March 27th, 2014
Over at Complex, David Drake offers up a supercut that “trac[es] the lineage of the Migos flow” — that is, the 8th note triplets that underpin “Versace” and have been making waves across the rap world.
For Drake, the recent, remarkable spread of the so-called “Migos flow” offers compelling evidence that, even as it may rankle all manner of commenters, the Migos’ Quavo is no less than “the most influential rapper of 2014“:
part of the reason Quavo has become so influential is because his rapping isn’t overly concerned with the intricacies of lyricism. Instead, he’s imprinted a very specific rhythmic pattern on hip-hop’s psyche. By finding a flow that stood apart and emphasizing it, he shifted the way rappers rap.
This is a contentious claim, and the technomusicologist in me loves that Drake has gone the extra mile to put together some audible evidence to convince the skeptics — a video montage that speaks for itself. So don’t take my word for it, or Drake’s, just peep the supercut:
As you’ll note, the montage not only depicts the undeniable post-Migos spread of the flow, it also includes a series of clips that predate Migos and show how the flow has been around for quite a while, especially in Southern hip-hop but even all the way back to a memorable turn in Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise”!
Such an audible genealogy is certainly convincing, and even the pre/proto-Migos examples don’t necessarily lessen Drake’s argument about Migos’ role in popularizing the flow for 2014. (As something of a sidenote, it’s interesting that this sort of cross-rhythm is also a consistent presence in recent juke/footwork tracks from DJ Rashad and cohorts. That’s one helluva hemiola!)
That said, I’m not totally persuaded that, as Drake further contends
No single rap artist has so completely popularized a single, distinct flow.
I suspect we could pick out a few examples from the 80s or 90s or 00s, but even in the last few years — as Drake himself notes — something like Lil Reese’s / Chief Keef’s trademark stuttered, splattered, staccato syllables would seem to offer a similar example. It may be true that that flow has had less “reach” than the Migos flow, relatively speaking, but it’s still a remarkable spread. Rihanna’s “Pour It Up” was maybe the most obvious example of copping that flow and making it “pop,” but echoes continue in “Drunk In Love” and other recent recordings. Moreover, far as I can tell, that Chicago drill flow has less of a history than 8th note triplets, which have been a staple flow — if not for entire verses — for a couple decades, especially if we look to, say, Bone Thugs’ early oeuvre.
But perhaps I need to make a supercut to make my point ;) Better yet, sign up for my Technomusicology class this summer and you can do it as homework!
March 24th, 2014
Today marks five years with Charlie in the world. That’s five years full of her sweetness and smiles and sensitivity and boundless love.
As Becca recently recounted, a few months before Charlie was Charlie, we were very afraid that we had lost her. I’m still struck by the sadness of the thought of that little life-that-could-have-been lost, even in the abstract, but to imagine that we would have had to live without Charlie the concrete, the joyful and kind and utterly delightful kid we’ve gotten to know over the last five years, well, that’s just unthinkable.
So, to our dear Charlie, who we are so happy to have in the world, and who may or may not one day see this bloggy birthday card…
Here’s looking at you, you adorable dandelion gatherer, foraged flower muncher and pizza devourer, wearer of wonderful hats and funnier faces, jam enthusiast and sourdough steward, all around cutiepie and light of our lives, you just keeping being sweet little you <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
March 17th, 2014
It all started with a provocative turn of phrase and a successfully solicitous blog post, and now some 13k words and 5 years later, I’m delighted to report that my epic essay on “Treble Culture” has finally been published! It’s been a little frustrating to watch something I completed a long time ago — and which is so concerned with the contemporary moment — languish through the incredibly lengthy academic publication process, but I’m very glad it’s finally ready to be shared & circulated.
In brief, the essay examines so-called “treble culture” (vis-a-vis bass culture) — or the apparent ascent of mobile listening and music made for it — in three ways: 1) by assembling an anecdotal ethnography of the remarkable public life of trebly broadcasts; 2) by offering a long view of the treblification of music; and 3) by considering ways that musical aesthetics, especially at the level of production / composition / mastering but also (always) listening, have themselves been involved in embracing and reshaping how music sounds in the latest epoch of its technological mobility.
As a research project that I largely crowdsourced via this blog and my Twitter account, I need to offer my deeply unattenuated thanks here to all the dear interlocutors who helped push the piece into unforeseen corners of our bass-impoverished sonic and cultural worlds. I feel it is a duty to all of you, and to wider publics, to exercise my authorial prerogative and offer the proofs here for your reading pleasure. So without further ado, I give you
Marshall, Wayne. “Treble Culture.” In The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, Vol. 2,
eds. Sumanth Gopinath and Jason Stanyek, 43-76. New York: Oxford University Press,
I’m happy to note that my chapter helps to kick off volume 2 of a 40 essay (!) collection of writings about music in the age of mobile technologies. Congrats to the editors, Sumanth Gopinath and Jason Stanyek, for bringing this behemoth to completion! I’m honored to be a part of such an ambitious undertaking alongside so many sharp contributors. And I hope readers of “Treble Culture” will have an opportunity to check out the rest of the contents too.
Here’s what Vol 2 — and the volumes more generally — are all about:
The two volumes of The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies consolidate an area of scholarly inquiry that addresses how mechanical, electrical, and digital technologies and their corresponding economies of scale have rendered music and sound increasingly mobile-portable, fungible, and ubiquitous. At once a marketing term, a common mode of everyday-life performance, and an instigator of experimental aesthetics, “mobile music” opens up a space for studying the momentous transformations in the production, distribution, consumption, and experience of music and sound that took place between the late nineteenth and the early twenty-first centuries. Taken together, the two volumes cover a large swath of the world-the US, the UK, Japan, Brazil, Germany, Turkey, Mexico, France, China, Jamaica, Iraq, the Philippines, India, Sweden — and a similarly broad array of the musical and nonmusical sounds suffusing the soundscapes of mobility.
Volume 2 investigates the ramifications of mobile music technologies on musical/sonic performance and aesthetics. Two core arguments are that “mobility” is not the same thing as actual “movement” and that artistic production cannot be absolutely sundered from the performances of quotidian life. The volume’s chapters investigate the mobilization of frequency range by sirens and miniature speakers; sound vehicles such as boom cars, ice cream trucks, and trains; the gestural choreographies of soundwalk pieces and mundane interactions with digital media; dance music practices in laptop and iPod DJing; the imagery of iPod commercials; production practices in Turkish political music and black popular music; the aesthetics of handheld video games and chiptune music; and the mobile device as a new musical instrument and resource for musical ensembles.
And here’s what my 13k+ words look like in cloud formation —
March 12th, 2014
The Summer of Love is way behind us, as is the Second Summer of Love, & perhaps the Third and Fourth. The Summer of Technomusicology, however, will soon be here!
I’m thrilled to report that I’ll be offering my favorite class to teach in the world right now, as premiered last year at Harvard U, this July-August as an intensive 7-week course at the Harvard Summer School. If you’re planning to be in town and around, it should be a good chance to make some conceptually cogent, historically situated, and, we hope, aesthetically engaging media.
Here’s a taste of what we did last year. So if that whets the appetite, you can access the syllabus and look into registering via this page:
For your browsing ease, here’s the syllabus as it presently stands; please note that this is preliminary, and items may shift between now and the summer:
MUSI S-190r: Technomusicology
Instructor: Wayne Marshall
Course reference number: 33209
This course uses hands-on media production to examine the interplay between music and technology. Using audio production software, we will explore new techniques for telling stories about music and media by composing a series of études, or studies in particular media forms.
Readings, discussions, and projects focus on significant forms and their histories, including soundscapes, mashups, montages, DJ-style mixes, and radio sound design. Students will develop a fluency in the history of sound studies while cultivating competencies in audio and video editing, sampling and arranging, mixing and remixing, and, in framing their projects, descriptive and poetic forms of writing.
Class sessions comprise a mix between discussions of relevant readings and audio works, software demonstrations, and in-lab project-centered work. Readings and listening/viewing selections will be available via the course website or the WWW.
ASSIGNMENTS / GRADING
1) Attendance & class participation – 25%
2) Études (6 in all) – 60%
3) Final Project – 15%
In general, études should be between 2-5 minutes, and will be due, along with a brief prose gloss and/or other forms of annotation, on the Monday of the week after each has been assigned.
Week 1 /
Intro to Technomusicology, Sound Studies, & Soundscapes
Sterne, Jonathan. “Hello!” In The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction, 1-31. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003.
Suisman, David. “The Musical Soundscape of Modernity.” In Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music, 240-72. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.
Schafer, R. Murray. “The Music of the Environment.” In Audio Culture, ed. Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner, 29-39. New York and London: Continuum, 2004.
Gould, Glenn. “The Prospects of Recording.” In Audio Culture, ed. Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner, 115-26. New York and London: Continuum, 2004.
Feld, Steven. “A Rainforest Acoustemology.” In The Audio Culture Reader, ed. Michael Bull and Les Back, 223-240. Oxford and New York: Berg 2003.
_______. Rainforest Soundwalks (liner notes). EarthEar 1062. 2001.
Étude #1: Compose a soundscape collage from your own local recordings. Include brief description of subject, methods, and poetics.
Week 2 /
Histories & Aesthetics of Radio
Wu, Tim. “Radio Dreams.” In The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, 33-44. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
Marshall, Wayne. “Love That Muddy Ether: Pirate Multiculturalism and Boston’s Secret Soundscape.” Cluster Mag. December 2011.
Étude #2: Compose a radio collage, focusing on a particular dimension/station/time of the Boston/Cambridge airwaves. Include brief description of subject and methods.
Week 3 /
Mashup Poetics & the Ethics/Aesthetics of Sampling
Sterne, Jonathan. “The MP3 as Cultural Artifact.” New Media & Society 8:5 (2006): 825–842.
Katz, Mark. “Listening in Cyberspace.” In Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music, 158-87. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.
Marshall, Wayne. “Mashup Poetics as Pedagogical Practice.” In Pop-Culture Pedagogy in the Music Classroom: Teaching Tools from American Idol to YouTube, ed. Nicole Biamonte, 307-15. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2010.
McGranahan, Liam. “‘It Goes Beyond Having a Good Beat and I Can Dance to It’: Mashup Aesthetics and Creative Process.” In Mashnography: Creativity, Consumption, and Copyright in the Mashup Community, 35-70. Ph.D. dissertation, Brown University, 2010.
Schloss, Joseph G. “Elements of Style: Aesthetics of Hip-hop Composition.” In Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-hop, 135-168. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004.
Taylor, Timothy D. “A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery: Transnational Music Sampling and Enigma’s ‘Return to Innocence.’” In Music and Technoculture, ed. René Lysloff and Leslie C. Gay, 64-92. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2003.
Étude #3: Make a mashup using 2 (or more) related recordings. Include notes discussing thematic and/or musical linkages (i.e., poetics).
Week 4 /
Video Montage in the Age of YouTube
Gillespie, Tarleton. “The Politics of ‘Platforms.’” New Media & Society 12:3 (May 2010): 347-364.
Tagg, Philip. “The Milksap Montage”
“Harvest Song from Bulgaria”
Marshall, Wayne. “The Montage Is the Method”
“Megamontage Is the Method”
“Bump Con Choque”
Étude #4: Create a video montage that illustrates a particular story of musical circulation and/or relationship.
Week 5 /
DJ-style Mixing & the Mini-Mega-Mix
Katz, Mark. “Mix and Scratch—The Turntable Becomes a Musical Instrument: 1975-1978.” In Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip-hop DJ, 43-69. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Fikentscher, Kai. “‘There’s Not a Problem I Can’t Fix, ‘Cause I Can Do It in the Mix’: On the Performative Technology of 12-Inch Vinyl.” In Music and Technoculture, ed. René Lysloff and Leslie C. Gay, 290-315. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2003.
Étude #5: Produce a brief DJ-style mix guided by some logic of musical, cultural, and/or historical connection between the recordings involved. Make efforts to use blends, cuts, and other edits strategically. Include notes explaining aesthetic choices and narrative (i.e., poetics).
Week 6 /
APIs & Algorithmic Remixes
Seaver, Nick. “On Reverse Engineering: Looking for the cultural work of engineers.” Anthropology and Algorithms (Medium.com).
Lamere, Paul. “Where’s the Pow?” Music Machinery.
The Echo Nest Lab
Echo Nest Remix
Étude #6: Create a remix of a music video using commands and features made available by the Echo Nest’s API.
Week 7 /
Sound Design & Final Projects
Mitchell, Jonathan. “Using Music.” Transom.
Mitchell, Jonathan. “Sound Design from Hell.” Third Coast Library.
Rosenthal, Rob and Kathy Tu. “The Fighter Pilot.” How Sound.
Final project: Using the contemporary techniques of radio sound design, put together a brief tour of your études from the semester, highlighting whichever projects you choose and, when possible, making linkages to the readings and themes we’ve discussed.
Final Projects Due: August 8
Here are our collected works, in progress: