Kutiman Returns
September 13, 2014 11:31 PM   Subscribe

Hear "Give It Up", a beautiful new track from Kutiman's followup to "Thru You". Five years after the original Thru You project, Israeli producer Kutiman is teasing the release of a new collection of original tracks, painstakingly stitched together from unrelated YouTube videos.

The original 8-track Thru You project was released in 2009. The response here on MeFi was ecstatic. Elsewhere, the album was famously named by Time magazine as one of the best inventions of 2009. The many accolades failed to translate to YouTube immortality, and Kutiman fell short of becoming a household name. In subsequent years, Kutiman kept performing and producing music, and also tried his hand in various audiovisual projects, including musical explorations of the sounds of Krakow, Jerusalem and Tokyo.
The beautiful new song, "Give It Up", marries the a-capella vocals of unknown YouTube chanteuse Princess Shaw with a piano accompaniment by 6-year-old musical prodigy Alma Deutscher, along with over 20 other musicians. The song has amassed 400,000 views in 2 days, more than some of the original Thru You tracks got in five years.
posted by Silky Slim (59 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
I can't imagine how much time and diligence it takes to create something like this. It's astounding. Thanks for posting this!
posted by hippybear at 1:08 AM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

5 years since the world gave me a unanimous maybe. Wow.

I remember seeing the post, watching all the videos, downloading the mp3s and going for a listening bike ride around the Tempelhof airport in Berlin, just before it closed. Flat grey sky, twilight, endless landing strips and fields, yet after just one viewing I could recall all the different youtube clips.

I've definitely had several 'Am I living in an alternate dimension' moments since then. I'll mention Kutiman casually, assuming they would know this project, to people over the years, people who are generally into art and music and video and generally pretty in touch with internet happenings, and they've just been confused. I show them what I'm talking about, and instantly they're screaming "How have I never heard this before???" I just don't get it. Easily one of the best things I've experienced coming off the web, ever.

So looking forward to this.
posted by mannequito at 1:15 AM on September 14, 2014 [14 favorites]

The hours I will spend listening/watching these, and then watching the videos of the constituent parts, and then, especially, waiting for the reactions by the musicians to what Kutiman's done with their work (here's Princess Shaw's) ...
So, so glad the 'man is back - thanks for the heads up!
posted by progosk at 1:51 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Amazing! He's taken a fine voice and given the setting it needs to be shown off to best effect. Execution is everything and Kutiman executes pretty much perfectly.
posted by epo at 2:07 AM on September 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

epo - see also.
posted by Silky Slim at 2:09 AM on September 14, 2014

Sadly, not every one of the musicians is so immediately convinced: cello player/companion Deryn Cullen's first spontaneous reaction is altogether negative, raising points about copyright, presumed profits to share - unaware that there are none in this case - etc. For some of the musicians involved last time, too, it took a while to come around to it.
posted by progosk at 2:14 AM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

As Kutiman notes in his own comment to this track, four of the videos have gone missing from Youtube - can the hive help find them, so as to identify and let him credit their originators? It's Drum Roll (white-haied drummer with little red lamp), Electric Guitar (the guy who does teh solo), Trombone (kid under the trees), and Electric Guitar 2 (grey shirted guy briefly faded into the vocalist).
posted by progosk at 2:42 AM on September 14, 2014

Kutiman is absolutely genius and I loved this as well as the "Through You" release. There are potentially a lot of issues with copyright and royalties though, and I wish he'd have at least made a cursory attempt to contact each of the artists prior to releasing the finished product back onto the Internet. Even if the ToS specifically allows him to do this without consideration for the other YTers (YT is absolutely allowed, the ToS gives them permission to create derivative works, etc.), he wouldn't be in a position of having to ask where the guy with the drum roll went and all that.

I once stopped speaking to a close friend over them uploading a performance that was specifically not intended for a wider audience, after that person had asked me and I repeatedly told them not to. Had they not asked me first at all I'd still have been plenty upset, so I totally get why the cello player is furious over this. I hope things can be smoothed over somehow.
posted by mcrandello at 3:06 AM on September 14, 2014

The following is a bit like this, but less sophisticated, but still really good.

The Golden Age of Video by Ricardo Autobahn.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 3:52 AM on September 14, 2014

it's hard for me too to believe that he hasn't caught on more. "Mother of All Funk Chords" is a delight I listen to all the the time.
posted by angrycat at 6:12 AM on September 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

> The song has amassed 400,000 views in 2 days, more than some of the original Thru You tracks got in five years.

It's probably fair to point out that YouTube traffic itself has grown by magnitudes since 2009. What qualified as a runaway success back then would be a minor hit at best now.

While "Give It Up" is on YouTube's curated "Most Popular" channel, it represents the long tail of that chart, one of the minority with fewer than 1 million views.
posted by ardgedee at 6:44 AM on September 14, 2014

^ Just noticed the site claims the playlist is "Auto-generated by YouTube". So it's not curated by hand although there's presumably content filtering going on to ensure it doesn't get flooded with obscene videos, SEO fuckery, and hot-button topics.
posted by ardgedee at 6:49 AM on September 14, 2014

One thing I've always been curious about is how the videos (as opposed to just the songs) are made.

Does he create the song in audio-editing software, then once he's happy with the results essentially build the song a second time by matching up the video clips in something like final cut? Or does he create the song in a video-editing suite, layering all the clips making sound at the moment, so that when the song is done the video is a matter of choosing which of the currently playing clips is on the screen?

I have a strong feeling that the actual answer is "You know so little about this process you don't even know what you're asking."
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:16 AM on September 14, 2014

> One thing I've always been curious about is how the videos (as opposed to just the songs) are made.

The song is made by editing the videos. (Track 8 of Thru-You: "About")
posted by ardgedee at 7:31 AM on September 14, 2014

These are wonderful, I'm excited to have more.

One question for those in the know in this thread: how is 'Kutiman' properly pronounced? Like 'cut-i-man' or 'coot-eh-mahn' or...?
posted by LooseFilter at 8:33 AM on September 14, 2014

One question for those in the know in this thread: how is 'Kutiman' properly pronounced? Like 'cut-i-man' or 'coot-eh-mahn' or...?

"Cooty-mahn" or "Coo-T-mahn"
posted by nangar at 8:51 AM on September 14, 2014

I was thinking it was "cute-e-man"

But he's Israeli with a non-english accent, so I have no idea really.
posted by hippybear at 10:55 AM on September 14, 2014

Yay! I absolutely loved Thru You, I'm delighted he's made another one.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:08 AM on September 14, 2014

Ian A.T., I asked myself the same question last time.

As regards the "he's stealing" point of view, it's generally premised on his supposed earnings from these tracks. It's surprising how this pernicious misconception seems to be so hard to nip in the bud - this is a through-and-through non-commercial endeavour on Kutiman's part, and his graciousness about the ethics of it is so explicit/evident that it's pretty disheartening how entrenched some prejudices are. You wonder, would Deryn be less oppositional if she'd been as "featured" as Princess Shaw? Or is it that she's more of a professional musician, while the singer is a pure amateur?
posted by progosk at 11:30 AM on September 14, 2014

mcrandello, the fact he's lost the links to some of the original clips is due to his process, methinks, of collecting a lot of musical material first, and coming back to it much later. The incidental and often transitory nature of YouTube material is, to me, something of a feature in Kutiman's musical found-art-work.
posted by progosk at 11:45 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

(cite for Kutiman on the ethics of the project.)
posted by progosk at 11:51 AM on September 14, 2014

I was wondering how the musicians involved in Thru You had fared since then - and up pops Juice Lee (the "unanimous maybe" from "I'm New") in the reddit thread about Thru You Too.
posted by progosk at 2:03 PM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

The fact that someone could call this use of a tiny, transformatively arranged sample with full credit and a link back to the original "ethically dubious" is just super alien to me. I think there's also an unfortunate irony that the original cellist would have been unlikely to even know about the sample had Kutiman not been so rigorous about crediting her. I understand that it's hard to make a living as a classical instrumentalist (particularly on an instrument like violin or cello) and I have a lot of sympathy for the enormous outlay of time, money, training, hustling, etc., etc. that career path involves -- but then, that situation was not created because of sampling! Particularly not because of someone as conscientious as Kutiman.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:21 PM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah. Deryn's an old friend of mine and I've just been arguing on Facebook with her husband Dan over why it's a bad idea for her to campaign to have Kutiman's video taken down. As far as they are concerned, this is just outright theft and that's it. I have been unable to communicate the concept of 'sampling' to them. I have been unable to communicate the idea that becoming known online as the person who made Kutiman take a video down is probably not a net positive for them. I have been unable to communicate the idea that in the event Kutiman does at some point make money from the track, they will be able to ensure they get their cut.

And I just don't get it. I'm a struggling full-time musician too. I'd *love* Kutiman to sample something of mine.

Copyright maximalists going to copyright maximalise, I suppose.
posted by motty at 5:29 PM on September 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

Such wrong. Very cello. Many internets. So lose sampling case. Wow!
posted by uosuaq at 7:30 PM on September 14, 2014

posted by sexyrobot at 8:47 PM on September 14, 2014

Pretty sure sampling and fair use copyright issues were settled quite a few years ago. 2 Live Crew, etc.
posted by hippybear at 8:56 PM on September 14, 2014

Wikipedia says his birth name is Ophir Kutiel (Hebrew: אופיר קותיאל). I think the stress in those words would be at the end (oh-FEAR kooti-EL) and the stress in his professional name would follow the same pattern: koo-tea-MUHN.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:03 PM on September 14, 2014

motty: yikes, the (sorry) tone-deafness - including her husband and associates - is striking.

There are various complaints contained in her original post, that are somewhat off target:

- the objection that other outlets are talking about the project as made from clips of amateur musicians, which she sees as demeaning, as she actually earns a living from her musicianship. Fair point, but not one to be levelled at Kutiman, as he makes no such claim anywhere.

- "The fact that he plans to profit" + "Clearly he has no intention of sharing profits" - he actually states precisely the contrary to both points here: "If the musicians I sampled want a cut, I will give it to them, but I’m not earning anything from ThruYou". There was no commercial release of the previous round, and, despite her focussing on his use of the words "album" and "out" in the new project's page, nothing points to any change in intention here.

- the derails about parental consent for Alma Deutscher's clip, and the cost of iPhones...

The ostentation of copyright law expertise is ultimately thrown off by a frustration that sounds principally derived from difficulties of making ends meet as a musician. She does write "Perhaps I should postpone writing this post until I have calmed down a little", and, in the comments, "rage-fuelled blogs written in the small hours of the morning are always going to be at greater risk of crimes against spelling, syntax and grammar" - and level-headedness, I'd say. Here's hoping this will all play out well...

posted by progosk at 12:55 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

8. Rights you licence
8.1 When you upload or post Content to YouTube, you grant:

A. to YouTube, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable licence (with right to sub-licence) to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, make available to the public, broadcast and publically perform that Content in connection with the provision of the Service and otherwise in connection with the provision of the Service and YouTube's business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels;
B. to each user of the Service, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free licence to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display and perform such Content to the extent permitted by the functionality of the Service and under these Terms.
People who don't want derivative works of their videos made and posted to youtube probably shouldn't post them to youtube in the first place, given that the terms of service explicitly allow that. If Kutiman releases an album then, yeah, they have a case because he's taken it outside of "the extent permitted by the functionality of the Service", but until that happens he is absolutely within his rights.

(mcrandello pointed out that derivative works were allowed upthread; I just wanted to highlight that the TOS are actually pretty clear about that being the case.)
posted by hades at 8:13 AM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Of course, they're also clear that you can terminate that license by removing the video, which is a shame. But I note that Deryn Cullen hasn't disabled her youtube channel yet, or even taken down the video which was sampled from (in which she plays a composition which is now in the public domain).
posted by hades at 8:31 AM on September 15, 2014

Pretty sure sampling and fair use copyright issues were settled quite a few years ago. 2 Live Crew, etc.

Unfortunately, my understanding (just as an amateur musician and not as a lawyer or other legal professional, to be clear) is that it's really not that simple, and that there have been court decisions since then against people who used even very brief uncredited samples (which I think is well past the point of sanity). A "fair use" defense seems to be a real crapshoot in today's legal system. But the TOS of Youtube seems to be very clear that there would be no infringement case against Kutiman, as hades pointed out.

Regarding his putting out an "album," I am pretty sure that he just means assembling his YouTube tracks in one place, like he did with the last one. I think, though, that under these TOS it really looks like he might have actually even been able to work directly with YouTube to clear the samples for a commercial album release. They say pretty clearly that YouTube has the right to sub-license their license to redistribute part or all of any derivative works through any media channels. Again, no legal expertise here, but it really seems like that would make a CD release completely viable if YouTube thought it would be a good financial/PR move on their part.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:46 AM on September 15, 2014

The license for users to "prepare derivative works" is qualified by "to the extent permitted by the functionality of the Service". It looks to me as if it means the sort of things you can do online within Youtube, not anything that may be done with a video that was downloaded from Youtube.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:04 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just for further context of eventual YouTube issues: Kutiman's 2010 "SueYou" is - if you wish to see it that way - his own commentary/gauntlet-throw to a rather more illustrious bunch of musicians. Nary a take-down notice followed...
posted by progosk at 4:13 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Bah. There is that.
posted by hades at 4:15 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Er, that was a response to Joe in Australia, not progosk.)
posted by hades at 4:15 PM on September 15, 2014

Ahh, yeah, that might just refer to actually being able to stream the video and display it in a website (which I guess counts as a "performance"). There's also another part of the TOS that seems to say you need permission from YT ahead of time or the original creator to use any part of their videos. YT might be able to pre-empt this issue entirely by issuing an actual license to Kutiman, but they probably don't want to set that kind of a precedent.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:01 PM on September 15, 2014

It would be great if YT adopted the strategy Flickr has now and allowed variations on licensing, searching videos by license, and for content creators to decide to opt out of people sampling their work to create amazing, beautiful, transformative derivative works for non-commercial use if that's their petty, narrow-minded, sincere wish. That could be the best case scenario for everyone, short of the legal systems of the world suddenly coming to their senses about copyright and sampling.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:34 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sure that's what that part of the TOS is intended to mean, but that's one of the fun things about copyright law -- they have to be really precise about what kind of derivative work they're talking about, because if they don't allow derivative works, you probably can't embed a video on your own site, and if they allow derivative works without being precise, they've given you the right to remix. I was kind of hoping they hadn't been precise enough, but I guess I didn't read closely enough. (Although I did read closely enough to notice that there's a significant typo in one section of the TOS; anyone know if a clause is enforceable if it doesn't make sense because of a missing letter?)

As it turns out, YouTube does allow you to use a CC-BY license instead of the standard YouTube license, and if you click on "filters" in a search result, you can filter by CC license. It'd be nice if they made CC the default license, because right now if you search for "singing", say, you get 42 million results, and only 150,000 results under CC-BY. Some (all? I don't know) of my videos are under the CC license there, so I must have noticed this before, and forgotten. Huh.

I'm still holding out for that "coming to their senses" thing. *grumble*
posted by hades at 7:49 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Deryn Cullen has removed her blog post complaining about Kutiman using a clip from her video in "Give it up".
posted by nangar at 10:36 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow, that is a crazy impressive purging. I hope that means she thought better of it, and not that she is retaining a lawyer who told her to take it down.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:05 PM on September 17, 2014

(sorry, to clarify my first statement, it's hard to even find a trace of it on Google, which I think is pretty difficult)
posted by en forme de poire at 2:06 PM on September 17, 2014

Google can't find this page, either, even though progosk mentioned Cullen by name on the 14th, so maybe Google is just being Google.

I wouldn't be surprised if she contacted a lawyer. I think hades' interpretation of YouTube's terms of service is correct, so I doubt if a suit would actually go anywhere. I don't understand why she doesn't just ask him to take the sample from her video out of the mix.
posted by nangar at 3:22 PM on September 17, 2014

Nah, my interpretation is almost certainly wrong, but it'd probably be costly to get the lawyers involved to say so.
posted by hades at 12:27 AM on September 18, 2014

For the record, here's a Google-cached version of Deryn's original post, sadly without the subsequent, interesting dialogue in the comments (and before she corrected the errant extra "o" in the title).

More interestingly, Kutiman's added this comment below the linked clips in his original YouTube post:
"Over the last couple of days I had a very touching and sincere correspondence with Mrs. Deryn, one of the Cellist featured in "Give it Up" (cello 2). I would like to deeply thank her for that. Deryn and I both respect each other's views on the matter of seeking permission to use material, and I fully understand why she and her partner reacted a bit negatively at first. I shared with Deryn my true motivation and intentions in creating Thru You Too, and I'm glad that she completely understands and accepts my ethos behind the project. She expressed her great appreciation to the artistic and musical outcome, and that she is happy to be part of the amazing group of musicians featured on the video. I encourage you to check out all the fantastic musicians' YouTube channels, there is some amazing stuff there to be found :)"
posted by progosk at 11:02 AM on September 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

And Deryn herself answers in the comments to the track:
"Thanks so much for reaching out - I truly appreciate where you're coming from now, and I'm glad you were open to hearing me out on my misgivings. Really looking forward to hearing the next one. :)"
posted by progosk at 11:17 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh my god a happy ending to a copyright case!! I may plotz. Really glad it got worked out.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:10 PM on September 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Wow. I'm really glad to hear that. I'm glad they actually talked, and I'm glad she's OK with it.
posted by nangar at 7:12 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Since I'd been interacting with her on her blog, she sent me an update, which is also in her public facebook post.
posted by hades at 1:07 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Techdirt sums up nicely.
posted by progosk at 2:22 AM on September 20, 2014

And here is the slow-groove single #2: No One In This World.
posted by progosk at 6:59 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

The singer has her own arrangement of the same song, with a collaborator, on YouTube. Both her arrangement and Kutiman's are really gorgeous, but different. She calls the song "Fell".
posted by nangar at 10:59 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow, super cool to see a case where the vocals were independently finished and incorporated into a finished arrangement. They are indeed really different. Nikki Dodds' version is more mournful/ethereal and has that great vocal overdubbing; Kutiman's has more of a torchy, live soul band vibe. (The ending is genius.)

You can see how Kutiman has honed his craft since the last "album" too - the production, beat-matching, and tuning are all that much tighter, but it still sounds organic and "live."
posted by en forme de poire at 3:51 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm really liking Natty Princess, the French reggae band whose female members provide the horn section for "No One In This World". They have tons of performance videos on YouTube. My favorites so far are Forward, the title track from their album, and Horns praise. I should shut up now, or I'm just going to keep linking more stuff ...
posted by nangar at 10:19 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I meant to include this one too: Girls like the roots.

OK. I'm really trying to shut up and quit posting. I am, really.
posted by nangar at 12:10 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

The first time I watched Thru You, I teared up a little. Same this time. He knows how to build a song, for sure. When he tried to translate one of these songs with a live band, I didn't find it even close to being as moving as what he does with the Thru You series. My 2¢; I'm about to watch the second video. Thanks for posting this.
posted by not_on_display at 10:15 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's up!
posted by nangar at 8:42 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

The YouTube playlist is actually easier to watch. I love the new album, but not the website design so much. Kutiman also has an Introduction to Thru You Too that's also made up of cut-up YouTube videos rather than him talking.
posted by nangar at 10:33 AM on October 1, 2014

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