So, I know it seems like it’s been a quiet year here at W&W. It’s true that posts dropped off precipitously once things warmed up in May and I found myself outside with the kids a lot more often than at my laptop. My tweets and flicks have never really slowed — to the contrary actually, being easier outlets — but since my postdoc at MIT finished up, full-time daddy duty and part-time employment have clearly taken a toll on the frequency of my blogging.
I want to remedy that in 2012, since this remains one of the most fulfilling spaces/practices in my life. I’m a little sad that the conversation here has been gutted by, in addition to my own pauses, the dispersions of RSS, Twitter & FB, etc. But c’est la vie. I want to thank all of you who still stop by occasionally and tell me that you’ve missed me. I’ve missed you too, and I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
Anyway, to show I haven’t been a total slouch and since I never make actual end-of-year lists (despite plenty of kind invitations) and since many might have missed a gem or two buried under Beat Research announcements (which are sometimes jewels themselves), I figured I’d take this opportunity to be a bit of a self-linking jerk and put together a list of my own favorite bloggy/art/media work of the last year.
Hope you find some things worth revisiting — or checking for the first time. 2011 may have been slow here at W&W, but it hardly lacked for excitement. 2012 looms large. See you on the other side!
The first isn’t technically from 2011 but a late entry from 2010 that may have been missed by some already drawn deep into last year’s holidaze. It traces Bangladesh’s “Banana Boat” sample for Lil Wayne’s “6 Foot 7 Foot” to Harry Belafonte’s own complex engagements with the song. A classic tale of tangled musical borrowings and the meanings they make.
I <3 Dembow Dominicano. The way DR producers and audiences have held the torch aloft for the mid-90s proto-reggaeton style pioneered by Playero and The Noise collective is one piece of evidence that reggaeton hasn't at all run out of gasolina. So much more to say about this exciting scene, especially if Venus ever gets me the DR dembow playlist she’s promised.
It’s not that I have so much to say about this as much as I still find it a totally fascinating example of how hip-hop (and US gangster style more generally) can travel and take shapes so obviously recognizable and yet so utterly foreign. Sin duda, Movimiento Alterado deserves a place in the rich story of hip-hop / African-American style in Mexico.
The first of several multimedia works I produced this year, this beat-matched YouTube collage realizes a longstanding dream of setting as many renditions of the pasodoble/bullfight classic, “España Cañi,” to the remarkably consonant, revved up riffs of Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina.” Muchas gracias otra vez a NWLA.tv for the encouragement to get this made!
A troika of posts on SoundCloud and some clownings thereon serve to extend the anxiety of my “Platform Politricks” post from Dec 2010. With the help of a couple illustrative mashups and a great number of embeds, these posts examine both the remarkable activity and collateral damage facilitated by increasingly popular “platforms” for socially-networked media-sharing at a moment when cut-n-paste creativity is more commonplace than ever but so are the blunt tools of copyright.
St.Paddy’s Day gave me reason to realize another funny little musical experiment I’d been considering. Noting that the signature rhythm of the hot new dance music from Mexico, tribal guarachera, has a lot in common with traditional Irish jams, I couldn’t resist a little timely juxtaposition — and to connect them to some interesting Mexican-Irish lore.
My first contribution to the awesome & insurgent Cluster Mag, edited by Max Pearl & co., this little megamix bumps its way through an overview of how very pliant and popular a tune can be. Obviously, I find audible genealogies utterly mesmerizing, and this buoyant melody makes the voyage a dream, not at all unlike rowing a boat gently downstream.
An examination of Colombia’s choque dance craze — and by extension, debates about race and sexuality and nation raised by spectacular copulative dance more generally — this was maybe my all-time fave post of the year, and perhaps the most praised around the net as well. It’s also another example of how reggaeton rages on, global and local as ever. I love this dance so much, and its oddly kindred relation to disco’s “bump,” that I couldn’t resist using my 2nd contribution to Cluster Mag to follow up with a funny but edifying montage, namely –
A directly related item to the last couple, of course, is my recent attempt to sketch out a brief history of perreo in order to provide context for a review of some recent headline grabbing versions of the form. Read and see how 16th century Spanish clergy, 1930s West Indian editorialists in Costa Rica, post-millennial Puerto Rican senators, and 2009’s Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica all agree to be aghast at the sexy socializing/socialization of “kids these days.”
Last but not nearly least, I’m thrilled to share by the end of this year a project long in the making. Boston Pirate Party is a radio-sourced follow-up to the Boston Mashacre and Smashacre, and it is accompanied, over at Cluster Mag, by a short essay reflecting on the significance of Boston’s community radio renaissance (if it can even be said that such an utterly local radio scene ever existed here before). If a Caribbean-centered soundscape seems implausible for this town with such a rep for whiteness and the segregation that produces it, do let me lend you my ears. Here’s hoping that Boston might yet seem as open & lively as the airwaves suggest.
This week in Cluster Mag I’ve got a piece that follows up on my late summer production & performance, at metaLAB’s openLAB_03, of a personal(ized) archive of Boston’s radio soundscape. The centerpiece of “Love That Muddy Ether” is Boston Pirate Party, an ode to an increasingly diversified sound of the city thanks to insurgent transmissions, especially from Boston’s Caribbean core, in and around Dorchester.
Initially, metaLAB’s Jesse Shapins suggested something along the lines of the Mashacre and Smashacre, and I like how this latest mix builds on these previous takes on Boston’s sound (or similarly, for Kingston, Jamaican Radio Edit); ironically, and to its credit, Boston Pirate Party offers a more accurate representation of the sound of Boston than any collection of music recorded by people who happen to be from hereabouts (which is what guided the selections, however iconoclastic, on Mashacre and Smashare).
“Love That Muddy Ether” presents a mix of reflections on the potentials and pitfalls of low-power radio in Boston (and the emphasis is definitely on power here) and an explanation of the poetics behind the mix I’ve made, which, though it has its moments, is not the typical zuper-smoove DJ mix; for all the looping and tweaking involved (and there’s a lot), it’s a bit more of a jagged and figurative thing. Might be best on headphones, or in a car. Anyway, let me lend you my ears for a minute and sing a song of Boston.
And here’s a video of the Ableton Live session if you want to visually track the audio objects –
As it happens, I get to share this latest endeavor in suggestive sound studies (which some might read as applied ethnomusicology) at the same time as some other fine ethno/musicological works are making the rounds. So let me point to a few kindred efforts — all well worth your time if your interests overlap with ours at W&W. (And I don’t say that sort of thing about ethno/musicological work all that often.)
The first is very much in the realm of remix-as-creative-archival-practice, and — it turns out — this very blog appears to have played a part in its genesis. After seeing A Tribe Called Red mentioned here, UCLA’s Nolan Warden got in touch with DJ NDN about working with samples from the Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University. Having noticed that although the group “sample from a lot of Native American music” their sources tend to be “commercial recordings of drum groups,” Nolan made the rather ethnomusicologisty gesture (that’s vergleichendemuzikwissenschaftig in the original German) of offering, via email, to connect A Tribe Called Red with some digitized cylinder recordings featuring members of their respective tribes (Cayuga and Ojibway).
Read the rest of the story here and check out the audio and some pics here — or hear it direct via ATCR:
The same new issue of Ethnomusicology Review includes an article that should be of interest to any who have been interested in the contentious discussions around “new” “world” music over the last several years. I first heard a version of this paper on a panel where I was a co-presenter at the 2007 meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology, and I’m glad to see it finally take shape and to circulate so publicly. David Font-Navarrete’s “File Under ‘Import’: Musical Distortion, Exoticism, and Authenticité in Congotronics” takes the remarkable international success — and marketing / discursive reception — of Konono No. 1 as its central concern, considering “promotional materials, press articles, reviews, and blogs” to argue that “representations of Konono’s music amplify and distort problematic issues of musical technology, exoticism, tradition, and authenticity.”
Along the same lines but focusing on the realm of reissues — or in today’s theoretical parlance, “remediations” — of the music of the world (out there), David Novak’s new article in Public Culture, “The Sublime Frequencies of New Old Media” is a crucial contribution to some longstanding debates. You can read a provocative excerpt here, and there’s also a supplementary page filled with linkthink. Also, as one who tweeted in annoyance when first noticing the full article resided behind a paywall, I’m happy to report that, like an increasing number of scholars, David has posted a pdf of the article on his page at UCSB.
[Next-day Update! I totally blanked on mentioning something quite important about the work of both Davids to whose papers I point above -- and something that more deeply connects their work to the other stuff I'm highlighting here -- namely, that both have been engaged in rather "applied" kinds of projects as well as bringing that knowledge to bear on their more formal/traditional scholarship. Dave Novak, no dabbler in electronic music, has himself done the sort of recording during his travels, for instance, that might make for a rather sublimey compilation of (putatively) foreign frequencies; and for his part, David Font-Navarrete's Elegua Records releases sparkly, gritty, slowly evolving productions that take into their abstracted orbits everything from mbira, to flamenco, to punchy static made from scratch. It's a tad remarkable that neither author situates their essays in these personal practices, but they are an important background to bear in mind when reading.]
simply demonstrates how those women’s semitones have nothing to do with discord, dissonance, horror films, stabbings in the shower or anything else commonly associated with such sounds in Western Europe, North America, etc.
& he adds,
Besides, personally I think those seven women kick proverbial butt with their semitones
This was supposed to be a last minute entreaty to recruit a few more backers for Filastine’s attempt to kickstart the making of two rad music videos. But I just looked over at the page again, and it turns out it’s totally funded. Woo-hoo! Go go crowd-sourced critical culture! (That said, it’s still a great way to get his next album.)
As with most things Filastine involves himself in, I couldn’t endorse this project enough, and I’m thrilled to see it going forward. A singular artist-activist, Filastine gets creative when it comes to making stuff — and distributing it — recently offering up project-related mixtapes, appearing on occupy-themed compilations, and releasing tracks on his own label alongside a baker’s dozen remixes. And here’s an “artist statement” of sorts, via an email sent around about the project, to die for rise up with:
In case you you haven’t noticed, there is a worldwide uprising for social justice and against the supremacy of finance. From Cairo to Madrid, NYC to Oakland, it’s an exciting time to be alive. This dispersed movement against power and corporatism has re-inspired me, and given some hope that my art might resonate with a new public and reinforce the insurrectionary meme.
While I’m here, then, let me give a nod to another active kickstarter project worthy of some support. A longtime collaborator with Filastine, Maga Bo has recently finished his next album and is looking to help round out the release. Go over there and see what Bo’s offering in exchange for a little backative.
Also, while I’m here, I may as well send out a BIG big-up to Kickstarter itself. I’ve been roundly delighted with the projects I’ve supported there this year — the Loog Guitar, Beyond Digital, Music from Saharan Cellphones, and others — and in addition to the satisfaction of having helped these projects come to fruition, I’ve got some great stuff to show & play with & listen to as a result.
All that said, there may be a day in the near future when your favorite bloggers’ favorite bloggers ask you to do a little something for a little something we’ve got stewing. Watch out 2012!
Allow me to point you over to Norient.com, where I’ve just contributed an article that attempts a brief history of perreo and other “spectacular copulative” dances, including a glance at such recent instantiations as daggering, perreo chacalonero, and of course, choque.
Longtime readers know I’ve been working to develop an analysis of such practices — and their fraught reception in local and extra-local spheres — for sometimenow (often in collaboration with queridas colegas). The invitation from Norient — in conjunction with their 3rd annual music-film festival (ostensibly to help frame the screening of this doc) — was a fine opportunity to provide some historical perspective, as well as to offer a concise primer on the central questions of power and race/gender at the heart of debates around such dances.
It’s a short piece, so it only scrapes the surface really, but here’s hoping it proves a stimulating read and leads to a richer framework for our discussion and dancing alike. Here’s a teaser, but do click on through –
Sexual pantomime runs deep through dance, not surprisingly, and moral panic right alongside. In the New World and trans-colonial Europe, Afrodiasporic rhythms like reggaeton’s dembow (for some, a synonym for perreo) have repeatedly engendered the kind of intimate dance that provokes policing along the lines of race, class, and age, usually under the banners of Christian moral authority or the civilizing imperatives of nation-building.
Among other predecessors of perreo, consider the European reception of the zarabanda, a high-energy dance first recorded in Panama in 1539. In his book on the music of Cuba, Ned Sublette describes the zarabanda as “a mimetic dance that simulated sexual action” which “ruled” dance floors in Spain for 30 years around the turn of the 17th century despite clergy attempts to suppress it with threats of whippings for men and exile for women.
Another fascinating forbear appears in new research from historian Lara Putnam who turned up archival evidence of weekly “reggee” dances held in the early 1930s by West Indian migrants to Costa Rica. Propelled by jazz, mento, and tango and tarred by reports of coarse language, public drinking, and vulgar dancing, the parties appear in local newspapers as causes for concern, at odds with notions of racial uplift held by local editorialists who recommended that organizers instruct musicians “not to play any pieces which may be a temptation to those spectacular copulative gyrations.”
So super siked about Beat Research 2nite! We’ve got not one but two local luminaries, Ivanna Bergese (aka DJ Philomena) and Pete DevNull, two of my all-time favoritest lovers of music and dance and total stalwarts and supporters of so many scenes here that they really do each deserve an award.
In lieu of that, though, the least we can do is turnout to hear them the way they do for us. I’ll be there, but that’s my “job” (a labor of love if ever). Here’s hoping, if you’re local, that you too can join us in our little basement lab with the booming system. Should be a vibes.