Sunday, February 21, 2010

festivals, scholars, djs, fun!

The CHAT Festival, Festival on the Hill and colloquium on the Art & Culture of the DJ were all a resounding success, as far as I’m concerned.

Big big ups go to Prof. Mark Katz for organizing the Hill/Symposium part (alongside Prof. Stephen Anderson, who I don't think I met). It was an impressive series of performances and talks!
I didn’t take the time to mention, before I left, what an amazing honor it was for me to be on a lineup alongside the people I think of as truly great scholars of modern music, Oliver Wang, Mark Butler (who wrote this fascinating book) and Rayvon Fouche – all of them seriously impressive scholars, sharp dressers, and great public speakers. I thought I did all right fashion-wise, but O-dub sure is a tough act to follow! I’m getting the hang of it now (after a pretty stiff start a few years ago), but it was a pleasure to watch them all present both because of their different but equally effective styles of research and presentation and because it was all so darn interesting.

I was impressed with the continuity and interplay between all of our talks. Even though they were informed by very different bodies of scholarship – Oliver was sociology and social history, I was law & society, Mark was musicology, and Rayvon was science & technology studies, we all managed to depict fascinating, dynamic moments of musical engagement through our chosen projects. Oliver’s talk, drawn from his forthcoming book, was about the Filipino-American mobile disco scene in the Bay Area (from which the impressive dominance of Filipino-American scratch djs arose). I talked about the participatory, dynamic, interactive practice of music as embodied in Jamaican soundsystems and street dances. Mark talked (from HIS forthcoming book about improvisation, technology and music) about how djs take supposedly fixed objects like musical recordings and render them fluid with improvisatory interactive techniques (illustrated by musical analysis and a close examination of a section from a truly mindblowing DVD of  Jeff Mills djing live…who’d a thunk one man and 3 turntables would be so mesmerizing to watch—and I don’t even follow techno!). Rayvon talked about how the words/concepts “digital” and “analog” when applied to recordings and technology are used as stand-ins for a set of positions around authenticity, paying your dues, nostalgia, and race.

And to top it all off –who showed up at dinner but the ill-ustrious Jeff Chang! Rounding out the lineup of great scholars of modern popular/dance music. (Well, for my dream dinner, Wayne shoulda been there, and a few others too..)

Anyway it was an amazing experience, very inspiring. The panel discussion on Wednesday was also great, especially because I got to meet Jennifer Jenkins, a former copyright litigator now of the Center of the Study of the Public Domain at Duke, and even more excitingly the co-author of a fun and useful comic book (yes, comic book) on copyright law and documentary film. Well worth reading even if you are not a film-maker (and they walk the walk - it's available for free online as well as being a delightful physical object for sale). I learned some great news from her after – that they are working on a comic book on music as well. So cool! The rest of the panel was quite interesting as well, and I was gratified to find that even the folks who might be expected to represent more established interests (folks representing publishers and artists with large back catalogs, for example), had their eyes firmly on the future, which didn’t seem to involve a focus on exclusive rights over recordings or a system that requires suing music fans for thousands of dollars. I hope the industry as a whole is as wise!

And then I was lucky enough to be able to DJ alongside two great djs and all-round great folk, One Duran and Yugen.. these stalwarts are responsible for for more good music and dancing in Chapel Hill than anyone, I think. And we had a little throwdown at a bar/restaurant that ended up going well past 2am with people refusing to leave the dancefloor until the last ounce of sound was squeezed out of the system and the owner put his foot down. It was a great crowd of dancing peeps, and big thanks to my hosts for making it happen!
But I still haven’t even gotten to the post I have been planning to make, which is about the music I have been feeling these days. Maybe even my favorite music of 2009. I know it’s almost the end of February, but it’s never too late, right? That's up next..

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