Archive for October, 2009

October 29th, 2009

Dig This: Vote Beat Research

I’m happy to report that our modest Monday throwdown, Beat Research, has been nominated for best Monday Night club thing in the Weekly Dig‘s 2009 Dig This Awards.

We’re honored & flattered to be considered for this, as we do our best to hold it down for “experimental party music” here in the Bean each and every week. I’m not sure when the deadline is, but I think it’s soon, so if you want to show some support, get yourself over there and throw us a vote!

Better than that, though, if you really want to support, come out to the club next time you’re looking to start the week off with a bang. We’re privileged to be able to host so much local and international talent, but it can’t be party music without, as they say, party people in the house. Up next: Gypsy Sound System, str8 outta Poland! Bass culture meets brass culture inna Central Square. Be there–


October 28th, 2009

Pass the Pod (Like They Used to Say)

I’ve been working on a talk/chapter called “Skinny Jeans and Fruity Loops” and while part of that has involved tracking floggers and tecktonik across Latin America, another part has required that I dig into LA’s similarly day-glo/geeky youthtube dance scene: i.e., jerkin.

More on all of this research later. Meantime, I just want to share a video I stumbled across today (h/t davequam). It’s a jerkin battle between Zhani (reppin for local jerk crew, In Living Color) and someone solely identified as “A Girl Frm Insane Kidz” (another crew). Notably, as with a lot of TCK and floggy shufflin, as much jerkin seems to take place in public spots (malls, parking lots, or — as we see below — the Walk of Fame in Hollywood) as in bedrooms or living rooms. Lots to say about that — e.g., the blurred lines between private & public, the mixing of digital and meatspace flaneury, etc.

My favorite feature of this video, though, is not the dancing or the scene more generally but the moment at 0:30 when Zhani steps up and her competitor hands her the iPod she was wearing so that, presumably, Zhani can dance to the same track. It’s an interesting moment for lots of reasons, not least of which being the way it illustrates an improvised solution to the problem of “treble culture” (i.e., no boombox).

Here we have two girls dancing for their friends & peers, in public, to music only the dancer can hear* (I guess onlookers have to fill in the beat until it can be overdubbed for the YouTube masses) —

I’m sayin, tho: who got the bluetooth, yo? Let’s JAM!

* until the earbuds fall out, of course ;)


October 26th, 2009

[val’er] vt+vint+vpr 1 to value, be worth

Tonight at Beat Research we’re happy to host another cosmo-bass booster from the Great North. DJ Valeo from Toronto is perhaps better known to readers here as DJ Khiasma from Montreal, also known as Guillaume, one of the bloggers and radio hosts at Masalacism. Whatever he’s calling himself at the moment, Guillaume has been one of the most consistent, thoughtful, and radically open-eared DJs/bloggers bringing new sounds and styles to the attn of the metropolian massives. Check his September 2009 top 10 for a taste.

We couldn’t be more thrilled that he’s finally here in Boston to present his latest digital diggings at our state-of-the-art Beat Research dance-lab. Don’t miss this, my loco locals!

          Beat Research w/ special guest, Valeo :: Monday, Oct 26 ::
          Enormous Room, 567 Mass Ave, Central Square, Cambridge ::
          9pm-1am :: free

1 comment

October 21st, 2009

Music Per Se

Ah, music (departments).

Here’s an excerpt from an email I received this week from the academic administrator in my dept here at MIT (which, in case you didn’t know, is Foreign Languages & Literatures, not, as some might assume, Music & Theater Arts):

In order to justify [cross-listing your course] to the Music Faculty, they would appreciate a short rationale “addressing the question of why this is a music class per se.” I’ve already sent them your topic description, but they’d appreciate a little more justification, apparently, before they give their final “ok.” Is that something that you could send me by the end of the month?

Sorry for the extra hoop.

Incidentally, this is for a course titled, pretty unambiguously, “Global Music and Digital Youth Culture” (emphasis added). And here’s the topic description, fyi —

What can we learn about contemporary culture from “viral” dance crazes, mashups, and skinny jeans? The convergence of global pop, social networks, and international digital youth culture represents a profound shift in how we imagine and access the world around us. Focusing on specific technologies and platforms (e.g., YouTube, Facebook, imeem, blogs, torrents, production software), this course examines how digital tools — especially since the advent of peer-to-peer applications and social networks — have shaped, as they have been informed by, the practices and values of the people using them. While taking into account a variety of forms and platforms, our study will primarily use music as a crucial connective thread to discuss contemporary media and culture.

And here’s my best attempt at a “rationale” that expresses the resistance I feel toward such an exercise without, I hope, coming across as too resentful/snarky:

I have to confess, first off, that I’m not sure I know exactly what is meant by a “music class per se.” Having been trained in a music department and having — prior to this semester — taught exclusively in music departments, I have my suspicions (namely, that there is a desire for a certain degree of attention to “form and analysis” employing the standard musicological toolkit drawn from European “common practice” repertories). I do some of that, sure, but as an ethnomusicologist I am at least, if not more, interested in music’s contexts as its texts.

I want to note that the title of the course begins with “Global Music…” which, I hope, gives a sense of the class’s priorities. As I note in the description “While taking into account a variety of forms and platforms, our study will primarily use music as a crucial connective thread to discuss contemporary media and culture.” To put it another way, musical texts (i.e., songs and other recordings) and musically-propelled texts (e.g., videos) will constitute our primary texts, and many of our secondary texts (i.e., academic studies) are authored by musicologists. However, the point of the course is not formalist analysis per se (though there may be some of that) as much as it is an attention to the role of music in (post-digital) society and media more generally. Our focus on music will hence be more concerned with the cultural work that music does than with the particulars of timbre, rhythm, harmony, and so forth. We will, however, continually return to the question of genre, which inevitably opens into a consideration of formal musical features.

I hope that this is sufficient to qualify as a “music class per se”; I think the class would appeal to students seeking a music class, and, moreover, I think it would enrich students’ sense of the power and reach and diversity of music in the world today. If our colleagues in Music do not agree, I’ll be sorry to hear that.

Of course, this is the same music dept that generated this classic(al) interaction. So, we’ll see…


October 18th, 2009

Battre la Recherche

Hot off the heels of a couple gigs in Sao Paolo, and en route to rock CMJ in NYC next week, le gran Poirier touches down in Boston this Monday to share his latest concoctions with the Beat Research massif.

I never quite know what to expect from Ghis. First time I heard him play, it was Dizzee Rascal over broken, bumping beats; these days it’s more often uptempo Caribbeanish dance hammers. But beyond the relatively focused EPs he’s released recently (one devoted to soca, the other to dancehall), his stuff can really range. I’m particularly partial to the tracks that make like cinderblocks wrapped in rubberbands. (Like the one I played in my radio set for the Masala boyz. [mp3 excerpt])

It’s a treat to be able to host the likes of the mighty Poirier from time to time at our modest Monday night. If you’re inna the area, come help us pretend summer didn’t end — never mind autumn.

          Beat Research w/ special guest, Poirier :: Monday, Oct 19 ::
          Enormous Room, 567 Mass Ave, Central Square, Cambridge ::
          9pm-1am :: free


October 14th, 2009

Masala Mini Mix

I’ve been listening to the MasalaCISM radio show for years, so it was a thrill to finally make it over to the studio when I was in Montreal last weekend. Extra bonus: Poirier and Dub Boy (in from Bristol for Karnival v.1) were also Bendude‘s guests that evening.

Benoit started red hot with uptempo dancehall, funana, and kuduro, and Dub Boy’s mix is on some hard hitting funky bashment vibes, so I hope my 90 bpm-ish interlude is a welcome shift in tempo if not mood and not too discordant with the flow. I’ve been playing about half my sets these days in the 80-100 range, letting me mix old school kraut electro with nueva cumbia with all kinds of hip-hop with any manner of dubwise, leftfield bass excursions, and I felt like representing that.

Plus, I definitely wanted to play that ol’ bouncy, cracklin Ghis track, since he was there and all, & Kiddid‘s bonafide burner, “O Dela,” which I think I’ve played in just about every set for the last, I dunno, six months or more. Dude really needs to put that joint out.

Here’s the tracks in a list* —

Kraftwerk, “The Man Machine”
El Remolon ft. Fauna, “Revienta”
Poirier, “Don’t Smile, It’s Post-Modern”
KidDid, “O Dela”
Anti-Pop Consortium, “Reflections”
Chancha Vía Circuito ft. Kumbha Kethu, “Bosques Vía Temperley”
Ras G and the Afrikan Space Program, “Lisa Bonet”
Frikstailers, “Onda Miercolera”
Mad Professor, “50 Pence Dub”
Roots Manuva, “Man Fi Cool”
A Tribe Called Quest, “Start It Up”

And [update!], since Hua called it tasty and all, here’s a rip of the mini set on its own —

w&w, masalaCISM radio, 3oct09 (18min, 42mb)

Hear the whole show here. & if you’re the subscribing type, definitely sign on to the Masala podcast. C’est bon!

* obv, big props to the ZZK crew too, who are responsible for 3 of the 11 tracks I dropped


October 10th, 2009

5 Years


October 9th, 2009

¿Como Se Dice “Talking Head” en Español?

I’m excited to announce, for a couple reasons, that next week PBS will begin airing the 4-part series, “Latin Music USA.” Episode 1 (Latin Jazz, Mambo) and Episode 2 (Salsa) will air on Monday, October 12; Episode 3 (Chicano Rock, Tejano, Norteño) and Episode 4 (Latin Pop, Reggaeton) will air the following Monday, October 19. It’s an ambitious and salutary project —

Latin Music USA is a story about American music. Fusions of Latin sounds with jazz, rock, country, rhythm and blues – music with deeper roots and broader reach than most people realize. It’s a fresh take on our musical history, reaching across time and across musical genres to embrace the exciting hybrid sounds created by Latinos; musical fusions that have deeply enriched popular music in the US for over more than five decades.

The multi-media project is anchored by a four-hour documentary series that will premiere in October 2009, during Hispanic Heritage Month, on PBS stations nationwide. Produced by a world-class production team at WGBH and the BBC, Latin Music USA invites the audience into the vibrant musical conversation between Latinos and non-Latinos that has helped shape the history of popular music in the United States. Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15th-Oct. 15th), a time to recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the United States and to celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture, offers the series a perfect opportunity to further honor these influences. (via)

As if the series’ ambition and tribute to the USA’s Latin roots/routes wasn’t enough to be excited about, they’ve given me (and maybe you, dear reader) an additional reason to be enthused: Episode 4, touching on reggaeton and Latin hip-hop, features my first appearance as a TV talking head! That I get to offer some commentary alongside big dogs like Daddy Yankee and Tego Calderon, never mind the vast slate of distinguished musicians, producers, journalists, and scholars also featured in the series, is a humbling and awesome thing to report.

thx to the enormous room for the classy backdrop!

You can get a taste via a couple clips on their website, wherein I think I acquit myself ok:

1) me talking bout reggae en Panama después de Yankee discussing dembow
2) me talking bout Puerto Rican / Nuyorican hip-hop & reggaeton’s blingy incursions

I highly recommend poking around on the website. It’s quite flashy and interactive — you can browse texts, audio, and video by navigating swirling networks of places, genres, instruments, rhythms, and more. Check out, for example, the “universe” of Latin Jazz.

This series is a big experiment for PBS, a deviation from the standard programming targeting the PBS core audience (i.e., Masterpiece Theater, Antiques Roadshow). According to one of my contacts at PBS, they’re aware that the primary audience for this series (Latinos) does not typically watch PBS, and they’re hoping it will attract viewers from all over the spectrum. So, tusabes, plz help em out on their socialmedia campaign by friending, fanning, RTing, etcccc —

Special thanks to Juan Camilo Agudelo & Adriana Bosch for involving me in the project — congratulations on its completion, y’all, and all the best with reaching the vast viewership it deserves!


October 7th, 2009

Hit Dat ___

Not sure what to make of the casual misogyny (metaphor?) at the heart of this — a generalizing of hoe — but, that aside (if I may), I gotta say that I can’t get enough of dudes dancing lithely on their front lawns (wait for 1:10 in the video below). Apparently, this joint’s on some Dallas Boogie ish (h/t) —

After watching the following montage of “Hit Dat” clips there’s no denying that it’s a bonefide D-Town “movement” (the opening brass band bit, per yesterday, was the clincher in convincing me to post this) —

iNdustry2.0 is herrrrrrrrrrrrrr–


October 6th, 2009

Sounds Physical

wheel it back, selector

I’m going to take a page from MBQ’s playbook and reblog a rather interesting post on sound cannons (aka LRADs, Long Range Acoustic Devices™) by fellow ethnomusicoloblogger, Ben Tausig, who is writing a very engaging blog about the “politics of sound.”

I find Ben’s thoughts particularly revealing against the backdrop of recent conversations here about frequency & power — in particular, Kode9’s argument that serious bass can remind us that we’re “not self-enclosed individuals but permeable membranes through which forcefields can pass.” Or, as Ben notes (see the list below), in the case of certain levels/uses of sound, not pass —

LRADs operate in the threshold between normal listening, where vibration is mild enough that we experience sound as essentially immaterial, and where we can readily pay attention to communicative and aesthetic content (music, language, texture), and extreme sonic exposure, where vibration is felt as a force throughout the body. The sound cannon is far enough along this spectrum that we react involuntarily to its painful volume, but not so far along that we lose life or limb. It’s pretty brilliant, in a mad scientist kind of way.

In any case, it’s fascinating/macabre to consider what various sound levels can to us physically. The hardware manufacturer has a whole chart.

(Decibels measure the intensity of a sound wave. They do not measure frequency, so for example knowing that a conversation occurs around 50 dbs does not tell us whether the voices are high or low.)

Here are some choice selections:

13 – Ordinary light bulb hum
30 – Totally quiet nighttime in desert – impossible near city
40 – A whisper
60 – Normal conversation
100 – House or car stereo at maximum volume
116 – Human body begins to perceive vibration at low frequencies (imagine standing in front of a speaker at a concert, for example)
125 – Drum at the moment of being hit
127 – Tinnitus sets in
128 – Human hair will begin to vibrate perceptibly
132 – Eardrum flex becomes noticeable
133 – Gunshot at ear level
135 – The air begins to cool from expansion
137 – The entire human body vibrates
140 – Extreme damage to hearing no matter how short the exposure (this, by the way, is how loud the LRAD can be set)
141 – The human body experiences nausea
142 – Chest pounding is intense
143 – Human body feels as if “someone just football tackled your chest”
145 – Human vision begins to vibrate
153 – Human throat vibrates so hard it is almost impossible to swallow
163 – Minimum glassbreaking level
172 – Fog is created
175 – Equivalent to a quarter stick of dynamite
180 – Damage to structures is catastrophic
186.1 – Equivalent to a pound of TNT at a distance of 10 feet
202 – Immediate human death
220 – Equivalent to the largest bomb used in WWII
257 – Equivalent to 1 megaton nuclear bomb

See also: wordthecat on “sensory weapons” and, of course, Kode9’s forthcoming


October 6th, 2009

Mobile Music & Brass Culture

photo by julie_chen

The annual HONK! Festival is going down this weekend, making Somerville the joyfully cacophonous meeting ground for an international bloc of brass bands (and related ensembles). I missed HONK! last year, out of town, so I’m looking forward to taking it in this time around, especially with the girls, who will no doubt be amused and amazed (and hopefully not too alarmed).

Quick shoutout to Rozele, who chimed in on the treble culture conversation and snuck in a plug for her band, Brooklyn’s Rude Mechanical Orchestra (who I look fwd to hearing at HONK!). I enjoyed her musings about contemporary and historical brass culture & the politics of frequency, i.e. —

it’s making me think about how this plays out or doesn’t in the street-brass world i hang out in (what you could call the live & unamplified wing of globalized ghettotech)… and in other live & un-/minimally-amplified contexts.

lots of the brass music that my circles play (and listen to on record), especially the older stuff, is from contexts where the emphasis was on high, fast and loud, the balkans in particular. and as instrumentation changed over the past century-plus (and recordings began to be made), the highs there got higher and the louds got louder (fiddle to clarinet to trumpet leads in the balkans, for instance). my understanding is that this is partly the same as the tenor-centrism of older opera: the higher it is, the farther it carries, especially over a crowd that’s chatting in the usual conversational range.

a lot of the current bands, though, have serious low end, and often prioritize it in their arrangements. part of this probably has to do with bringing the (’bass culture’) new orleans brass tradition into contact with the balkan side of things. and that change being reinforced by bands covering pop songs that come out of other faces of bass culture (”Push It”, “Crazy In Love”, “Thriller”, &c). and it’s least evident in the most trad-oriented bands, which supports that theory. but i wonder whether it’s also about acculturation to a general bass-heavy mode of listening to music, and whether it’ll change over time if this ‘treble culture’ motion continues.


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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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