"Mashups" seem to have developed right along side the internet. The term can be applied to a variety of fields but I'll focus on music. I found two types of music mashups: one is what you might call a "medley" - several tunes or parts of tunes strung together. The other type is where tunes overlap, so that you have lyrics from two different songs sung simultaneously over a chord scheme. Both types are often presented as musical arrangements performed live. There are also video mashups which include pre-existing recordings (both video and audio) cut up and pasted together in an interesting or humorous way.
Why create a mashup and post it on youtube? Well, if you're a singer and you're trying to make a name for yourself, it's one way of getting heard. It used to be, if you were a singer who wanted an audience, you had to either perform live or submit demo recordings to record companies. Now, a singer can create a video and post it on youtube and build an audience. Another reason people create mashups (especially the video variety) is to generate internet content - that is, something interesting or entertaining that they think people will want to check out and share. I guess the creator then hopes to rack up a certain number of views thereby attracting advertisers and then possibly signing a advertising deal.
Why are mashups so common right now? Well, with digital technology today, editing and putting different clips together is easier than ever. Taking old material and creating something new is a snap: just cut and paste, then post! In the old days, you had to edit tape, the plastic film that came on a spool. You had to cut and splice, and it would make a mess. Hence, the term "cutting room floor" refers to all those pieces of tape (or film) that didn't get used and would wind up on the editor's floor.
But even before digital/internet mashups became popular, you had music genre "mashups", or "fusions" where different styles are blended to form a new style or sound.
Let's think of some musical genres that are out there: techno, rock, rap, r & b (rhythm and blues), jazz, classical, blues, country, reggae, latin jazz, folk, heavy metal, hard rock, funk, be-bop, broadway, opera, world, afro-cuban, disco and on and on..
Now, let's name some music artists and the different genres or genre-combinations they embody: Lady Gaga - techno/pop/rock (and performance art); Kenny Chesney - country/rock, Mumford and Sons - folk/rock; Hozier - blues/rock; Adele - rock/pop/r & b; Ellie Goulding - techno/pop/rock; Lorde - techno/pop/rock; Florence and the Machine - folk/rock; Amy Winehouse - r & b/blues/rock/; Daft Punk - disco/techno/pop/rock, Fun - pop/rock/alternative, Nirvana - grunge/rock, Smashing Pumpkins - alternative/rock, Dinosaur Jr. - indy/rock, Elvis Presley - rock and roll (which might be considered a combination of blues and boogie woogie), Joanie Mitchell - folk/rock/jazz, Prince - pop/rock/funk, oh and remember the band Living Colour - hard rock/blues.. lots of examples.
So, there are these different genres or traditions like folk, jazz, classical, blues, etc. and they feed into the mainstream of popular culture. Consequently, the songs that we call "pop" - the ones we hear on the radio - reflect these various influences. So, in a sense, these are mashups, too.
Is there a genre of music that is based solely on music made from taking bits and pieces of pre-existing recordings and creating "new" music with them? Could we call it "mash-rock"? Could it be a musical genre that you can hear online but it's difficult to perform live? Or, could it be performed live with MIDI keyboards (and pre-recorded sound)? When I searched "mashup" on youtube, I got lots of examples of live performances of musical arrangements that combine the lyrics and melodies of two or more songs (as described above). So, yes, there is such a genre. Wow - an example of how digital editing eventually had an impact on musical composition (at least in arrangements) and live performance - very interesting!
So are mashups just a fun by-product of the internet, or do they point to a new trend present in other areas such as science and technology? We do see forms and ideas, styles and genres being put (or "mashed") together to create something new in industries other than music. Bio-tech is an example of combining two sciences; and a lot of things are happening in genetic engineering, just think of "pluots" and "labradoodles".
It's fascinating to think where all this mixing and blending is headed..
My own musical mashup: Recently, I took a famous European classical melody and wrote an arrangement for various instruments, including rock combo and other orchestral instruments.. all set to an African-inspired beat.. Here it is. And here's an older one I did at Mills College back in 2002. Enjoy!
In the spirit of "cut and paste", here is Hannah Hoch's Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany, 1919, collage of pasted papers.