Archive of posts tagged with "bookish"

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.

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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.

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April 8th, 2009

LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIBROOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

I know, I know, I’m flogging at this point. But I’m really quite excited to hold this thing in my hands.

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April 8th, 2009

Trading in Futures

Working on a little something about the dialectic(s) between dreadlocked aliens, Rastas in space (in reggae and sci-fi), and Jamaicans/Africans as “aliens” among us/US. If you have any other tips/refs in addition to these provocative pics (thx @rizzla_dj & @dizzyjosh for their Star Wars intel), do tell —



Bonus points for anyone who can name all the above!

Update: download the finished article as a PDF.

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March 7th, 2009

Covers, Blurbs, y Otras Traducciones

Amazing how an Amazon link makes our book finally feel real. (Pre-orders in teh house!)

And though they don’t have any imgs yet, I’m happy to report that I do, and — having lobbied HARD for this particular photo by Miguel Luciano to grace our cover — I’m thrilled to share it with y’all:



On the other hand side, I may be as excited about the back cover as the front, since we were able to land such luminary thinkers and wordsmiths re: music and race and nation as Jeff Chang, Mark Anthony Neal, Juan Flores, and Residente (!).


Since I’m in a sharing mood, here’s a pdf of an article by Flores that makes a wonderful argument about diaspora “as source and challenge” what with its many “cultural remittances” “from below.” (Incidentally, Centro is offering many more pdfs at their site; see, e.g., the 2004 issue on “Rican Structing Roots / Routes,” from which this piece comes.)

Flores’s narrative centers on salsa and rap, but I’ve found the thesis utterly illuminating wrt reggaeton (as readers of my chapter in the book will see) —

>> Flores, Juan. “Creolité in the ‘Hood: Diaspora as Source and Challenge.” Centro Journal 16, no. 2 (2004): 282-93.

& while I’m at it, here are two excerpts featured on a relatively recent Tego mixtape (almost a year old now, actually). I offer these up as each wonderful examples of how reggaeton “works,” if you will, consistent with the rich remix/reference culture that it is.

The first is a reworking of Fabolous’s unavoidable track from last year (and/or 2007), “Make Me Better” (incidentally, is it just me or does that central string motif sound awfully close to a recurring bit from the Lost score?). We hear here, among other things, how reggaeton artists — just as their “underground” bredren did in the 1990s — continue to version contemporary US/urban pop, translating and transforming the sounds that surround us:

>> Tego Calderón (feat. De La Ghetto), “Tú Me Haces Sentir”*

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.

As you hear toward the end there, that track leads into a rowdy cumbia parody (sounding remarkably similar to a Manu Chao song in the chorus). I like how it shows reggaeton’s ability to incorporate / allude to other genres — and the “cultural work” inherent to such (re)figurations — not to mention how it shows off reggaeton’s (and Tego’s) sense of humor, with El Negro Calde putting on an extra coarse accent for “realism”:

>> Tego Calderón, “El Hijo’e Puta Sin Saludar”*

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.

* for some reason, the tracks above sound distorted when listened to through the player; click on the song titles to hear more clearly.

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December 1st, 2008

Hey, Big Lacuna

videoyoga :: (via ghisself)

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December 1st, 2008

Knee High to a Duck

It was due to serendipity (and size) that my hip-hop books ended up on the bottom shelf.

But, boy, was that a good move.

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November 30th, 2008

Immersion Blender

  • larisa/ripley's article on the recent rash of dubious takedowns in the mp3blogspotosphere :: written for a youth/general readership, so pretty backgroundy, but a good explanation of the current lay of the land :: bye bye blogspots
  • like many other music blogspotters in recent weeks, gregzinho gets hit with a DMCA takedown notice, served to him by Blogger/Google thx to some bottomfeeder based in irving, TX (who cut his teeth doing "anti-piracy" "work" for his own pr0n sites and has now turned his attn — presumably for a decent paycheck — to music blogspots) :: there are layers and layers of middlemen in this reeking, sinking ship of an industry :: can u see the rats running up the masts?
  • on musical copying, copyright, and chilling effects from ray charles to kanye to the legendary K.O., incl a brief history of sampling litigation in hip-hop :: certain issues (e.g., race & appropriation) call for more nuance, but the focus — a good argument for why copyright/IP doesn't work so well in music — is sharp :: nice generals too — "Musical styles change over time and so do their techniques of appropriation. Sometimes musical generations find their successors are engaging in different types of borrowing than they themselves engaged in. They do not always find it congenial. It is striking how often musicians condemn a younger generation’s practice of musical appropriation as theft, while viewing their own musical development and indebtedness as benign and organic. … [Sampling] is a different kind of borrowing than the adaptation of a chord pattern from a gospel standard to make an R&B hit. But which way does the difference cut as a matter of ethics, aesthetics, or law?"
  • bravo to james boyle (& yale U press) for making his new book on the public domain & enclosure in the digital age — quite appropriately — downloadable, readable as html (with the ability to comment on individual paragraphs!), and CC licensed!
  • "The internet makes copying cheap. Businesses that see their livelihood as dependent on the restriction of copying – concentrated in the recording, film, publishing and software industries – are understandably upset. Their goal is to have the same ability to control their content as they had in an analog world but to keep all the benefits of pervasiveness, cost saving, and viral marketing that a global digital network brings. To that end, they have moved aggressively to change laws worldwide, to introduce stiffer penalties, expand rights, mandate technological locks, forbid reverse engineering, and increase enforcement. It is not so much a case of wanting to have their cake and eat it, as to have their cake and make your cake illegal. Yet there are hints in each of these industries of a different business model, one that aims to encourage, rather than to forbid copying. …"
  • "These images of kids playing video games were created by Robbie Cooper, a British photographer who employed a Red camera — a very-high-resolution video camera — and then took stills from the footage. Cooper, who says he was inspired by the camera technique that Errol Morris used to interview people in his documentaries, arranged his equipment so that the players were actually looking at a reflection of the game on a small pane of glass. He placed the camera behind the reflection so that it could look directly into their faces as they played." :: write-up & slide show @ http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/11/18/magazine/20081123-games_index.html

videyoga ::

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November 25th, 2008

¡ Casi Aquí !

The Duke U Press catalog for Spring 2009 is already out. Why should you be excited? See pg 1 —

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November 21st, 2008

Skin Care Adventure

  • Mark Anthony Neal — 'Never before has a First Lady's body been subject to the amount of scrutiny and surveillance as is the case with Michelle Obama; she has been rhetorically poked, prodded and groped. Many would have found such a line of coverage unfathomable and even offensive if applied to women like Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, or Roselyn Carter, as was rightfully the case with depictions of Sarah Palin as the Vice-Presidential "MILF." … Underlying this notion of "realness" that Michelle Obama embodies are notions of accessibility and availability. If there is anything that the history of black women in this country should teach us, is that the idea that black women's bodies were accessible and available to any–and all–concretely frames our understandings of black women's histories whether it be the spectacle of the "Hottentot Venus" (Saartjie Baartman), the tragedy of Crystal Mangum or the nameless and faceless victims of sexual violence and rape.'
  • this happened — 'The largest of these exhibits [at the 1904 St.Louis World's Fair] was the Philippine village, a 47-acre site that for seven months in 1904 became home to more than 1,000 Filipinos from at least 10 different ethnic groups. The biggest crowd-drawers were the so-called primitive tribes — especially the Igorots, whose appeal lay in their custom of eating dog.'
  • "NYAHBINGHY ORDER IS THE ORDER OF THE DAY RAS TAFARI IS LIFE REGGAY IS DEATH" :: bobo dreads explain why reggae is too enmeshed in babylon / "the world" for true/turbaned rastas to participate :: some thoughts about reggae — "satan music that" "reggae more bring crime and violence" "music is food for the soul, but which music … man say you have a right music and a wrong music" "reggae promote sex and oralism" "it water down and a turn streggae" "it's distracting to the nation … it elevate the rest of the nation, the indians, the chinese" "death music" "reggae is satanism" "it nuh teach no one nothing" "reggae could only provide the material thing" "bun reggae"
  • interesting reasoning about 'interesting reasoning about reggae by bobo ashanti' — including some discussion of racism in partic rastafari mansions :: plus, this interesting bit at the end — 'As is pointed out in the comments of the Bobo interviewed at Bull Bay, even if you are a very true and good Rastafarian, and your lyrics are very true and spiritual, if you are involved in the Reggae industry you will have to compromise your livity at some point. … That doesn't mean that for many of us the Roots/Rastafarian side of the music isn't an inspiration and a positive thing in our lives still. Just have to be honest about it, coz even then, of course it is not a pure thing untainted by "Babylon".'
  • radiolab is back, with an episode on choice :: can't wait to listen, but i can't decide when/where would be best (thx again, forestfruits)
  • on the use of music as torture by the US military — and more banally by the author & his mom (h/t forestfruits)
  • fascinating profile of a fascinating thinker re: culture & ownership, gifts and value (thx, dominic) :: (non)money quote — 'The literature on gift exchange — tales, for example, of South Sea tribesman circulating shells and necklaces in a slow-moving, broad circle around the Trobriand Islands — gave him the conceptual tool he needed to understand his predicament, which was, he came to believe, the predicament of all artists living “in an age whose values are market values and whose commerce consists almost exclusively in the purchase and sale of commodities.” For centuries people have been speaking of talent and inspiration as gifts; Hyde’s basic argument was that this language must extend to the products of talent and inspiration too. Unlike a commodity, whose value begins to decline the moment it changes hands, an artwork gains in value from the act of being circulated—published, shown, written about, passed from generation to generation — from being, at its core, an offering.'

videyoga ::

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October 1st, 2008

Hugs for Tecnobrega

Tecno brega / eletro melody is back on my radar for 2 reasons —

1) Ronaldo Lemos, the Rio-based law prof who’s been hailing the genre’s open business model for years now, has just published a new book about tecno brega and its creative approach to the music biz, Tecnobrega: o Pará Reinventando o Evento da Música. It’s in Portuguese but it’s also CC-licensed, so I’m hoping someone will soon translate it to English so that I can read it too. It will be available for download from here.

2) & perhaps presciently, I just got a trackback&comment from Rio-based blogger Soundgoods who has put together a mixtape collecting some of the tecnobrega / eletro melody that tends less toward the cheesy (brega) end of the spectrum and more toward the “interesting.” It’s a nice mix, though as with lots of genre-specific outings, it can get a bit repetitive. Still, gotta love those wheezy synths and throwback claps.

      >> Soundgoods, “Força Do Pará Mixtape”

… which reminds me, back when I originally posted about eletro melody, the post received a comment from none other than the “CRIADOR do ELETRO MELODY” (as he put it), Joe! He affirms the going narrative on the inspiration for the genre (yes, Benny Benassi), offers some ideas about the genre’s appeal (a la global gobbledigook), and invites people to get in touch. I’ve been meaning to bring his comment into full view here, so since it’s all topical and whatnot, here goes (w/ a snappy translation from our own Gregzinho) —

olá, me chamo eder joe ou joe sou produtor musical, CRIADOR do ELETRO MELODY,que pra vcs seria “ELECTRO MALADY” hoje decidi pesquisar no google esse nome para saber a até que ponto esse ritimo abrange atualmente, fico feliz por ser um ritimo sociavel musicalmente falando.Realmente a minha fonte de inspiração foi o album de benni benassi, adimiro o estilo dele, satisfaction éssa foi o ponto de partida para a criação do eletro melody, benni benassi com seu electro house e eu com o melody, juntei as duas coisas e criei o electro melody ou eletro melody. atualmente, o eletro melody esta tocando nas radios e aparelhagens em todo o norte e nordeste do brasil. o ritimo inciou com um jeito de cantar similar ao regaeton hoje ele se encontra mais melodico harmonizado com letras que falam de amor, e não porem não deixando girias de baladas de lado, tipo: “agitar, detonar, arrazar, bombar, gatinha, rapeize(galera jovem), etc..).

pelomenos no brasil, a letra do eletro melody não é muito rica devido fazer apologia a equipes de som automotivo, equipes de aparelhagens, etc.. porem para os extrangeiros, a musica pode ser um ritimop promissor, creio devido os extrangeiros não entenderem o portugues brasileiro. assim como a musica de suzanne vega (my name is luka) fez sucesso no brasil, como uma musica totalmente romantica, quanto que na verdade ela contava um historia de uma criança maltratada, violencia infantil. quem diria uma melodia tão bonita com uma letra tão deprimente, pois é.
meu email para que quiser saber mais é: joe_production19@hotmail.com

vc encontra mais eletro melody ou electro malady na pagina http://joeproducoes.4shared.com

um abraço!

here’s Greg’s translation for the non-Lusophones reading this —

Hi, my name is Eder Joe or [just] Joe I’m a music producer, CREATOR of the ELETRO MELODY, which for you all would be “ELECTRO MALADY” Today I decided to search on Google for this phrase to find out to what extent this rhythm is currently circulating, I’m happy it’s become popular [sociavel = socialable? I think he means popular in this context] musically speaking. Truthfully my inspiration was Benni Benassi’s album, I admire his style, Satisfaction was the point of departure for the creation of eletro melody, Benni Benassi with his electro house and me with melody, I combined the two things to create electro melody or eletro melody. Currently, eletro melody is being played on the radio and by all the sound systems in the north and northeast of Brazil. The rhythm began with a singing style similar to reggaeton. Today it’s more melodic and harmonized with lyrics about love and not however not leaving party slang aside, like: “agitate, detonate, arrazar [dunno this one], bomb, little cat [slang for cute girl], the boys (the crew), etc.

At least in Brazil, electro melody lyrics aren’t very deep, they mostly talk about car stereo systems, sound systems, etc. However for foreigners, the music can be a promising rhythm, I believe due to the fact that foreigners don’t understand Brazilian Portuguese. It’s just like the Suzanne Vega song “My Name is Luka,” which was a success in Brazil, with a very romantic sound, while in fact she was singing about an abused child, juvenile violence. Who would’ve thought such a pretty melody had such depressing lyrics, of course.

My e-mail for whoever wants to know more is: joe_production19@hotmail.com

You can find more eltro melody or electro malady on this page: http://joeproducoes.4shared.com

A hug!

Abraços, y’all — now someone get on that translation of Ronaldo’s book!

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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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