Archive for May, 2009

May 27th, 2009

Older Than Jesus

Or at least I will be at some point in the next year, provided I make it to next May 27.

In other words (or not), whereas last year I was McHale, this year I’m Bird –

No pressure, but if you wanna do something nice you can a) buy me a book or b) buy my book.

7 comments

May 26th, 2009

B-Boy = Book Boy, and Other Uprock Narratives

Some bookish things to report, including the latest re: Reggaeton — namely, that tomorrow, Wednesday May 27 (which happens to be my born day), I’ll be appearing alongside co-editor Raquel Rivera on WNYC’s Soundcheck.



The show airs live at 2pm EST. I believe it’s carried by a number of NPR stations nationally, or can be listened to online. If you’d like to hear something like the /Rupture radio show but a little more NPR-ish this is your best bet.

[Late update: I couldn't make the trek to NYC today after all, so it's just gonna be my capable compañera-de-libro, Raquel. Check (and comment on) the segment here.]

There are two other new music books I’m excited about & I think you maybe shouldbe too –

1) Joe Schloss’s Foundation is an ethnography and history of b-boy culture just out on Oxford University Press. Joe is a good friend, a fellow hip-hop ethnomusicologist, and one of the most lucid and sensible thinkers about hip-hop I know. Check the technique from a recent review by Adam Mansbach

Both the coherence of b-boy culture and its under-the-radar status, Schloss argues, can be attributed to the form’s relative lack of commodification. Graffiti exploded onto the gallery scene in the early ’80s; rap records were selling millions of copies by 1979. B-boying proved more difficult to package. It was a process, not a product, so it escaped back underground, relatively unscathed.

The unmediated nature of b-boying also accounts for the dearth of scholarship on the subject. According to Schloss, writers are accustomed to analyzing the artifacts hip-hop offers the market; lamentably, this “puts the theory in the hands of the scholar” and “relieves [him] of the obligation to actually engage with the community.”

Schloss’s approach is quite different, and the result is the best work ever produced on b-boying, and one of the finest books yet to emerge from the swiftly proliferating ranks of hip-hop scholarship. In researching “Foundation,” the author spent five years attending every b-boy event in New York City; not only did he interview the craft’s leading practitioners, he apprenticed himself to them, learning the dance physically, intellectually, and spiritually.

Once a cornerstone of all hip-hop expression, the mentor-apprentice relationship is another victim of the culture’s marriage to mass media. Many graffiti writers, for example, claim that the biggest change their art form ever underwent occurred when professional photographers began documenting it; this allowed neophytes to learn style from photos instead of masters.

But in b-boying, apprenticeship is alive and well. “The vast majority of serious b-boys and b-girls in New York,” Schloss tells us, “have studied directly with the elders,” pioneers who have been “refining their aesthetic for upwards of three decades . . . and are barely even in their 40s.”

The second book is perhaps a little more eye-catching (though I quite like the Foundation design) –

2) Elijah Wald, a true pop-musical polymath, has a new book out (also on Oxford U, as it happens), bearing the provocative title, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music. Elijah, who is also a friend and who I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with at several music conferences (much to my edification), offers up a meticulously researched, funny, and sometimes surprising account of the history of US pop from the late 19th into the late 20th century, taking apart a number of myths and filling large lacunae while proposing a rather grand narrative of his own.

Here’s how he describes the work, and his rockist/poptimist motivation to write it, in an email I received today –

it began to bother me that virtually all pop music history has been written by roots, jazz and rock fans–people like me–who tend to take pride in our unique tastes and despise mainstream pop. And we tend to write the history of what we like rather than the history of what happened. So this is an attempt to give a clearer picture of how pop music evolved, looking at changing dance styles, technologies, and the lives of working musicians and regular listeners from the dawn of ragtime to the dawn of disco–with some fun stories to back it all up.

You can read more about it on Elijah’s site, while streaming some John Philip Sousa or, if you’d prefer, an hour of Top 40 radio from Scottsdale Arizona in the summer of 1964.

Elijah’s email also included some simple, sensible tips for those of you who are interested in supporting authors and booksellers in these strange days. I’ll leave you with these thoughts then, and the mild suggestion that you might consider doing the same for our querido librocito

Since book publishing seems to be getting shakier by the year, I
wanted to include a few ideas about what one can do to help out any book
or author one likes.

1. Spread the word–as the “mainstream” media are replaced by infinite
capillary streams, more and more of us are relying on the reports of
friends and acquaintances.

2. Call up your local library and ask them to order a copy. Libraries,
even in these days of tightened budgets, respond to readers’ requests.

3. As a dedicated browser, I always recommend that you buy from your
local bookstore (hoping that you have one), and if your local bookstore
doesn’t have the book, you can suggest that they carry it.

4. Wherever you buy the book (or take it out of the library, or
whatever), if you like it, take a moment and post a review on Amazon
and/or other online sites. Crazy as it sounds, positive reader reviews
really make a difference.

3 comments

May 22nd, 2009

Save Me

So, for obvious reasons, affirming and touching a gesture as it is, I’m a little timid about the campaign to Save Wayne. I’m sorry that the cosmos had other plans for me (yet to be revealed), as I would be happy to stay at Brandeis. I don’t know if anything can come of it, but if you’d care to add your voice to the chorus, I believe the petition is to be submitted soon, so go here, like, now.

No pressure, tho, obvz! & if you’ve got some interesting work for a vivrant listener, writer, producer, & teacher as i&i, holler at a scholar–

5 comments

May 19th, 2009

Seeding the Sound Cloud

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the soundscape recordings people have made and are making — from soundwalks, to radio captures, to ambiences — were available as GPS-pegged audiostreams that could be accessed, say, on one’s phone, a la the “locative art” in Gibson’s Spook Country?

A step further (if away from the curatorial), the right software application, given a decent pool of geo-tagged audio files, could offer quite a realtime collage of places’ past soundscapes. Assuming, that is, that this is something one would want to do: to listen in/to two (or more) moments at once.

I think I would. I’ve attempted similar exercises, seen.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Anyone working on this? Or some piece of such a project?

17 comments

May 18th, 2009

Funk Cafeteria

if Cabide DJ were your lunch lady…

do bem™ – Suco de Laranja 100% fruta (MPC de torradas) from do bem on Vimeo.

2 comments

May 16th, 2009

Wordle Up

Raquel, mi querida co-editor, was recently in Puerto Rico to talk Reggaeton. Among a variety of venues, she also ended up on video –

While watching I was surprised to see, suddenly in the mix, a wordle I made from my chapter in the book. A fitting backdrop, sin duda –



Have you read it yet? It may be my best piece to date. Just sayin.

4 comments

May 14th, 2009

YAapNTb B Ha6aT

Google says ^that^ = “Ring the alarm” in Cyrillic. It didn’t do so well with my other query: “Soundbwoy a go dead.” Anywaaaaaayyyyy, here’s some vintage Russian soundclash action –

5 comments

May 12th, 2009

Super Freaks and the Collective Talent

I love the moment at 0:21 in this credit card commercial:

It’s obvious why, no?

MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” — a “work” which, in addition to the song itself, includes as a part of its whole a now iconic video, known as much for its choreography as parachute pants — has become a part of the whole that is Rick James’s “Super Freak.”

Why has that happened? Because we say so, hear so, see so, know so.

Or as T.S. Eliot once put it:

No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of æsthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere, is not one-sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new.

Which is not unlike what Nicolas Bourriard recently proposed (via /Jace):

These artists who insert their own work into that of others contribute to the eradication of the traditional distinction between production and consumption, creation and copy, readymade and original work. The material they manipulate is no longer primary. It is no longer a matter of elaborating a form on the basis of a raw material but working with objects that are already in circulation on the cultural market, which is to say, objects already informed by other objects. Notions of originality (being at the origin of) and even of creation (making something from nothing) are slowly blurred in this new cultural landscape marked by the twin figures of the DJ and the programmer, both of whom have the task of selecting cultural objects and inserting them into new contexts.

But what I like about Eliot saying this in 1922, more than Bourriard in 2009, is that this essential cultural process long predates mechanical and digital reproduction. It’s the stuff of poets and philosophers, as well as DJs and hackers, walkman-wearing dancers and credit card commercials. It’s just how culture works. Always has, always will. Can’t stop, won’t.

So thanks for the songs & dances, guys; now they’re ours.

10 comments

May 11th, 2009

Reggaeton Radio

If you missed me & Raquel on /Rupture’s radio show last Wednesday, you can still hear it here.

Update! If the audio is no longer available at WFMU, you can stream it below, but see the link above for tracklist, etc.

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Thx to all who came to the NYC book launch events! The Hunter College reception was lovely & lively, and I think Que Bajo!? just mighta been the best party I’ve had the pleasure to play. No mentira. It was really great to have a crowd so primed to dance dembow — and cheer for Tego tracks! Hope to post the audio here pronto. Anyone get pics? I didn’t get drunk & lose my phone, but I did run out of batteries.

Anywho, shouts again to @gekojones and @uprootandy for putting me on! And to everyone who came out and shook a tailfeather–

2 comments

May 6th, 2009

¡Que Libro! ¡Que Bajo!

Hopping the Fung Wah this pm in order to make it down to NYC/FMU in time to join Sñr /Rupture, Sñr Fofana, y mi querida compi, Raquel Rivera, on MuddUp Radio to talk (and play) reggaeton. As Jace sez –

From Panamanians to Playeros to post-DemBoleros, [we]’ll be spinning rarities alongside discussion of the genre’s complex roots and current possibilities.

We’ll be continuing that conversation tomorrow (Thurs, May 7) at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at 6:30 pm in the Faculty Dining Room on the 8th Floor of the West Bldg., Hunter College (68th & Lex). Joining me and Raquel will be two of the stellar contributors to the book, Alexandra Vasquez and Frances Negron Muntaner, as well as the eminent Juan Flores, who wrote the preface and will deliver the main remarks. I’ll offer a muymuy brief tour of reggaeton’s socio-sonic circuitry, and then we’ll mingle to the reggaetony sounds of DJ Mellow G. Should be a blast.

Even blastier, estoy THRILLED that Geko Jones, Uproot Andy, and the extended Dutty Artz fam will be hosting an afterparty at their Latin low-end weekly, Que Bajo! (I’m still holding out, but here’s an FB event page for those of you who’ve joined the ZuckerBorg.)

I’ll be dropping a heavy reggaeton set from about 12-1 and perhaps some additonal sabor on the later side (i.e., early morn) if the vibes are right. You NewYorkers party hard & late! Color me (provincially) impressed, and excited to drop some BASOOKKA bajos on y’all –


Finally, gran thx to alexis for the kind review! To think that our anthology “puts the ‘tra’ in transnational” — well, that just says it better than I ever could.

Looking forward to talking reggaeton, Nueva York. Hasta pronto –

6 comments

May 4th, 2009

Sprungtime

It’s that crazy time of year when everything is due and all is in bloom and blogging can go the wayside. Soon come back, you done know. Big tings a gwaan. Meantime, Nico & her mom “gardening” –



3 comments

Wayne&Wax

I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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