12 Inches of Pleasure meets 12 (or so) Weeks of Hi-Tech Hands-On Electro-Class Hermeneutics in Cambridge Technocity, Massachusetts

This Friday night, here in Cambridge (on the banks of the Charles no less), techno legend Juan Atkins will make the music move the people c/o a new effort in town called 12 Inches of Pleasure. This is very exciting for those of us who like our four-on-the-floor as much as our funky-drummer. I’m quite curious to hear what Dr. Cybotron is up to these days and looking forward to the ride.

Cambridge has become an unlikely but lively home for techno and four-four dance music more generally. The 12 Inches crew — Alan Manzi, Alex Zahara, and Billy Kiely — are certainly responsible for keeping the beat alive for many years now, on their own and in tandem. And recently departed DJ / promoter / dynamo David Day, his close cohort Baltimoroder, the Unlocked Groove and zer0gsounds crew(s), Pat Fontes, and Paul Dailey (who just celebrated 20 years of rocking the decks around here), among plenty others, have all been doing their part to Make It New and keep things bumping around here.

In addition to providing plenty of dancefloor fodder, this efflorescence of electronic dance music in the Boston area makes a great resource for teachers and students interested in learning about, engaging with, and supporting the local scene. And so, along those lines, I’m happy to announce that this fall I’m offering once again (in its 3rd incarnation!) my electro-class over at the Harvard Extension School.

I’m still tweaking the syllabus at the moment, but longtime readers (and former students) will no doubt see some familiar things as well as some new twists. The class is still a ridiculously ambitious survey of the vast whirl of EDM, and it still brings together hands-on production experience with critical analysis of music and writing-about-music, concerned as always with how the narrative of electronic music is told (via words as well as sounds), what tends to be centered and what gets relegated to the margins (or left out entirely). Toward the project of revising, improving, and building a kind of critical awareness into the public conversation about electronic music, one of the new aspects of the course is that we’ll be devoting many of our assignments to editing and authoring articles on Wikipedia that pertain to our subject. Another new dimension is a series of regular seesions I’ll be holding in SecondLife, where we’ll be listening to the class materials and discussing them in realtime, wherever we may be in meatspace.

My decision to try out SL listening sessions is an attempt to bridge the distance for students who don’t live in the Boston area. This is the second year that the class will be offered at a distance, and the Extension School is investing a lot toward enriching the distance education experience. In the past, being a distance student (in my class anyway) meant watching weekly videos of the lectures and engaging in asynchronous conversations with me and the other students via a class blog. But, as I said, DCE is stepping things up and this year brings some major innovations. Among other things, students (both local and distant) will be able to watch our class meetings via near-simulcast (30 sec delay), which will allow students not in the physical classroom to ask questions during class (via chat). All of this is made possible via a new classroom facility at Story Street in Harvard Square. I took a tour yesterday and was pretty impressed by our room, full of cameras and microphones and connected by glass window to a production booth where my producer (!) will be editing the lecture/discussion in realtime for the viewers at home (the videos will also be available after class, of course). Here’s a cellphone snap of the booth —

So, for those of you intrigued by all of this, and interested in pursuing the subject of electronic music with me, I invite you to join us, wherever you might reside. Registration is now open (click here), and class starts in a couple weeks (our first meeting is Sept 19), so if you’re interested in joining the conversation — which, in many ways, is an extension of the topics covered in this blog — by all means, sign-up and come along for the ride. Moreover, if you know someone — anywhere in the world — who might be interested in this sort of experimental educational endeavor (alliteration optional), please spread the word (and the links)!

I should also mention that if you know someone who is interested in virtual worlds such as SecondLife in a more general sense, they might be interested in a class on virtual worlds also being offered this semester through the Extension School, taught by none other than my better half, Rebecca Nesson.

Becca’s class is this year’s version of CyberOne, which she taught with her dad and which caused quite a stir last year. Check out the syllabus if you find the subject of virtual worlds intriguing. It promises to be an interesting educational (and perhaps entrepreneurial) experiment in its own right.

Just in case it needs making clear: anyone can sign up to take an Extension School class. You don’t have to be a Harvard student (or an Extension school degree candidate) and, at least for our courses, you certainly don’t have to live in Cambridge. (Though, as the beginning of this email indicates, this ain’t a bad place for good music.)

Hope to see you either at the Juan Atkins show tomorrow, in class in a couple of weeks, or somewhere in the various virtual worlds where all of this stuff intersects —