Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 February 2012
The academic literature on mash-ups has been dominated by discussions about issues relating to their illegal nature and infringement of copyright. We aim to appraise this musical style with a socio-musicological approach to focus on its aesthetics. We argue that mash-ups are characterised by two underlying principles, namely contextual incongruity of recognisable samples and musical congruity between the mashed tracks. Through our close analyses of The Evolution Control Committee's ‘The Whipped Cream Mixes’ and Danger Mouse's The Grey Album, we describe how contextual incongruity often creates a humorous effect, which explains why many listeners react with smiles and laughter when hearing a new mash-up. In successful mash-ups, the combination of musical congruity and contextual incongruity results in the paradoxical response: ‘these two songs should definitely not work together … but they do!’
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