On June 21st, 2011, I released a song that I had been working on for over six months. The song is called Yoga Girl. I usually do videos for my songs but in this case, between January and June I had been doing a series of acoustic shows at the Claire de Lune Coffeehouse in San Diego, and I had run out of hard disk space, and run out of money to buy a new one. I had explored some options for actresses and locations, and it didn’t seem to be going anywhere so I gave up temporarily. Recently I got enough money to pick up a hard drive and I cut two videos, one for Slow Movin’ Driver, and another for Kaleidoscope’s End. On November 30, 2011, I decided that it was time to start looking for someone to shoot the video for Yoga Girl, so I ran an ad in CraigsList for actresses. Right after I ran the ad, I did a quick check on Twitter, and that’s when I found it, a new video by Fog and Smog called Yoga Girl had been released three days earlier.
Now if this was the first time this has happened I probably would have screamed at the top of my lungs, but unfortunately, this is not the first time. The first time happened a long time ago, but the second time happened in 2006/2007, when I released a video for a song called “Coffeehouse 101”.
One night I couldn’t sleep and woke up in the middle of the night and turned on VH1, and this is what I saw:
This video by Nickelback, called “Rockstar” was released to YouTube on August 14th, 2007, approximately 1 1/2 years after the Coffeehouse 101 video, which got approximately 40,000 hits on the web by that time. This time I did scream “what the hell!” and ran upstairs and wrote an email to everyone who had appeared in the video, with something to the effect of “if you want to see if anyone is paying attention, check out this video” along with a link to the Nickelback video.
As of this moment the video for Nickelback has received 41 million hits, and was named the 14th worst video ever by NME magazine.
One of the first things I did the next day was see if I could find a smoking gun, to see if this was a case of rediscovering the wheel, or whether something more nefarious was going on. I found out that I was up for a job with the company that made the video and that my reel was submitted to the company, but the Coffeehouse 101 video was not on the reel, so I could find no actual proof that anything funny was going on. This is the reel by the way:
One thing I haven’t mentioned is that as a day job, I am a professional video editor. I have an Emmy to prove it for what that’s worth. In the last few years, I have been doing less and less video work and more time focusing on music, but most independent musicians can tell you that it’s a tough life trying to make it as a musician, and even tougher as an older musician, which is what I am. It has been quite a creative struggle over the years with this tension between a day job that pays pretty good money, and allows a certain amount of freedom, the problem being two things, one is called the silent torture, which is watching enormous amounts of footage of people living the life that you would like to live, and the other is called the golden handcuffs, which is having a job that pays so well, that it is hard to walk away. But I did just that, on my birthday in 1996. If you would like to see footage from what helped me make up my mind to do that, you can watch a music video that I did for a song called Kaleidoscope’s End that was shot during a trip that I took in May of 1996.
A few months earlier, I was given a book (actually sold) by a Hare Krishna at LAX called The Journey of Self Discovery. I put it in my bag and forgot about it, but brought it along on a trip that I took in rental car, from L.A. to N.Y. And by the time I had come back, I realized that I didn’t want to edit anymore. I realized more than that however but this is part of a much larger story that is extremely strange and unbelievable (even by me) but I don’t want to lose the thread of the narrative, so I will trudge on.
Flash forward to 2009. I received a tweet from Derek Sivers (from CDBaby) saying, “someone should put music to this video” and I clicked the link and saw a video on YouTube called Stop Motion with Wolf and Pig. It was a very clever animated video with not very good music, so I wrote to the artist who created it, and he allowed me to put a version of his video on the web with his visuals, and my music, in this case, a song called Too Tired.
I posted this video in April of 2009, and shortly thereafter, I got a comment on the video that said:
“the pen story completely robbed you, what a joke?”
I did not know what this person was talking about, but I did a search on YouTube and found this:
There was eventually so much backlash on YouTube about this video, which is basically a commercial for The Pen Camera by Olympus, that they had to admit that Takeuchi Taijin’s Stop Motion with Wolf and Pig was the “inspiration” for the Pen Story video. This is the statement made by Olympus on YouTube:
“This is the PEN Story in stop motion. We shot 60.000 pictures, developed 9.600 prints and shot over 1.800 pictures again. No post production! Thanks to all the stop motion artists who inspired us. We hope you enjoy :-)
Some of the comments we have read here suggest that we should mention the creator of “A wolf loves pork”, Mr Taijin Takeuchi.
While we were looking for a way to realise a story describing “a journey through time” based on printed images, we were inspired by Mr Takeuchi’s brilliant work. For this reason we intentionally quoted his work in our little movie while showing full respect to his original idea. We didn’t mention his name because we did not want to do so without his prior agreement.
However after considering some of the comments posted here we have decided to add credits to him and his work, which we obviously absolutely love.”
After experiencing a situation like this before with Nickelback I was very surprised to find out that a multinational corporation actually admitted that they basically copied a video on YouTube for commercial gain, but I have found out subsequently that this is a much more common occurrence than anyone might expect. This happens regularly in music videos, and there have recently been controversies, lawsuits, and settlements in some cases with artists such as Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, and Beyonce, among others. One of the things that is not well known about YouTube is that their user agreement makes it much more difficult to pursue these types of legal actions, but there are plenty of articles on that subject if you would like to explore it further.
I suppose it would be easy enough to just say that this is all just a coincidence, but because of my experiences this has become much more difficult to justify. At some point or another you begin to suspect that maybe there is a larger force involved, and an analog solution is no longer a sufficient explanation, my apologies going out to those who don’t believe in greater powers. Because I have listed here only two examples, and unfortunately there are more than that. And coincidences even stranger than the ones listed.
I have been pondering this situation in the last few days for obvious reasons. I meditate frequently, and last night a story that I often forget popped up in my mind. It is from The Gospel of Ramakrishna, a Hindu saint that lived in India in the 1800’s.
“From Sri Ramakrishna Totapuri had to learn the significance of Kali, the Great Fact of the relative world, and of Maya, Her indescribable Power. One day, when guru and disciple were engaged in an animated discussion about Vedanta, a servant of the temple garden came there and took a coal from the sacred fire that had been lighted by the great ascetic. He wanted it to light his tobacco. Totapuri flew into a rage and was about to beat the man. Sri Ramakrishna rocked with laughter. “What a shame!” he cried. “You are explaining to me the reality of Brahman and the illusoriness of the world; yet now you have so far forgotten yourself as to be about to beat a man in a fit of passion. The power of Maya is indeed inscrutable!” Totapuri was embarrassed.”
In other words, all of this, not only my situation, but all situations that we experience in our lives, is simply the play of God, or Brahman in the Hindu tradition. Maya - Leela - Illusion. I have my own struggles with the various concepts of God as told by our various traditions, but one thing has become certain for me because of the experiences that I have had including those above, is that this world is a very strange, inscrutable, mysterious place. And one way or another, for some strange reason, it wants you (or seems to have some sort of intent) to take the bait, possibly if nothing else, to keep the play going a little longer. Or possibly it just wants you to figure out that it’s just a game, to realize that it can really be an entertaining strange ride if you just embrace it for what it is. But all rides eventually have to come to an end, and that, perhaps ironically, is the subject of my album Kaleidoscope’s End, which started this whole ride in the first place. But the fact of the matter, something I realized during my trip to NY in 1996, is that it had been going on much longer than that, but I just hadn’t noticed.
So, I’ve recently released two versions of the video for Yoga Girl and you can find them here:
So, back to the similarities between the two versions of Yoga Girl. Here they are:
- Same title
- Same general concept
- Same tempo (that was a surprise)
- Relative key (F mixolydian and G minor use the same notes of the scale)
- Similar structural elements
the verses and rap sections are almost identical lengths (16 bars/ 8 bars/ 15 bars)
both start with the chorus, which is repeated four times
- Similar intro sounds (mine - tamboura / there’s - sitar)
I did a mashup of the two songs and found out the majority of these similarities. If you would like to hear it for yourself, here it is:
Because of the similarities between the two songs, no pitch or time correction was required to make the two songs sync. There was limited amount of editing because of the structural differences between the songs, but I was surprised at how simple it was to put these two songs together.
Because of this experience and others like it, I have been of course considering what if anything this all means, and I have at least at this moment come to this conclusion.
I have been considering the idea in the Bhagavad Gita that the fundamental illusion/delusion of reality is that the ego is the doer. “Every action is really performed by the gunas. Man, deluded by his egoism, thinks: ‘I am the doer.’”
So rather than causing a permanent mark on my forehead by slapping it every time this happens, I’m trying to look at this particular situation as an opportunity. An opportunity to get my music out into a wider world than San Diego, an opportunity to illustrate the concept of synchronicity with concrete examples, and an opportunity to show that the world is a very strange, mysterious place, which is becoming rapidly apparent as every day passes.
I have also spoken to a number of my spiritual teachers about this and many say “that’s really weird” but one sent me this article: