Archive for May, 2010

May 28th, 2010

Wine & Wax

new whirled zin a mostly jovial blend
label designs by my better half, photos by moi

Tomorrow at Mt. Aubury Winery we’re bottling the wines that we began last September. This is the second year that I’ve participated in a longstanding family ritual. I remember my father (re)starting the tradition back in the early 90s in our basement on Cushing Street, his uncle Louie offering some informal, inherited Italian-American expertise, of the sort that tended to result in strong but not very drinkable wines.

In the years since, with the addition of some advanced gadgetry and better knowledge (and appreciation) of what it takes to make good wine, the operation has grown more sophisticated — greater taste, less forte! — and it has moved a couple houses up the street, where it resides in the garage of an old family friend. A couple years ago Rebecca and I went in on the wines with our fellow friend&family stakeholders, and we’ve spent the last year enjoying (and sharing) almost 10 cases of pretty drinkable stuff.

We’re hoping for another yummy yield this year. Since we had good luck with a 70-30% Sangiovese-Merlot (or “Mostly Jovial“) blend last year, we’ve attempted to reproduce that success. And we’ve departed from previous tradition by augmenting the straight Zinfandel we did last year (and they the year before that) with a touch of Ruby Cabernet and Petit Syrah. Given that it’s a blend and that the Zin grape, despite its European origins, is basically an American/Californian varietal (thanks to a post Gold Rush planting boom) — in other words, arguably, a New World grape — I couldn’t resist the (W&W-resonant) pun, “New Whirled Zin.” Fortunately, my co-vintners agreed.

Because it resides in a garage rather than a cool basement, we have to bottle the wine around this time of year lest it get too warm for its own good (the A/C has been intermittently necessary for the past couple weeks), though I’m happy to report that just last week we crushed some Chilean grapes to ferment and then chill in a basement where we can let it age for a full year or more. That they’ve had to be young wines has not been a problem, as they tend to have a juiciness that we really enjoy. At any rate, we’ve run out of last year’s wine, so it’s time for some new sangre.

Anyway, I share all this in part because I haven’t really written about the wine-making side of my life (though friends & followers on Twitter and Flickr have likely been aware — and I’ll likely do some live-tweeting of the bottling tomorrow), and, yknow, wanted to share (or was that brag?). But also to invite any local loyalists to this here humble to come join me, my fam, and some other goodgood bredrin&sistren — THIS SUNDAY — for a little tasting in my backyard.

So if you like wine and you like Wayne — and you’re around this long weekend — bring your cleansed palettes and something to throw pon the grill. According to the Ultimate Wine Lovers Guide 2006:

For food, Zin is barbecue wine, plain and simple. In fact, there’s hardly a better wine-food combo around.

Holler via email/Twitter/comments for deets. S’posed to be a sunny day. Be nice to raise a glass with ya —

young wine in the sun

1 comment

May 27th, 2010

Officially Older Than Jesus

Since I’m not on Facebook, you may not know that today’s my birthday. I’m 34, so I’ve now spent more time on Earth than that sexy guy from Nazareth.

It’s a little unnerving, finding myself undeniably in my mid-30s. It’s not quite “middle age,” despite what my father just said on the phone, but I found some new gray hairs yesterday which pretty much confirm that I’m on a slow slide back to dust. This morning I tried to explain to Nico how many more birthdays I’ve had, compared to her, and I nearly ran out of breath counting across my fingers.

Enough sadsackery, though, it’s good to be alive. Earth strong, seen.

In a nod to my posts for 32 and 33, I could go ahead and say I’m Paul Pierce today, but the Celts’ loss last night puts a little damper on that one. (Plus, I’m really more of a throwback fan than a fairweather fan.) Looking back at those posts, I realize that I missed my 33&1/3 day this past September, which is too bad. But we don’t need calendrical coincidences for an excuse to play some hot vinyl, do we?

Looking into numbers on the internet is a funny thing. Google Images reveals lots of weaponry (tanks, glocks, planes) associated with the number, as well as an Australian highway, and third-trimester bellies.

Wikipedia has this to say:

34 is the ninth distinct semiprime and has four divisors including unity and itself. Its neighbors, 33 and 35 also are distinct semiprimes having four divisors each, and 34 is the smallest number to be surrounded by numbers with the same number of divisors as it has. It is also in the first cluster of three distinct semiprime, being within; 33,34,35, the next such cluster of semiprimes is; 85,86,87.

It is the ninth Fibonacci number and a companion Pell number. Since it is an odd-indexed Fibonacci number, 34 is a Markov number, appearing in solutions with other Fibonacci numbers, such as (1, 13, 34), (1, 34, 89), etc.

This number is the magic constant of a 4 by 4 normal magic square:

The Losties out there may appreciate my ultimately frustrated search for meaning in numbers. (Also, the notion of a “magic constant.”)

The /b/tards and ROFLconners will no doubt be quick to remind of the infamous “Rule 34,” but, c’mon folks, this is a family function.

4 comments

May 26th, 2010

Moar Munchiton

Munchi follows up his moombahton splurge with some flashbacks —

i totally forgot to send you some tracks i worked on in late 2009 that were bubbling but influenced by dominican music. like perico ripiao, bachata or dominican dembow. i had these finished but i was working on a whole concept thing there.

Munchi – Dominican Bubbling Battle 2009

Didnt have a name for it so i called it like that. Sampled and cutted up a perico ripiao song, vocals from dominican dembow and with the oldskool bubbling taste. this kind of oldskool bubbling was my favorite, all over the place and so much going on going from slow to fast. made this right after i saw a bubbling battle video from 1995.

And here’s the video in question. Inspiring indeed!

Seriously, what a style! Dude gets LOOOSE. He’s totally syncing with bubbling’s distinctive double-time/half-time herky-jerk, and, like the genre, seemingly drawing on two kinds of raving at once: of the dancehall reggae sort, and of the hardcore techno sort. I like the nods to robot-style popping-and-locking, the plasticman wobbling, and all the transmuted bits of bubbling — and that’s bubbling in the original Caribbean sense. Butterfly, butterfly, mek we do the…

Munchi also shares a couple of tracks that seem to spring uniquely from his Dominican-Dutch circumstances:

Munchi – Mambo Con Sazon

which he describes as

Bachata guitar with also the bachata percussion and the familiar bubbling slowing down and speeding up. I was plannin to put a female reggeton artist on this track she would fit the track perfectly with the energy she brings.

And here’s one more to round things out. Munchi sez:

I made this in 2007 and its mostly bubbling but it flows into baile funk and reggeton
and it got me a bit of exposure back then lol.

Munchi – Nex Aan Te Doen Prt. 1

If it wasn’t clear in my previous post, I love the way that Munchi’s productions are so situated in the particular musical-cultural networks (actual and virtual) in which he finds himself situated (and actively situates himself, as with such keywords as “baile funk” and with, y’know, enthusiastic emails to bloggers like me and Dave Quam).

In light of these latest, I’ve been thinking about Munchiton — a genre all Munchi’s own (even though he’s personally embracing the moombahton tag) — with regard to a resonant quotation from DJ Earworm in that “borrowing culture” documentary I shared last week:

…in the future, when people listen to music, everyone’s gonna have their own custom remix … You heard that new song, yeah, check out my version. Oh yeah, check out my version. That’s not gonna be DJ culture that’s just gonna be culture.

In an age of FruityLoopy GarageBands, I think we’re just about already there. Sometimes this is called “remix culture,” sometimes “participatory culture,” sometimes “read-write culture,” sometimes “free culture.” Before too long, though, Earworm’s right: we’re going to stop thinking of remix practice as the exception, instead realizing that the 20th century’s “read-only” broadcast culture was an anomaly in human history and embracing the imperative to mix-and-mash all the stuff around us as what culture’s really about.

Along these lines, I’m enamored of the idea that not only will everyone be enmeshed in collectively, co-creating culture, right down to versioning the latest global (or local) hits, but that these efforts, in any particular instantiation (e.g., Munchi’s work), might yet coalesce into something even more unruly and awesome: genres of our own. New whirled music. Munch, crunch, mulch. Repeat.

7 comments

May 24th, 2010

Shake Yr Funky Fulbright

Tonight’s Beat Research appearance by Canyon Cody and his Gnawledgable cohorts gives me a nice opportunity to lavish some overdue praise.

I first met Canyon not via internets but thru my brother, a classmate and friend of Canyon’s at Boston College. My bro suspected we’d have a lot to talk about, and he was right. It’s been a real pleasure to conversate with Canyon over the last several years — not least because he sometimes sends actual letters, awesome layered objects which, in their pretty palimpsests, embody a zine-inspired, material-culture-meets-remix-culture-in-a-dark-corner-of-the-library aesthetic.

letter from canyon

His projects take similar shapes (right down to customized, zine-like design). Most notably to date, back in 2008, Canyon received a Fulbright grant to support an ambitious attempt to represent / reanimate the past & present of Granada, Spain, using open-sourcey hip-hop collaboration as the form and method of his investigation. (You can guess why this sort of serious — but inherently playful — beat research would resonate with me.) Produced in partnership with talented beatsmith (and MC) Gnotes, and some sixteen other musicians based in Granada, the culmination of the work — if always in-progress (see here for stems, and here for remixes) — is a collection of songs called Granada Doaba, which continues to take shape as an album with hyperlinked, multimedia footnotes.

Canyon’s ethical and imaginative engagement with the musical signs and social history of a particular (but thickly networked) place strikes me as exemplary of what I’d like to think of as a certain sort of applied ethnomusicology, but it’s a form generally unrecognized by the gatekeepers of official ethnodom. To wit, here’s a quotation from one of ethnomusicology’s towering (and still looming) figures, Alan Merriam, from an email Canyon once sent to me, as it happens:

Ethnomusicology is not creative in the same sense that the artist is creative; it does not seek to communicate emotion or feeling, but rather knowledge.

I’m sure it’s clear that I profoundly disagree, but I’m not exactly in the mainstream either (nor am I seeking to position the field for Cold War-era funding, in Merriam’s defense). I see this as an enduring bias in my “discipline,” a myopia even. And obviously, I try to put alternative ideas into practice. Frankly, given the present academic market (in humanities/music) I’m not sure a PhD is the best bet for folks like Canyon, and I’ve had some fun quibbles with him over the years, telling him he shouldn’t describe himself as an “ethnomusicologist” — in part because he hasn’t really paid his dues like that, but mainly because I’m not sure it serves him so well, or best describes what he does. At any rate, it brings me no little pleasure — and lots of hope — that people like Canyon are finding funding for projects like this. (E.g., lots of Fulbright love for my peoples this spring: shouts to Tally and Greg!)

GRANADA DOABA

Elsewhere Canyon describes Granada Doaba as “an academic experiment in instrumental hip-hop rooted in flamenco and Middle Eastern music.” That works as well for me as anything, and while I don’t want to downplay the degree to which it’s rooted in a rigorous attempt to understand Granada’s cultural and social history, the sound of the results are anything but “academic.” In the end, I hear Canyon’s approach as more rooted in hip-hop than ethnomusicology, and that’s probably for the best. At least with regard to listenability.

If it’s a question of audience, I hope that Canyon and crew have found — and continue to find — the right ears. Dogwhistling through the din, Canyon’s poetics, so steeped in bloglandic, mirrors the playful blurring so central to creativity (and anathema to academia) as it enjoys a poetic license — dare I say a soul? — absent from so much academic work on music:

We wanted to make music that celebrated the convivencia of Al-Andalus. Spain’s Fulbright committee and the US Senate thought it not such a bad idea; they even offered to fund our experiment for 9 months. We built a simple studio and invited everyone in Granada to contribute their voices. We conducted our research with storytellers and learned how to listen from instrument makers. We borrowed ideas with library cards, gnawing on thoughts slow-cooked. We file-shared memories retold from grandparents, spinning creation myths in a cipher of youth. We dug for fossils at pawnshops, where we found hungry lectures on the cheap. … In practice we found diversity in contrast to be our greatest strength. We danced a lot in Granada.

It’s got an even better ring on paper, syneasthetically speaking —

history is ours!
canyon assumed, correctly, that i’d like a copy with an MPC in it

Now, like any good hip-hop/ologist worth his salt (and pepa), Canyon keeps it moving, so there’s no telling what he’ll share with us in Cambridge this evening. With so many musicians involved, it promises to be lively. But I’d be downright remiss if in telling you about tonight, I didn’t finally give Granada Doaba the serious shine it deserves. So I hope I’ve finally acquitted myself on that count. (Next up lol: the two-year-old draft post bigging up Martin’s Margins Music!)

If you haven’t already, go download it — and find some time to gnaw on the extended entries for each track (try the amazing story of “El Manisero de Potemkin” for starts, especially if you dig the sort of wild genealogical posts that chiefs like Boima been putting up).

& if you’re in town tonight, come on thru and check El Canyonazo.

No predictions, but it might sound a little something like this:

Wild Jack Salt by DJ Canyon
Canyon

2 comments

May 14th, 2010

¡Postopolis DF!

Readers of this blog should know my love for Mexico City by now, so it’s with great pleasure that I announce my participation in Postopolis DF! A 5-day conference-conversation on urbanism in one of the world’s most amazing cities… In other words, if you were thinking of coming to DF this summer, now’s a great time… And don’t worry gringos, vamos a tener realtime Spanish-English translation for y’all. It’s going down the second week of June, June 8-12, at El Eco…

Oh wait, I didn’t write that (though I share the sentiment). DJ Rupture did. Which is yet another reason that I’m totally thrilled to be a part of

I didn’t write this either:

From 8-12 June 2010, Storefront for Art and Architecture, in partnership with Museo
Experimental El Eco
, Tomo and Domus Magazine, will host the third edition of Postopolis!, a
public five-day session of near-continuous conversation curated by some of the world?s most
prominent bloggers from the fields of architecture, art, urbanism, landscape, music and design.
10 world-renowned bloggers from Los Angeles, New York, Turin, Barcelona, London and
elsewhere will convene in one location in Mexico City to host a series of discussions, interviews,
slideshows, presentations, films and panels fusing the informal and interdisciplinary approach of
the architecture blogosphere with rare face-to-face interaction.

Each day, the 10 participating bloggers will meet in the magnificent courtyard of Museo
Experimental El Eco, designed by Matthias Goeritz, to conduct back-to-back interviews of some
of Mexico City?s most influential thinkers and practitioners – including architects, city planners,
artists and urban theorists but also military historians, filmmakers, photographers, activists and
musicians. The talks will be conducted in either Spanish or English, and translations will be
available. Each day of talks will end with an after-party hosted by some of Mexico City?s most
influential music blogs.

But I’ll be writing a lot while there, no doubt. (They’re turbo-charging the internettings at El Eco for the occasion.) And I’m really excited about how my slate of invites is coming along.

Not surprising to readers here, I’ll be staging a conversation (or two) around hip-hop in DF. Minding that the conference is concerned, in a rather capacious way, with questions of space and design, I’m aiming to focus on what we might consider hip-hop’s institutional embeddedness in Mexico City. Mil gracias to my man on the ground, Camilo Smith, a former writer for the Source and the LA Times (and smokingsection!), who’s been grinding in DF for the past year, looking hard into the local hip-hop scene(s). Check out this post on transnational “cholo rap” for a taste (or see the comments here).

With Camilo’s help, I’m plotting to bring in an assortment of MCs, DJs, and other practitioners as well as people who are directly involved in manufacturing, distributing, and, in a variety of ways, producing hip-hop there (in the form of shows, CDs, magazines, etc.). I’d like to ask questions about what it entails to run an independent label in DF, how the spaces where shows are held and music is exchanged fit into the larger music/media topography of the city, what’s the character of the interplay between locally and foreign produced stuff, not to mention, at the more symbolic level, how questions of race and place come into this. We’ll see how much of that we can jam in / tease out over a couple 15 minute blocks!

Camilo also turned me on to some striking visual artists working in the city and making stuff that really resonates with other longstanding curiosities of mine. One such, who I’m thrilled to announce is confirmed for Postopolis, is Said Dokins, whose work is very much in the vein of contemporary subversive street art which finds deep inspiration in graffiti style and practice. Take for example the recent piece, “Avionazo en la Plazuela,” a project pasting paper planes in the Plaza del Aguilita in Mexico City which the artist describes as “a satirical reflection on the mechanisms of threat and power in which we are engaged, the political farces and scenarios created at the expense of the suffering and disruption of others”:


click through for more images

…whereas “Re-Birth” a work of video art produced w/ Mauricio Rodriguez takes flight from graffiti culture in a totally different way —

Another artist who Camilo pointed me to, and who I’ve confirmed for Postopolis, Trinidadian ex-pat Wendell McShine, also works in mixed media, including video, like this evocative short:

EL PEQUEÑO LIBRO NEGRO from wendell mc shine on Vimeo.

The video above is apparently a sketch of some sort for an ongoing series called “La Puerta Abierta.” It’s clearly inspired by a lot of classic Mexican iconography, and yet it takes some wonderful departures too, drawing on some shared cosmological ground between Mexico and the Caribbean. McShine recently had a showing of another part of the series, “Behind the Blue Door,” at Gallery FIFTY24MX | Upper Playground in Mexico City. The following video account of the opening drew me in with the Slum Village intro; the evidently enthusiastic response his art is getting in Mexico City is impressive —

OPENING NIGHT- BEHIND THE BLUE DOOR from wendell mc shine on Vimeo.

This article about McShine’s work led me to an interview with the folks who run Upper Playground Mexico. Some of their comments at the end of that interview, where McShine’s art is described as combining “animation, illustration and fine art with a mixed Caribbean-Mexican feeling” made me really wonder about how we can talk (concretely?) about making contemporary art inspired by national folklore (whether it’s one’s “own” nation or not) without, as the Upper Playground people put it with regard to another artist, “falling to cliché.”

But let me back up a bit, the artist in question is Saner (glossed as a “graffiti artist” in the video above) and what they specifically say about him is that he’s “one of the few Mexican artists that explore our countries [sic] folklore without falling to cliché.” I couldn’t resist looking into Saner’s work of course, and it’s hot like fire (sometimes literally).



So I’m psyched to round out my invited speakers with the trio of Wendell McShine, Saner, and Lili Carpinteyro, one of the head honchos at Upper Playground Mexico. I haven’t quite figured out, as with the hip-hop invites, how best to parse all of these fascinating intersections, but I’m looking forward to the challenge — and to the privilege of enjoying such (humbling) power of invitation!

Finally, it should go without saying that I can hardly contain myself in anticipation of the other 50 or so fascinating folks who’ll be coming through and sharing some aspect of what they do. Click through my esteemed blogger colleagues’ sites for their own announcements in the coming days and weeks —

Urban Omnibus (Cassim Shepard) www.urbanomnibus.net/
Intersections (Daniel Hernandez) www.danielhernandez.typepad.com/
DPR Barcelona (Ethel Barona Pohl) www.dpr-barcelona.com
Toxico Cultura (Gabriella Gomez-Mont): www.toxicocultura.com/
Tomo (Guillermo Ruiz de Teresa) www.tomo.com.mx
Mudd Up! (Jace Clayton aka DJ /rupture) www.negrophonic.com/
Edible Geography (Nicola Twilley) www.ediblegeography.com/
We Make Money Not Art (Regine Debatty) http://we-make-money-not-art.com/
Strangeharvest (Sam Jacob) www.strangeharvest.com

Oh and did I mention there’ll be evening events organized by local music bloggers, Blog Non Stop, and that I’ll be playing some 3-5 parties alongside DJ /Rupture and N-RON? (More on those later.)

Suffice to say, if you’re in Mexico City, or have some way to get there, you should definitely join us for this. Seems like it might even rise to the level of amazingness that makes DF one of my favorite places in the world. This’ll be my third time there in three years. ¡Que suerte!

Ok, back to that odd mezcla of rusty Spanish brain and Google Translate as we continue making plans…

Postopolis! DF is organised by Storefront for Art and Architecture, and presented in partnership with El Eco, Tomo, and Domus. Additional sponsors include Mexicana, the British Embassy, Urbi VidaResidencial, UNAM, Difusión Cultural UNAM, Cityexpress, and XXLager. Special thanks to the organizers: Joseph Grima, Daniel Perlin, César Cotta, José Esparza, and Blog Non Stop.

4 comments

May 14th, 2010

Walking on Eggshells

The students in Elizabeth Stark‘s class at Yale this semester, “Intellectual Property in the Digital Age,” have put together a wonderful 24-minute documentary on “borrowing culture in the remix age,” including some really smart, confident, eloquent, and creative people (though I’d have liked to see some browner faces in the mix). Anyway, do check it out; it’s worth it for the mindblowing Eclectic Method intro alone —

2 comments

May 11th, 2010

Real Wreck a Nice Real

I’ve been trying to get Dave Tompkins to come do a reading in town this spring from his much anticipated and well-worth-waiting-for book, How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop (Stop Smiling 2010). An afternoon at MIT followed by a night of vocoder-animated Beat Research seemed pretty apropos, but thanks to Dave’s busy touring schedule, that’ll have to wait for the fall when the students are back in town.

For now, I’m enthused to report that Dave will be striking while the book’s hot off the presses — and rounding up several of the knowingest headz in the Greater Northeast to drop robot-vox’d electro jams and other space oddities in support. For reals, with a lineup featuring the likes of Chairman Mao, Hua Hsu, 7L, and Brian Coleman, we’re talking about some serious rapmuzik braintrust in the house. And the Good Life has a pretty accommodating system for big slabs of thunder-croak proto-crunk.

There’ll be a slide show too, and believe me, you want to see these pics blown up. I’ve been working my way through Dave’s book in little sittings for a couple weeks now, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold. Almost every page has some awesome (and awesomely captioned) photo in it. (Props to Stop Smiling for making this sort of package pretty affordable.) The whole thing is just brimming with arcane knowledge jewels. And Dave has long been one of my favorite hip-hop writers, a man with his own muse to be sure. Plenty of times he’s way over my head (and maybe in over his own — though I don’t get that impression). Either way, I want more music writing to be like his: informed, imaginative, idiosyncratic.

To whet, here’s one of my favorite passages so far, drawn somewhat at random since, really, such nuggets are a dime a dozen (all dimes well spent, I might add). Fifty pages into the strange history of the vocoder, we’re told that —

Hollywood would have to wait. All things wondrous, stupendous, complicated and confusing must report to the army first. Though the World’s Fair could make claims on the future, the military officially had dibs on tomorrow. Long before the vocoder played the voice of a missile-happy Cold War supercomputer in 1970’s Colossus: The Forbin Project, it held an underground desk job, scrambling the phone calls of the army’s triple-chinned brass. Patriotic orders to fill, eggs to scramble. Things to come, things to do.

Writing in the New Yorker, Martian-mongerer H.G. Wells precidcted that the World’s Fair would introduce teleconferencing, a snooze button of a prophecy but less dooming than the atomic conflict he foresaw in his 1914 book The World Set Free. Ray Bradbury, the loud blond dreamer, was terrified. No squid lady could distract him from the prospect of the sky above whistling straight to hell.

Those at the Fair who eavesdropped on Bradbury’s free call to Los Angeles probably just admired the clarity, marveling at voices shooting across time zones. Perhaps they mistook his modulated quaver for homesickness, not the fear that he’d never again see his parents. I love you. I miss you. I’m broke.

“We were a few days away from World War Two,” he tells me. “The sense then was that in a few months the world was going to destroy itself. The world then proceeded to kill forty million people. I thought I might be destroyed too. I looked up into the sky, smelled gun powder and saw the war coming.” That night, July 4th, standing in the glow of the fireworks, the world’s blindest stegosaurus fan saw the sky on fire and cried.

For more, see some of Dave’s previous writings collected over at Stop Smiling. I also recommend this lengthy Q&A with Mike Powell. And do pick up a copy of the book. Ten years in the making, “support” hardly says it.

So, see you there, my locals? I mean, I’m saying: Boston is pretty close to Ground Zero for the vocoder. Wreck a nice.

3 comments

May 5th, 2010

version a version (riddim meth0d repost)

[Ok, while I'm grinding on non-bloggy things, let me keep things moving here by offering up another from the riddimmeth0d vaults. I'm happy to report that I've since discovered more info about the origins of "Bird In Hand" here, which points out that the female singer on "Milte hi aankhein dil huwa" (from the 1950 film Babul, directed by Raj Kapoor) is not Geeta Dutt as I initially reported but rather Shamshad Begum. I also want to note that just about three years ago, my mashup of the Lee Perry recording and its filmi inspiration worked its way into a podcast by Mick Sleeper (mp3) devoted to odd remixes of Perry's odd remixes. Finally, given the recent uptick around Dutch club music thanks to the moombahton movement, I'm pleased to note that the second track here employs a classic bubbling loop. This post was initially published on 27 April 2006.]


worldclass warblers talat mahmood and geeta dutt

several months ago, matt woebot called attention to another amazing instance of far-flung musical connections. in this case, a filmi melody turning up in a lee perry-produced dub track. i myself had always wondered about the odd, haunting melody of “bird in hand” (on return of the super ape), but like many listeners i suppose i chalked it up to that ol’ wacky jamaican creativity or assumed it was amharic or something. recorded in 1978, the song foreshadows reggae’s embrace of the bollywood sound by a cool twenty-five years.

even more remarkable, whereas contemporary dancehall producers tend to simply sample lata and conjure the east with tabla patches, here we have an amazingly faithful engagement on the part of the singer, versioning the melody like alton ellis doing sam cooke and drawing out suggestive vocables (ma-ri-wa-a). (woebot’s post points to more info, but one of the more explanatory pages is down so i’ve linked to it though the waybackmachine here. [update: actually, I'm afraid that page is no longer viewable at archive.org b/c it "has been blocked by the site owner via robots.txt"; I can't seem to find it on Mick Sleeper's site either; shame.])

as you might have anticipated, i couldn’t resist mashing the two versions together, hearing – as on “big gyptian” – one complement (and perhaps compliment) the other, filmi singers over dread riddims. (properly speaking, i guess what i’ve done is more like “blending” – no pellas, mang – but, importantly, via digital cut’n’play.) i’ve arranged the two so as to play up their relationship, lining them up and juxtaposing them toward the end, letting the versions share a chorus before their forms (which, despite all the melodic fidelity, are far from identical) diverge too much. i also pitch- and time-shifted the filmi song slightly, playing it a little higher and a tad faster so as to better ride the upsetters’ deep one-drop.


wayne&wax, “a bird in hand is worth two a yard”

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[as is par for the course, the filmi version itself is full of far-flung musical connections. note, for example, the tango-derived piano figure in the opening.]

/ .. / .. /


del shannon and max crook’s musitron

as i was cooking up my segment of our lemon-red mix, i was suddenly inspired to include del shannon’s “runaway” (well mixed’n’mashed, of course). given that it seems a less than obvious choice (see comment #3), why did i think this was a good idea? i’m not totally sure. i suppose that some aesthetic doors had been opened for me by bmore’s affinity for oldies as well as hip-hop’s recent embrace of doo-wop. (indeed, as it turns out, not only has bobby vinton been sampled and frankie lymon channeled but, apparently, shannon’s “runaway” has itself been tapped recently – pressed into service for the crossover-courting comeback of NYC’s kulcha don. ) but the main reason i even had the song ready to remix is because i recently picked up a bunch of 60s pop to play at moms’s birthday party. (where people – mostly aunts – were getting down to some golden oldies, boy.)

given the degree to which i’m tampering with it, i was delighted to learn that “runaway” is itself quite a product of electronic technologies. (you can read a detailed account of the story of the song on del shannon’s site.) for one, the track’s famous keyboard solo also happens to be one of the first appearances of a synthesizer (the musitron!) on a pop/rock’n’roll record. second, and significant, del shannon’s voice – which i have chipmunked here (along with the entire song) – was itself pitch-shifted for the original! so all you oldies fans who always wondered how he hit those alvin-esque high notes can now revel in the knowledge that del actally recorded the song in a lower range to a slowed-down accompaniment:

Upon his return to Detroit, producer Harry Balk listened to the tapes only to hear that Shannon was singing too flat. Balk liked the song’s potential and suggested to his partner, Irving Micahnik, that Shannon be flown back to New York to re-cut the vocals. Again, Shannon was nervous and singing flat. Having spent a lot of money on studio time and expenses, Balk and Micahnik were very concerned. Balk and Big Top Records president Johnny Beinstock turned to the owner of Bell Sound for help and advice. The owner developed a machine, the size of a desk, that would enable the tapes to be sped up and slowed down. This allowed Balk to speed up Shannon’s vocals to nearly one-and-a-half times it’s original speed to bring him into key. “We finally got Del on key, and it sounded great, but it didn’t sound like Del,” explained Balk. “We mixed it anyhow, and it came out wonderful. (source)

and i was quite pleased to discover that my chipmunked, boston-bounced, merengue-mashed remix not only seems in line with the original both technologically and aesthetically, but also – considering del shannon’s frank admission of alluding to “stealing” other people’s music – philosophically and ethically:

Shannon, too, was ahead of his time, being one of the first white boys to sing falsetto on record. “I learned falsetto from The Ink Spots’ ‘We Three,'” Shannon would explain in a 1989 interview. “I eventually got hooked on Jimmy Jones’ ‘Handy Man’ in ’59 and would sing that at the Hi-Lo Club. I always had the idea of ‘running away’ somewhere in the back of my mind. ‘I wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder, why…’ I borrowed from Dion & The Belmonts’ ‘I Wonder Why.’ The beats you hear in there, ‘…I wonder, bam-bam-bam, I wa-wa…’ I stole from Bobby Darin’s ‘Dream Lover.’ We all steal from the business you know. When ‘Runaway’ went to #1, people stole from me. That’s the way the record business is played.” (source)

well said. ahem:

wayne&wax, “runaway imagination”

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[as you can see, i'm mixing the chipmunked "runaway" with loops from the merengue-mix of lil jon's "get low" as well as additional percussion courtesy of a bubblin' loop, "Beat-005" (itself a far-flung thing, filtering dancehall/soca through dutch happy hardcore) and a few boston bounce layers, namely that swingin' hi-hat and syncopatedly-snappin' snare.]

1 comment

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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