Thursday, April 03, 2008

not a gig report

This blog has become more news and less thinking. A side effect of school picking up steam --I'm writing and thinking all day and it's hard to do it all over again on a page when I get home.

I also realized I haven't felt like thinking or talking much about what I do as a DJ, because it's the one thing I don't need to analyze, when all day I spend analyzing this and that (and defending it in all the different disciplines I quest through).

But I thought it might be good to share some of the things I'm thinking about.
Starting with a paper I'm writing for a seminar I'm in. It's a legal seminar so it's tied to making a specific legal proposal based in some empirical observation and analysis (which in itself rather daring since evidence is not a huge basis for legal theory), and I'm focusing on the value of unrecorded music, especially improvised music (that is not recorded either in sheet music or during the performance). So the questions start out:
  • are there features of improvising and improvisatory performance that have social value beyond their memory or any possible recording? Improvisations are works and actions, but is there anything about the ACT of improvising that is important?
When I DJ, sometimes I feel like I am helping a kind of social being come into existence (if that doesn't sound too too pretentious --why I don't like to talk about it too much) - but when people from different scenes and backgrounds become physically linked through music, dancing themselves but also dancing a group, and dancing through the music, and when the musical references overlap the familiar and the unfamiliar, layering associations of us and them, and the dancers are up for it and excited about it.. for a minute sometimes it feels bigger than the club night. No, it's more than an ex-raver talking. Its not world-changing in itself, but it's more than escape. Or its an escape from certain assumptions (about what you like, about what you are like, or about what you think someone else likes/is like) that is necessary for you to realize you had them. all of that connects to the importance some scholars put on improvisatory music and its social value.

I'm not sure if I'm improvising when I dj, except that I do think I make some of the choices improvisers talk about, while djing. But the argument for improvisation is a springboard for making a kind of argument about social value that is hard to make in standard copyright law discussions, so I've got to dig a bit deeper into it.
    • If improv has some social values, how does that value exist across different kinds of improvising? (for example, I've just read a lot of free-jazz theorists talking about improvising as modeling a kind of social interaction that is spontaneous, collaborative, and even democratic, that leaves room for dissension and interaction. How does that work in non-free-jazz music improv -like maybe bluegrass? or is it true for improv comedy or improv dance? is it all performance?
    • What are the conditions under which that positive social value happens or is likely to happen?
  • Since copyright law to some extent can affect the conditions under which these practices happen, how does it facilitate, harm, limit or alter that social value (especially under changing conditions, like new technology)? Should we reshape copyright in some way to allow more of that social goodness?
    • for example, we have limitations on copyright and other laws when works are used for educational purposes - sometimes explicitly (as in the special exception for film professors who want to make clips of films for demonstration purposes) or implicitly (as part of a fair use defense).
    • Should we have a limitation on copyright enforceability in other sites of musical improvisation?
      • underlying this, of course, is how relevant is copyright law, and who feels its effects since they are clearly not felt equally everywhere. But that's beyond the scope of the assignment, which, being in a law school, assumes law is relevant.
It's all part of my quest to focus copyright law discussions on social questions, and not just individual incentive questions. Well, that's the inward-looking project, looking into the legal scholar world I partly inhabit these days, and its particular requirements and styles of argument, trying to force them into new shapes...

whew. that's probably enough for now.

here's a cute picture of my cat.