Master of Arts (M.A.)
Degree Granting Department
Humanities and Cultural Studies
Todd Jurgess, Ph.D.
Brook Sadler, Ph.D.
Andrew Berish, Ph.D.
Black Lives Matter, DJ Cummerbund, Masculinity, Mashup, Sergei Eisenstein, YouTube
Along with the explosion of consumer goods in America over the past century came the human impulse to alter these objects to produce new meanings the manufacturers never intended: commercial products become amateur artists’ raw material. We see this with custom cars and the curious blending of clothes. Inevitably, digital commercial products, like music videos, would undergo a similar treatment as seen in DJ Cummerbund’s “mashup” videos “Old Staind Road” and “Blurry in the USA” where he is painting with audio tracks and sculpting with video clips to create new digital art with new meanings uncoupled from industry’s original intent to sell music.
To investigate this new media product, I discretize these videos to reveal graphically their audio/visual structure and conduct a qualitative close reading of each. Because the montage film theories of Sergei Eisenstein inform the structure, meaning, and spectator enlightenment of these videos, I call this genre of remix digital media Montage Music Videos. I developed a 3-step spectator enlightenment process beginning with a visual and/or sonic shock, followed by a poetic evolution phase, and ending with a sense of utopianism in spectators. To explicate this utopianism, I employ the utopian thinking of Thomas More, Ursula Le Guin, and Ernst Bloch to establish a tension between “racial utopianism” that embraces social change and remix and “cowboy masculinity” that defends the status quo and the preservation of cultural texts. Those who embrace cowboy masculinity are called abstract cowboys since they personify and defend Bloch’s abstract utopia. I argue that “Old Staind Road” follows the 3-step process to affirm racial utopianism via empathy, but “Blurry in the USA” rejects the 3-step process to challenge cowboy masculinity via Michel Chion’s anempathy.
This analysis reveals the importance of a concept I call cultural montage that follows the same 3-step process and is a key approach for promoting harmony in our increasingly diverse America. These montage music videos demonstrate by analogy how cultural montage works: commercial music videos, which tend to represent different cultures, are blended together to produce new, innovative cross-cultural products with new meanings. However, creating the new montage music video does not destroy the original videos. All the videos, original and montage, coexist in the digital domain suggesting a hopeful coexistence of cultures in the physical domain. Unlike assimilation which tends to produce an uninspired monoculture, cultural montage celebrates diverse cultures and the innovation possible from their harmonious interaction. Cultural montage also has a fractal, scalable nature and is applicable to individuals as they blend elements of the various cultures around them to craft their identities.
Scholar Commons Citation
Blanchard, Alan E., "Montage Music Videos: Racial Utopianism vs. Abstract Cowboys and the Question of Cultural Montage" (2021). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.