Kenzo Digital is New York-based multi-talented creator that works in video, audio, and mixed media to create both artistic works and commercial products. Aesthetically informed by early 90s hip-hop, his latest and most well-publicized work, City of God’s Son, is a CC-licensed “opera for the blind.” The project finds Kenzo sampling and remixing numerous sources to create a vivid sound-scape that invokes imagery and a cinematic narrative through audio.
Today, in conjunction with our interview, Kenzo is releasing the most recent addition to COGS titled City of God’s Son: Cinema for the Blind. The piece features interviews with blind musicians on “sight through sound, synesthesia” and the film itself, crafting a fascinating perspective on how our senses work in conjunction with (or without) one another. You can watch the piece, which is released under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial license, in HD at YouTube – check out a still of the video below:
We caught up with Kenzo recently to pick his brain in regards to the project generally, his approach to creation through sampling and reuse, why he chose to CC-licence this project, and much more. Read on to find out what he had to say.
photo by Tommy Agriodimas | CC BY
Can you give our readers some background on yourself and the project? What inspired you to create City of God’s Son? You call it a hip-hop opera and a ﬁlm for the blind – what do you mean by these descriptions?
I am a digital artist, video artist, director and music producer based in NY. Early 90ʼs hip hop was always a big inspiration to me growing up, it served as the soundtrack to a lot of my childhood and adventures growing up. I was really into grafﬁti as a kid, and used to sneak out of the house all the time and run around with my friends or sometimes by myself and go bombing. I considered the city at night to be kind of an altered reality. No one was around except for the junkies, prostitutes, and gangsters who occupied the same streets that by day would be bustling with business men, school kids like myself, and delivery men. I loved the fact that in my mind only a few people were privy to seeing these same streets during the day while I was entrenched in my civilian life (school and family), and at these late hours were things were pretty wild, and as a kid of course I was very excited by that. What really inspired me as a kid was also the fact that the only traces of my existence in this alternate reality were the tags and grafﬁti art left behind. Music played a huge role in this. My walkman was probably one of the most essential things going out at night, as the music was a key component to setting the mood and getting myself in the proper frame of mind to create. By experiencing the city this way, and listening to the music, everything through the night played out cinematically. So much so that it would leave these super visual impressions in my imagination that I could recall and trigger through the music.
Musicʼs relationship to time, both as a medium and a device to manipulate time, in addition to a listenerʼs historical relationship to a song is what “City of Godʼs Son” seeks to expand and explore. “City of Godʼs Son” is a hip hop opera in that it is an epic, a greek tragedy, and like opera, understanding the actual lyrics and slang is not necessary to understanding the story and experiencing the drama of the story. Understanding the slang and verses deﬁnitely adds another level of meaning and depth to the story, as well as a knowledge of hip hop music history. “City of Godʼs Son” while seemingly a strictly music focused project, is equally about gangster cinema culture as well, as references to everything from pre-code Edward G. Robinson gangster ﬂicks, to 70ʻs Japanese gangster ﬂicks like “Branded to Kill”, to “Le Cercle Rouge”, “Clockers”, “Goodfellas” and of course “City of God” litter the story and soundscape, as some of hip-hopʼs most inﬂuential artists of this generation collide with the gangster ﬁlm icons that helped deﬁne their genre. It is about weaving the various mythologies from each medium and creating a new language called “Beat Cinematic”. It is a ﬁlm for the blind in that it exists in the listenerʼs imagination and recalling of their own psychological associations to music, ﬁlm, and sound. I speciﬁcally wanted to play this for blind people because I wanted to see how blind people reacted to a ﬁlm made to be experienced sonically. I am interested in how a blind personʼs mind works like a visual sampler depending on whether the person was born blind or lost their vision along the way, and what those visual impressions mean to them now. It is also a ﬁlm for the blind in that my own artistic journey into music production was inspired to make this project. As a completely self-taught disgustingly bad keyboard player, creating the music for this project was in and of itself a very blind process in that I had to really feel out my entire way through this new world of sound.
We are thrilled to welcome Carolina Botero, project lead for CC Colombia, as ccLearn’s regional liaison for the exciting projects in open education in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking world. Carolina will be working with ccLearn staff to document existing projects and initiatives related to open educational resources (OER) throughout the region. We anticipate that this work will extend the size and impact of the OER and CC networks, fostering greater collaboration among projects as well as greater awareness of their important work. Carolina will also develop reports about prior regional activities (such as the Latam Commons 2008 meeting in Chile last year) as well as forward-looking documents about future events and opportunities throughout the region.4 Comments »
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Yesterday morning, “Press:Here” – a new technology news TV show produced by NBC in the San Francisco Bay Area – aired an interview with Creative Commons Vice President Mike Linksvayer. The episode serves as a nice primer to CC; in it, Mike gives some of our backstory and talks about how people and organizations are using CC’s copyright licenses to make sharing and collaboration easier. Mozilla CEO John Lilly is one of the episode’s other featured guests. Watch it online.
We hope you can join us at the next ccSalon SF! In the spirit of Open Source World (taking place in San Francisco that week), we’ll hear about CC and open source technology from our three presenters for the evening:
When: Wednesday, August 12, 7-9pm
Location: PariSoMa, 1436 Howard St. (map and directions). Plenty of street parking available. (Please note, the space is located up two steep flights of stairs, and unfortunately does not currently have elevator access.)
Light refreshments will be provided, and since we rely on the generosity of our community to keep us afloat, we’ll be accepting donations for CC at the door.
CC Salons are global events, and anyone can start one, no matter where you live. We encourage you to check out our resources for starting your own salon in your area.Comments Off on ccSalon SF 8/12/09: CC and Open Source
Last year, we demoed DiscoverEd along with ODEPO at the Open Education Conference in Logan, Utah. CTO Nathan Yergler explained its various features and some if its issues. Since then, it’s been worked on extensively and some of its functionality has improved. We’ve even gone ahead and produced a white paper, which explains what DiscoverEd is, what it aims to do, and what you can do to help improve it.
With the production of this white paper, we would like to officially announce the launch of DiscoverEd. Entirely open source, DiscoverEd is an experimental project from ccLearn which attempts to provide scalable search and discovery for educational resources on the web. Metadata, including the license and subject information available, are exposed in the result set.
As noted above, DiscoverEd has been discussed at a few meetings already, so this launch is mainly to help spread the word and to spark additional conversation. If you are an educator or anyone else looking for educational resources, it is available for immediate use and we welcome your feedback.
We want to emphasize that DiscoverEd is a prototype intended to explore how structured data may be used to enhance the search experience. We are by no means launching this as a definitive tool; in fact, we intend just the opposite. We are launching this so that others in the search and discovery space can contribute to this project. There are a number of known issues which we would love help on, especially since we think the community’s input and work should go into shaping future versions of this tool. This tool is currently intended for educational resources, but there is no reason anyone can’t take and adapt it for other purposes.
Where do the search results come from?
Results come from institutional and third party repositories who have expended time and resources curating the metadata. These curators either create or aggregate educational resources and maintain information about them. If you’re a producer or curator of educational resources and would like to be included in the search contact us. If you’re an educator, we want to hear from you. What works for you? What’s broken? What can be improved?Comments Off on Launching DiscoverEd—an education search prototype
In New York this weekend? Head on over to NYC for the 1st Wiki-Conference. Here are the details:
Plans are still gestating, and more schedule details should appear soon; participants are encouraged to give your own ideas for topic sessions. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales will be giving a keynote, and we will also have a second keynote speaker TBA.1 Comment »
CIENTEC, the Foundation for the National Center for Science and Technology based in Costa Rica, has announced its XI (eleventh) annual National Science Essay contest (the second to come out in both English and Spanish). The contest is open to all high school students around the country, inviting them to write on this year’s theme, “Community, Innovation, and Rights on the Web.” Essays from abroad are also accepted, but into a separate “guest” category. From the site,
“The Internet has transformed the lives of people, interconnecting them and giving them access to information, videos, and more. It fosters creativity and collaborative work in the development of new products, but often creates a conflict between easy access and the rights of authors. Some groups, like Creative Commons, have initiated a global movement to address this problem.”
The deadline for entries is September 15, 2009.
The same announcement in Spanish:
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COMUNIDAD, INNOVACIÓN Y DERECHOS EN LA RED
La Internet ha transformado la vida de las personas, interconectándolas y dando acceso a información, música, videos y demás. Esta red potencia la creatividad y el trabajo colaborativo en el desarrollo de nuevos productos, pero frecuentemente genera conflictos entre el fácil acceso y los derechos de autor. Algunos grupos, como Creative Commons, han iniciado un movimiento global para facilitar el proceso.
Many readers of this blog will be especially interested in the report’s section on open access to public sector information:
An open access approach to the release of public sector information is a logical response to the digital economy and innovation benefits that can result from new and emerging digital use and re-use, subject to privacy, national security or confidentiality concerns. In this context, ‘open access’ means access on terms and in formats that clearly permit and enable such use and re-use by any member of the public. This allows anyone with an innovative idea to add value to existing public sector information for the common good, often in initially unforeseen or unanticipated ways.
As one commentator has argued, “[n]o one supplier, public or private, can design all information products required to meet the needs of all users in a modern information-based economy.” By opening access to appropriate categories of government information to all members of the public, those best placed to innovate can do so and the market can decide which product is most useful.
The report covers many other topics, befitting its definition of “digital economy”:
The global network of economic and social activities that are enabled by information and communications technologies, such as the internet, mobile and sensor networks.
Congratulations to all involved, especially former CC General Counsel Mia Garlick, who last year joined the Australian Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to lead its digital economy initiatives.Comments Off on Digital Economy Defined
As part of UNESCO’s World Conference on Higher Education, UNESCO hosted a session and panel discussion on open educational resources (OER). The topic of the conference was “The New Dynamics of Higher Education and Research for Societal Change and Development,” and OER was considered an important dynamic in higher education. The conference took place over four days, ending on July 8, with over 1200 participants from 150 countries.
The OER session took place on July 7, 2009, and the summary is as follows:
“Building Knowledge Societies: Open Educational Resources Panel session
This conference aims to take stock of transformations in higher education since the 1998 World Conference on Higher Education and address the new dynamics likely to shape the strategic agenda for the development of higher education policies and institutions.
The growing Open Educational Resources (OER) movement has the objective of increasing access to quality educational content worldwide. Digital content that is open to re-use and adaptation is a public good that can be shared widely. The panel session is intended to explore OER as an example of a new dynamic in higher education that will contribute to building knowledge societies.”
The final Communiqué of the conference is available online. The Communiqué states some of the following conclusions:
“There is need for greater information, openness and transparency regarding the different missions and performance of individual institutions.”
“ODL (Open and Distance Learning) approaches and ICTs present opportunities to widen access to quality education, particularly when Open Educational Resources are readily shared by many countries and higher education institutions.”
The global nature of OER is integral to their quality and value. OER that allow adaptation, derivation, and redistribution encourage global activity like translation, transcontinental collaboration, and more. If OER produced from the American Graduation Initiative are licensed to allow these freedoms, U.S. college courses become global, thereby increasing their quality and value.Comments Off on OER Session at UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education
Beginning this past March, John Wood has written, recorded, mixed, and mastered an album a month. Distributed under the moniker Learning Music Monthly, the music arrives on the first of the month as CDs in subscribers’ mailboxes and MP3s in their digital lockers, all released under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license.
Offering a tiered subscription service (amenities include stickers, bonus albums, a song written for you on your birthday, and much more depending on price), Learning Music Monthly is a great case study in figuring out how independent artists and labels (LMM is released through CC-friendly label vosotros) are approaching distribution in today’s current music climate.
We were able to catch up with John and pick his brain about the project, including his thoughts on writing and producing an album a month, a subscription/donation-based distribution model, and his decision to release all the music, cover art, promotional text, mix-stems, sheet-music, and lyrics under a CC license.
Learning Music Monthly @ Machine Project – 01, cameronparkins | CC BY
Can you give our readers some background on yourself and the Learning Music Monthly project? What has your career as a musician been like? LMM monthly has existed previously – what is different this time around?
LMM really began in November 2006. I had spent the previous two years doing a fair amount of touring with other bands, and assisting on a film score, all of which was really fabulous and fortunate to experience. That month, I turned down a bunch of work and created the first Learning Music album. For me, it was something very much apart from my professional musical experiences. I get paid mostly to create what other people hear or see, which I’m very lucky to do. When I set out to complete that first album, there was a deep spiritual need inside me, which I had been aware of for a long time, to create something more personal. The payoff, instead of a check, was the pleasure of handing to friends this little secret disc, weirdly wrapped up in reclaimed cardboard. LMM is a little different from that now, in that we actually sell subscriptions. I think I’m still in the process of learning what that means creatively. It’s also much different now because of all the support from John G and Vosotros. The first year, my audience was mostly my friends. Now I’m making music for people I’ve never met. And they’re paying for it! Part of me of course wants to only create what I think these people want to hear. Hopefully I will eventually be able to give them something that they never expected, but that’s really good for them. Sometimes I feel like I lack the confidence to do that, but then ultimately there’s no time for doubt.