Home Again

Feels good to be “back” “home.”

As some of you may know, I’ve been here @ wayneandwax.com for a long time, longer than the blog(s), and it’s served me well as a place to share my music and research with the world. But not as well as the blog. Indeed, the blog has long been my primary page and presence on the web, and so for a while now I’ve wanted to “migrate” back over here, where I could feel centered in my various goings-on.

I’d like to take this occasion of return and renewal to reflect on the various strands now intertwining here. But first, a little theme music:
(That^^ player thing there, btw, is one audible and visible advantage of moving to WordPress.)

Those lovely vibes I hope you’re hearing — after the snaps’n’crackles — are being played (or at least were paid for) by the Beach Boys, but they’re being looped by me, with a boom-bap drumtrack just for good measure. It’s one of the first beats I ever made, way back in ’99 after a student of mine — a highschool student, mind you — told me about FruityLoops and gave me a few pointers. It’s still pretty amazing to me how the world of music, and digital music specifically, has changed since then.

Later that year I got my first CD burner, allowing me to print my own CD-Rs of beats’n’things for friends, and a year after that or so Napster was blowing up, opening up new peer2peer worlds of musical access, distribution, and circulation. This was just at the beginning of my graduate studies in ethnomusicology at Madison, and as FL kept getting better with subsequent versions (partly by moving away from the technophile design which has had no small impact on reggaeton, grime, hip-hop, and, um, techno), I kept getting better at hearing how tracks were put together, partly because I was intensely studying musical structure — from gamelan to mbira to mozart — at the same time I was intensely making beats (and listening toward a master’s thesis on sample-based production).

I began to visualize rhythmic relationships as I heard them in the air, automatically inserting accents into that Fruity grid —

Fruity grid

And when I finished my coursework and developed a research project based in Jamaica, it was the praxis of producing music (and offering lessons to students and prisoners), as much as knowing how to frame questions about it’s social and cultural significance, that opened up the best ethnographic avenues and high theories to me. (By the way, the track embedded in that post linked to “students” back there is refreshingly refreshing three years later. What with all the hyphy and laffytaffy and lunytuny and other fruityloopy sounds out there, Catherine’s track sounds downright prescient. And, from the link to “prisoners,” Garfield’s dubpoem recorded live over a beat of his own making — cooked up during our first session — is ready for the road far as I’m concerned.)

Catherine, “Techno Mix”

Garfield, “Family Man”

As those wayneandwax.org posts attest, the time I spent in Jamaica was also the time I began blogging, having caught wind of the phenomenon through someone at the Berkman Center no doubt. And so my online identity was fractured even back then. Not that multiplying oneself in a copy-ous environment is a bad thing necessarily, but eventually I yearned for wholeness. Ok — that’s going a bit far. Suffice it to say, though, that I increasingly found my blogging, my research, my teaching, and my productions and performances not simply intertwined but informing each other in wonderful and productive ways. So it only made sense, once I had the technology and the chutzpah (and, of course, the worldclass hacking powers, sharp design sense, and boundless generosity of my dear Rebecca, who has been responsible for each and every w&w.com update), to bring it all back home.

Allow me to add that it was a delightful and somehow appropriate irony that I would end up teaching the same student who introduced me to FruityLoops back at CRLS (my alma mater, I’ll have you know) several years later at Brown (where I was rejected as an aspiring highschooler, I’ll have you know — too trad at the time, I think). The kicker was that I used FL frequently in the Brown class to demonstrate musical relationships in hip-hop, reggae, and other styles, allowing us to analyze musical structure in a way that, say, staff notation could not (at least not for these students and not for these musics). Yep, what goes around, comes around.

So here we are. Home. And prolly permanently. (Unless Wax and I get a divorce or something.) And b/c I’ve seen blogging as increasingly central to my writing and thinking and musicking about music, not to mention that this is the most frequently updated part of the site, the blog will serve as the home page here, with the other pages as potentially useful or interesting repositories of projects and performances new and old. So from now on just dial wayneandwax.com for the blog, dear readers. It’s that simple.

I’ve also decided, as some might have noticed, to begin capitalizing the occasional letter at the beginning of sentences and at the start of proper nouns and such. That’s a pretty major departure for me, as I’ve always drawn a line between my bloggy and non-bloggy discourse with this simple symbolic gesture, resisting the appearance of authority even when I was exercising it all along. I don’t want this to seem like some gesture toward “professionalization,” an idea which is anathema to me at least insofar as it might dictate my blog discourse — and don’t worry, I’ll keep asking things like how to say omg! in Spanish — but rather as another experimental shift, if you will, in my public voice (or one of ’em), and maybe not even that palpable a one. Nor do I want to let go of the expressivity of intertube style, so superbly embodied by that ol’ inherently informal lackadaisical lowercase. And I certainly don’t want to imply a greater gravity here than I’ve ever implied at other blogspots (i.e., not a little, not a lot).

But because I sense (and hope and push for) something of a seachange in public conversations and engagements around music, and because the tools are here to help, I simply want to put a new foot forward. In some new galoshes. For as Max Romeo might say, “It sipple out deh.”

Or, to put it another way, I just wanna remix some ol’ vibes for ya:

And for either of those things, one may as well start at home.

Thanks for visiting. Come back soon, y’ear?