Above: Starfish and Jellyfish vs. Lykke Li and Björk
While trolling the internet looking for tracks for my weekly Creators Remix Roundup column a few weeks ago, I came across the Vimeo page of Munich-based molecular biotechnology student Tobi Totschlag (aka Tobias Treiber).
He had just started uploading some incredible mashups featuring footage from BBC’s Life program paired with introspective songs from some of the most revered artists in the game—Radiohead, Björk, Portishead, Jamie xx, and Panda Bear, to name a few. The short films’ aural pacing and crescendos seemed to mirror the inevitabilities of nature so naturally that I had to get in touch to figure out just how and why he did it.
The Creators Project: Had you been gathering footage for a while? Do you watch BBC all the time or are there other television shows you used to make these mashups?
Tobias Treiber: It’s all from the same documentary series, so I only had to buy the DVD box. I think nature documentaries are perfect for this, especially if the main focus is on aesthetic, as in this one. Sure, you miss the information on the animals you see, but actually a lot of it is self-explanatory if you see the images. Listening to music while watching it really allows you to concentrate on the beauty and poetry of it all, more than if you’re distracted by a commentator. But basically, it’s possible with any kind of movie. Here are two great examples of how to mashup brilliant music with classic motion pictures—Kraftwerk vs. insects and aliens and Arcade Fire vs. Once Upon a Time in the West.
How do you go about cutting together the footage and how do you decide what music to use?
First I went through my whole music library and sorted out songs that I thought could serve well as a soundtrack. Mostly atmospheric/dramatic stuff—a lot of Radiohead for example. Then I just went through the different scenes of the documentary and tried to find the songs that would fit the best. Sometimes I instantly had something specific in mind, but as I said, a lot of it works on its own and most of the tracks could easily be replaced by other ones, creating maybe a new and different effect.
Do you think there’s a creative link between science/biology and music?
I think science and arts in general are quite different things. Sure, there are overlaps, and you definitely have to be creative to be a good scientist and you can find creative ways to present measured data etc., but the principles are different. In science we try to understand what surrounds us, and in arts we create something new on our own. And if you put too much science in your music, you’ll end up with something like LMFAO, for example—it’s pure calculation. I also experienced that it is hard to find people who are interested in both science and art.
Here’s a selection of our favorite mashups, but check out the rest on Vimeo.
Plants vs. Sufjan Stevens and Devendra Banhart
Hunting Sail Fish vs. Jamie xx
Spider Crabs vs. Panda Bear
Leafcutter Ants vs. Thom Yorke