ever since i first discovered electronic music, i felt there was something wrong. there was always this weird feeling in the back of my mind that we are somehow all going through the motions. after years of going to parties, staring at a stage of what was billed as some type of "performance", i went away thinking, "there's something missing". then it hit me. as with all transitional periods, movements, paradigm and dimensional shifts, i was applying the old to the new, not willing to let go. not willing to take in the changes in a holistic matter.
when i discovered music in general, i was very loyal. the criteria was that you had to have some sort of talent because - they were on stage, and i was watching them - so that means they were there to display something i could not. i went through this phase for years. as the distribution mechanisms of gaia started breaking down and being more visible about it, we all realized that, hey we can "do it yourself" too - fanzines, shows, bands, parties, etc. what a breakthrough for individual freedom. the problem was that of course, like the videogame glut of 1982, the process becomes stale because all your friends are doing something, and no one is left to appreciate it. bands play for bands. writers write for other writers. this whole process was applying the old scheme of ego-driven want of recognition, just like how you paid respects to those you admired (i.e. rock stars). you work hard within the system, and you expect to be rewarded. but in the back of everyone's mind, there's that hint of rebellion - the "kill rock stars" mentality that wants to be "real" about it. not play into the game of the system, etc. this is where you get the so-called "underground". there's a purpose to this process, it seems.
with electronic music, there's even another twist. because we all grew up with this notion of "performance", and "entertainment", we might be losing sight of what really makes us do what we all love to do. and what exactly is that? do we really find satisfaction in watching a band play the songs you became familiar with (which were slickly manufactured in studios) play at a distorted volume on a stage you can barely see? i think the real reasons for the existence of this type of phenomena known as "stardom" is to act as some sort of social glue. people are drawn to them, because - it's something to talk about. "it's hot". "everyone's gonna be there". the party scene seems to strip away all of the pretention that goes with what a band is supposed to be about these days. how many times can you rehash genre cycles and revivals?
take the scene out of the urban setting and you have my personal favorite aesthetic: the outdoor secret party scene.
what is interesting is that i'm watching the old being applied to the new once again. bringing out import "acts" or "dj's", charging 20 bucks so that we can drive a couple of hours to a dirty and oft-used desert locale. i never saw the point of these parties. if you strip away the reasons - the real reasons why we do what we do: the meeting of new people, a pseudo-tribal network, the DIY spirit, - the people who make the party are the ones who SHOW UP. the ones that dance, the ones that stand around, the ones that smile, and the ones that you know are feeling the same freedom you are. flyering big name acts seems counterproductive to this.
that is why i refuse to look at the lineup for a party. the Voov Experience (aka Antaro et al of Spirit Zone) has the right idea with their "no listings" policy.. even though i imagine they charge big bucks. i believe it is paramount that we get rid of the idea of "the draw". if people want hollywood and industry hype for some sort of named act, then you know that they are going there for all the wrong reasons. at least the wrong reasons for me wanting to hang out with people who think this way. my satisfaction comes from those that have an intent and purpose for a type of experience. no need for a marquee. the best way to not get caught up in the old ways is to not pay any attention to it. sure, mix it up, cut it up, but do we really need to see scratching and tricks out in the desert? i'd rather dance and look at the people. so let the music play. press that play button on the dat/minidisc/winamp, let's automate the whole process, and enjoy each other instead. - @Om* 6/20/00
the common argument for reactionaries, as always, is that it's "frightening" because it takes the human equation out of it. that's precisely the point. when dj culture hit mainstream, the most common complaint was that "it's not a band" and they "don't play instruments". this phenomena makes it more anonymous for people to gather around music. instead of the strange attractor being interactive individuals playing analog instruments gathering huge crowds of worship, the culture has made the participants and the people who show up the focus. at least, until the marketing research team tries to co-opt and push it allowing people like Digweed to earn thousands of dollars for 2 hours of "work" of curating other people's compositions.
in order to avoid this type of ego-manifesting name dropping marketing culture that defined the 20th century broadcast media (the one or few controlling the crowd/many), in order to further the idea that "talent" is no longer enough, that the real interaction of concentrated like-minds is the real point here - afterall, what makes a good party? it isn't the fact that paul oakenfold flew across the atlantic to a club in new york to spin for a few thousand club jocks... it isn't the point to "watch" robbie hardkiss come out to the desert party through massive promotion where 10,000 candy-kidz show up and someone dies due to sheer numbers. no one cares about this stuff anymore. the real deal seems to be that the dj was the attractor to a certain mindset. then it became the music that was the focal point. it's all displacement and dissolving boundaries. rock & roll was "noise" for those used to Sinatra. why? because the focal point wasn't the charming tune, or the set of pipes - it became swagger and blues. metal was reviled - why? the focus wasn't on the jam, or the blues, it was distortion, loudness, and evil. hip hop was unwelcome at first - why? because they didn't play instruments, the focus away from the playing and onto the lyrics, style, delivery, attitude, urbanity. punk was feared. why? because it wasn't about prog rock operas and bloated stadium rock. they all had an INTERFACE. and that interface was to bring together a group of people who were into it then and now. potent and unfearing, packing memetic thrust and in your face. these are all signs of the breakdown of the funneling system. distributed network subcultures. the last bastion remains - the DJ. unfocus. no more performance. no more passive watching. get on the floor and dance - no talent required (this is a good thing - and inclusive to those who attend, not exclusive separation of a stage and a pit) - just let go.
djs are respected by other dj's and dance enthusiasts for whatever they do, and at first, reviled by musicians who know how to play traditional analog instruments. in turn, those "rock musicians" were reviled by jazz musicians, opera singers, and classical composers as "noise". knock this last bit out of the way you now have the focus on what's left - everyone else.
scenes die because people want to "hone their art" or "grow musically" which means they want some recognition for themselves. that's when you start to lose the energy.
to me, the ideal situation is - if you have talent, and can give to the situation without taking it over, then you are a true artist. no one controls great experiences. you can guide them, but great experiences involve too many factors - mainly the participants - which is what the "artist" usually sees as something to impress. the impressive experiences come from the masses themselves because there is no controlling hand to push their ego-based ideas forward. this is the explanation of spontaneous revelry. this is why the original woodstock happened. this is why acid house happened, this is why punk rock happened. and that is why they are fleeting, and temporary, and autonomous.
when you go "see" a band, unless you are 15 and just starting to go to shows, you're not there to "see" the performance usually. you are there to relive first moments, to hang with your friends, to try and get laid, to meet new people, and to get drunk at a legal drug imbibing establishment. that's the "point". it's a little harder to apply this to dance music, but that's how the commodification seems to work.
it's difficult at first, to realize that this is where it is going. the last bastion of possible rock stardom lies with the person selecting and curating the music being played to create an atmosphere - most likely for the purpose of altering your consciousness for a few hours. if this is automated (much like a dj automates the notion of a "band playing music"), then we get rid of the last possibility of ego-manifestation, the idolatry of stage worship. the stage becomes the dance floor, the speakers become surround, the reaction of the participants (the real reason why we are there - to share an experience with great people) with each other becomes the spotlight.
this tech seems crude, but i'm all for it. get rid of the dj. we got rid of other foci telling us what is up, showing "skillz": the preacher, the politician, the Picasso cock-rock art, the Stephen Hawking wheelchair bound cock-rock scientist, the Elvis hip swinging, the barechested dionysian cult theater of the Doors, the braggadacio artistry of early club Run-DMC, the supasta dj farce of Keoki.
all had their place to push these musical memes forward. if you break all of it down, you can see it was all needed. and all too clear why it disintegrated. great ideas need a vehicle. when the vehicle tries to control the outcome, heads expand instead of minds, and you start thinking YOU are the reason why THIS is happening. it's not. it's the time of century, it's in the air, we are being pulled. none of us "made it happen". it's simply happening. are we going to appreciate it and mutate with it? or are we going to be afraid to let it take over? - @Om* 11/15/01
there is this other direction where this music is heading, where tracks are produced for the specific purpose of mixing. this is mostly in the genre of house and techno. the "minimal" trend in psy-trance reflects this... there's nothing wrong with it, but the outcome is still the same: cold techno, and bland house. albeit when hints of tracks are spliced in within the context of the time and reference (night and day) the effects are startling. but a pure techno set usually leaves me with the impression that the sets are really invigorating for the dj (afterall, if you are really "skilled" as a dj, maximal psy trance can get pretty boring when there is no need to mix (e.g. tsuyoshi) because he/she had a fun time mixing. personally, house and groove are very appropriate on my comedown phase in the mornings, and outdoors. the association of house music indoors doesn't appeal to me.
all the genres have their place it seems, but the most important element is timing, as well as reactions to the people involved at the moment. if this can be automated, then the dj will become unnecessary. i don't see it happening anytime (real) soon, but i'm hoping for it... - @Om* 11/16/01
Software DJ promises end to empty dance floors
Artificial intelligence experts at Hewlett-Packard have developed a computerised alternative to DJs.
Its HPDJ software tailors music to correspond to how clubbers are responding.
The system monitors reactions to certain sounds and uses this to create tracks designed to keep them dancing.
Each clubber is given a wristwatch-like device that monitors their location, heart and perspiration rates and movement.
The information is then wirelessly transmitted to HPDJ using Bluetooth.
To create a new song, HPDJ modifies existing tracks in its memory to correspond to how many people are on the dance floor and how enthusiastically they are dancing.
According to New Scientist HP researchers are already looking into capitalising on HPDJ's full commercial potential.
Dave Cliff, of the company's Bristol research centre, says that future incarnations will be linked to CD equipment, so that clubbers can buy a recording of the night's set.
The new software improves on an earlier version that simply rearranged dance tracks into optimum order.
Story filed: 18:49 Wednesday 14th November 2001
some posted reactions to the article :
> hmmmm ... don't like where this is going ...
I wouldn't be too worried about it. The only people
this type of system
would replace are the DJs that play the top 40 crowd pleaser tracks. A
system like this would obviously not be able to replace a DJ who pulls out
some crazy tricks in their set. Also, I think the story is referring to
DJs who simply play CDs and dont beatmatch.
what percentage of djs on this list honestly beatmatch?
* I do and all dj's I know do or at least try to.
Those who don't all suck imo, most psy dj's are a
disgrace for the dj world most of the time.
The best dj's alway beatmix.
I think the best Djs are the ones that just feeeeel
it maaaaaan... just
put another record on, don't adjust the pitch, and run the beats over each
other creating a zen space of two colliding wooorlds maaan. It's always
nice to have a 3rd turntable running so you can play 3 full-on tracks at
the same time, creating a harmonic dischordance of the divine degree.
yaaa maaaan, beat matching is for losers who done
ain't learnt how to
trainwreck gooder than others.
I didn't catch a dj yet who didn't beatmix and could keep
my attention. It's simply lame imo.
Only if the tracks are so complete and totally full on that
they're unmixable for a couple of measures I can imagine
that a dj doesn't mix the beats but the intro and outro,
and even then you need to beatmix to get the timing right.
Most tracks do have a mixable part at the end (older goa
tunes too), make use of it then!
Psy dj's are the laziest dj's I know of, drop some
other dope and play some tunes from cd and you're called
a dj in this business, fuck that. I know plenty of chill
dj's who put more effort in the mixing part then most psy
notice how the complaints are about being "called" a dj, as though it were some sort of contest ("best", "sucks", etc.), in the frame of a "business". so basically, those that do not understand holistically what is going on, complain, because they want to be entertained, or think that their "job" is to try and entertain. old world habits die hard. .
these reactions typify the fear. people invest time and learn "skillz" and want to be appreciated for the time invested. for me, that intention alone kills the vibe. if the main focus is to be the vibe, then dj's wouldn't care about showing off their talents. showing off talents is fine if that is made clear what the intent is. are people coming to see your talent? then let them pay the 25 bucks through Ticketmaster to see the performance... or are they there to dance under the full moon, alter their minds, and have a cosmic experience? if the honest answer is the latter for most people, then this issue is not important. that is why the early parties on the beaches created a subculture. no one cared about this stuff when you mix with a tiny sound system and a couple of cassette players. sure, smooth transitions are important, but it shouldn't be the FOCUS. a skilled dj remains anonymous, just like all great artworks are anonymous (e.g. crop circles), and why the music and art scene are sometimes perceived by me, to be full of pretentious wankers thinking they are cool.
i do not drive 3 hours out into the desert to "watch" turntablism in action. - @Om* 11/15/01
to mix or not to mix? that is the question.
a lot of people i've spoken to, especially in the trance scene, seem to think there is an age old question as to whether truly great djing is about perfectly matching beats and seamlessly overlaying tracks or is it better if the DJ just melts the ends and beginnings together letting the tunes to do the taking.
People who subscribe to the beat match train of thought in my experience tend to be of a techno, housey or jungle disosition. The main criterion for good DJing here will depend on how technically skilled in matching and blending beats the dj is.
The 2nd approach, I think is more of a psychedelic trance disposition where the argument is that trance tunes aren't designed to be beat matched and to be appreciated fully they should be mixed end to end. It is easy to see how this view has arisen as the psychedelic scene has roots in Goa where mixing is done on D.A.T. thus a lot of tunes have been designed without beatmatching in mind.
I think people who subscribe to one or the other argument are rather missing what the heart of djing is about. A good dj is one who takes the crowd where they want to go and the crowd wants to go is where a good dj wants to take them.
This may seem a self evident remark but the point I'd like to make is that there has to be a close relationship between the dj and the participants for the night to kick off. It is when this circular relationship, of the crowd feeding off of each other breaks down that sets start to go wrong and its also when this relationship reaches almost telepathic proportions that the magic truly begins.
I believe that whatever style of dance music you're playing, beat matching can be a useful tool in creating a vibe as is the EQ and any of the other new tricks that mixers are adding on these days (to use these tools well takes a lot of practice and used badly will interrupt the flow of a set rather than contribute.)
Part of being a good dj must be mastering the tools at your disposal thus allowing greater flexibility and room for creativity. Beat matchingis a useful psychological tool, if done well it will help to build the crowd to a frenzy. I really do enjoy the rush you get on the dance floor of a new tune creeping in under the end of the present track perfectly in synch. Often a mix of this sort ocan switch the dance floor on and once there is is easier to keep the vibe going. When the hearts of the floor are racing with the matched beats the rush is extended.
End to end mixing is great when the tunes have interesting build ups or ends that are too good to miss. The crowd may love you and you may feel that all you've done is blend the beatless bits of two tunes with a slow cross fade ("where's the skill in that?"). The truth is that often these types of mixes create a vacuum in which a build up of potential energy occurs making the crowd even more ecstatic when the beat eventually kicks in than they would have been if the tunes had been beat matched.
The best sets in my view are neither one nor the
other but a combination of the two, if the tools are available to allow
it. Beat matching is great to keep the energy on the floor rising and going. Used too much it can tire the dance floor which is when end to end can do wonders letting the floor get its breath back so they're ready for more.
At the end of the day its the tune selection and timing that makes a magic set. I'd rather hear a dj of little technical ability creat a journey through wicked tunes than one with a ton of technical know-how clinically blending a mundane set out of mediocre tunes. Its the tunes that make a good night as much as the dj that puts them together. One without the other can only result in a less good set. As DJ's we have a duty to learn how to use the technology around to our best abilities thus giving us more freedom to create different vibes. We also have a duty to stay in touch with the dance floor as well as having a strong idea of what we personally want. I personally like good vibes and high energy (doesn't everybody?). If this is what the dance floor is like I know I'm on the right track. "To mix or not to mix" is not really the question, the question really is are they having it or are they not?
If the DJ's stopped concentrating on only playing the newest tracks off DAT and maybe visited a music store once in a while this would help. This is such a small scene (on the grand scale of things) that every little bit helps, and things need to change before it's too late.