DJ Spooky: Remixes and Rebirths

May 18, 2012

D.W. Griffith's 1915 film, the Birth of a Nation is both acclaimed and reviled. It's acclaimed for its cinematic innovations and technical effects. It's reviled for its extremely racist view of African Americans and its glorification of the Ku Klux Klan.

Recently, electronic and hip hop musician DJ Spooky presented his take on the 1915 film, Rebirth of a Nation - at the Mark Twain House in Hartford. It's a multimedia project that incorporates music, sounds and graphics within the original film. We recently talked with DJ Spooky - That Subliminal Kid.

His real name is Paul D. Miller and he said Birth of a Nation is a "paradoxical film," because it was whites in blackface.

Miller brings the film to a modern audience in part because today, "there's stuff that almost absurdly parallels" the film. He thinks President Barack Obama "has inherited a subtle of preconceived perceptions from people." 

Miller said he never intended to be a DJ. He attended Bowdoin College where he got degrees in philosophy and French literature. He always meant for his work to be an art project. "The secret to DJing is collage. You're pulling elements from all these different places," said Miller.

For Rebirth of a Nation, Miller had the Kronos Quartet record his compositions. "We had a great situation where I could sample and remix their playing of my compositions," said Miller.

When he screens his remixed film live, he is able to present the film's soundtrack but also allows audiences "to see the potential for what could have happened with a lot of different versions of the same song."