 13.7 billion years...”
The more you think about it, the more mashed-up this world is. Dog breeds, drive-throughs, Velcro, sporks, camera-phones, Hapkido, English… we are the result of a few millennia of mashes and it can’t stop now. So, what can we do? Like any good mash-up artist, we have to see everything as potential mash material. Thai food in pocket bread. Hotel rooms on trains. Pool cleaners with marriage counseling qualifications. Retirement village pre-school daycare facilities. What can you think of? Perhaps there is a brilliant business idea one mash away from you and one of your clients.
If your ambitions are more humble, how about organising a karaoke party for your friends where everyone has to sing different lyrics to the backing track? If nothing else, you’ll have a few laughs. In a world that seems to be taking itself a little too seriously, this could be the perfect remedy.
For a broad history and catalogue of mash-ups, try the ultimate knowledge mash, Wikipedia: