2009/02/19

More Gripes

Against Drawing Lines

this blog, indeed my entire musical project, is about the blurring of, and hopefully completely doing away with, all lines which separate us and our sensibilities.

all lines are arbitrary and all separation is illusion. they are fictions invented to keep us apart, and remain our greatest collective enemy. i will provide an argument for this from a biological perspective at a later date, on the same river, but for now:

all you modern classical people stop dismissing techno as stupid machine nonsense for kids on drugs. this is pure ignorance.

all you beat heads take some time to explore the "werid" stuff on this blog.

experimental sound freaks stop being afraid of hiphop and grime: testosterone is as valid as estrogen, that's why we have both.

Against Prejudice

also, i would like to ask the people who say they love music made on "real instruments", by "real musicians":

have you ever heard an idiot say, perhaps with drool dripping from his chin, that Free Jazz or improvised music is easy, and that anyone can do it?

well, that's exactly what you sound like when you say the same thing about what DJ's do.

of course there are bullshit djs (as there are bullshit jazz musicians); and some of them, for whatever reasons, make it big. but a real DJ (yes, like me) plays the roles of Historian, Archivist, Ethnologist, Curator, Choreographer, AS WELL AS Entertainer and Performer.

so you think it's "easy" to "play records"? how about next time there are 500 people gathered in a big room, who all paid money to dance non-stop for the next 8 hours, i give YOU 2 turntables and see what happens. i will laugh my ass off when the bottles start flying and your legs turn to jelly after 15 minutes.

and people like this always have a big chip on their shoulder about how much money some DJ's make -- presumably in comparison to how little they make as a "real musician" (boo fucking hoo) -- "and all they're doing is playing other people's music!!!". well let me ask you another question: do you think gallery or museum curators should get paid well? after all, they're only hanging other people's art on a wall, aren't they?!?

i can not believe how much of this condescending, bigoted and ignorant bullshit i have heard over the years, being a dj who happens to have serious respect for, and have met lots of people from, other musical disciplines. and most people who say things like this do not even go to dance clubs -- so please do us all a favor: stop spraying your stupid opinions about subjects of which you know nothing.

rant over.

41 comments:

mrG said...

this is hilarious; thanks for posting it.

its sad too, of course, because it is true, and what's worse, you can permute the genre keywords randomly and reprint the same article for each genre's audience and they will all agree with it. Why this should be is irritating, it is abject lunacy and ignorant ...

... or is it?

There is, at work here, a particular quirk about we who are human beings. It goes like this: if you randomly assign people to 'clubs', saying this one is a 'red', this one is a 'blue', the next a 'green' and so forth, the club members will spontaneously identify with their group and favour other members of their group! Even when they know it was a random assignment, a luck of the draw, a karmic accident.

Just like their nationality.
Or their culture.
Or their music.

In Zwahili they have two words for 'propaganda', they have "Propaganda" which is all the statements about how stupid, evil, sick and inferior the other people are, and "Quahare" which is all the statements about how great we are. It is a game, and very often the game goes too far and tilts more to the propaganda side when what we really want is to tilt the game to more inspiration and encouragement and support ... to more quahare.

That's one fact. Here's another: All musics need not be created equal. And I know that is a dangerous statement given the Gang-Colors and the vehemence with which genre-warriors will defend Their Team, but dig, genres get replaced all the time, supplanted by new genres, sometimes more complex, sometimes more simple, most often a bit of both. So what is really going on here?

Ok suppose you were Nature and suppose you discovered this Music thing and you wanted to find the optimum solution to the Music equation. How would you go about finding it? Well, look around: Nature always uses the Genetic Algorithm, trying all possibilities but sticking to each unto extinction if necessary, making all possible modifications and tweaks to make it work.

So that's what all these musicians are doing. They are all musical organisms vying for ecological validity and struggling to keep their place in that ecology, all of them are working towards the very same noble goal, but by the very nature of their search they each must tenaciously believe that their own way is best, and let history sort them all out.

Soundslike said...

Give 'em hell, Zhao. Boundaries, thinking of some stuff as "real" and others as "fake" (or "easy" or "cheap") just sounds so. . . boring. What a loss, to miss out on something new to one. For example, I'm fucking LOVING the new NGOMA 3 mix--contemporary African electronic music is something completely unknown to me, but I would've hoped it existed, so your mix here is literally revelatory and a wish come true. About as close as I've come is Zazou/Bikaye's projects from the early 80s. Keep up the good work, and don't let the -ists of whatever dogma get you down.

r said...

Mr. Zhao:

I wonder if you ever frequent the "discussion" section of the Call It Anything jazz blog... we've had some very deep and rather civil conversations over there about some of this kinds of topic, which you may be interested in.

Certainly I understand the irritation at those who would arbitrarily dismiss a particular music based on genre-bias. All of us who love music have dealt with this at some point. Of course, there's no accounting for taste. However, I think MrG is on the right track when he says all musics are not created equal. 'Created' is the operative word there... created for what purpose? Some music is created for everyday social function, and some is created to reveal something beautiful. And some is created to do both... but it is never accidental. Some music really is created to be the sonic wallpaper to intoxication (and not just techno), and as such, we can judge it according to how well it fulfills that function (as well as if that function has any redeeming value in and of itself). Some may have a slightly different function, and may require some effort to distinguish them. But - the "lines" as it were, are still very much there, and we can't wish or will them away. What we can do is realize that lines are not necessarily walls. And – as MrG said, that doesn’t make “lines” a bad thing at all; in fact, they give us a starting point to be able to talk about music, to compare music to itself and other forms of art, and to make clear where the possible points of intersection lay.

I haven't taken the time to read a lot of the comments on your blog, and none of your examples of 'prejudice' are given any kind of context, so it's hard to follow your point under 'Against Prejudice'. I like music played by real musicians on real instruments, too. I also sometimes like music created by sound artists who use playback media to create colleges of recordings, and I don’t use any of these terms derogatorily, but rather to be precise. I don’t for a moment doubt the degree of expertise, craftsmanship, and indeed, artistry that goes into being a creative DJ (as I gather you are). And I certainly don’t think anyone can do it, any more than any other highly refined skill. But not all who work in sound to create art are musicians, unless we all decide that we’re going to redefine the word – which, OK, we can do, but then we’ll just come up with another word to mean those who work with the most basic building blocks of all the elements of music, distinguished from those who sculpt with pre-recorded sound (which musicians do not do). This is nothing new: Cage was just fine with giving up the word music in favor of sound when it became clear that sound was really what he was interested in.

But, since your most vehement comments seem to be directed towards musicians, and since I don’t know what it takes to be a DJ, let’s compare. From day 1 until the time when I could play something that resembled a professional gig, I had to practice maybe 1000 hours, and take 6 years of 1 hour lessons. Since that time, I (and most of my peers) have spent approximately 9000 additional hours in solitary practice, perhaps 500 lessons, countless rehearsals (not to mention studying, transcribing, reading, listening), and tens of thousands of dollars (80K+) in tuition. And buying the gear. Since I’m now mostly a composer, add the same amount of time again for writing and lessons. I was examined on the entire history and practice of Western music (and a great deal of non-western music, including electronica), from ancient Greece to Tan Dun. At one point, I had to write (among other things) a 60-page transcription and analysis of what amounted to 4 minutes of music. I had to recruit, rehearse, and conduct a full symphony orchestra for an hour recital of original music – I also booked the hall, set up the chairs and stands, pushed the timpani around, etc. myself, then paid for the reception out of my own pocket. I have to know all the technology out there, for recording, performance, and otherwise. And I am not the exception among my peers. To date, neither I nor any musicians I know are getting rich making or playing music (to put it lightly). So perhaps it’s true that we have a chip on our shoulder about a society that distains highly cultivated music, and those who might be perceived as exploiting that fact. But, please – so we’re all on the same page here – give us a similar sense of what it does actually take to be a DJ.

Soundslike said...

R.-- hate to tell you, but you didn't "have" to do any of that in order to be a musician or an artist, and I'm sorry if anyone made you think you did. You can choose to take that route, with whatever benefits and whatever pitfalls such a route entails. But your chosen path to musicianship says nothing about whether or not you're an artist. You may be a consummate craftsman, which I might argue is a noble thing in and of itself (I'm a preservation/restoration-oriented architectural designer, so I recognise beauty in craft and traditional tuition). But if you are an artist, someone creating "beauty," it is because of something you already had long before your laborious (and costly) training: artistic talent, interesting ideas, and a heart to translate between them. If you never posessed these qualities--no degree of learned craft has made you one.

And so no matter what high-minded, apparently fair language you surround the crux of your argument with--essentially you're simply lording your choice, which you apparently view as a hardship, angry that others create beauty without enduring such tribulations. I respect plenty of jazz musicians and members of orchestras, as I respect many of those you'd characterised as "something but not musicians"--sound-collage experimentalists, hip-hop producers, DJs--but any of them that says their particular experience, their means-into-music gives them the privilege of defining a musician: I cannot respect.

Fortunately, as a non-musician myself but a devout listener--I know from the other end that nobody cares whether you call it a "line" or a "wall," "real instruments" or "synthetic sound samples"--music is a whole and wonderful thing, and our ears and our guts and our hearts know it with greater honesty than our minds ever will. In politics, in choosing what to eat for lunch, in sex, in science, in religion, in the built environment--it all gets more complicated. But no one music has to tear down another in order to exist, there is no zero-sum endless battle: it can all exist, and I think the whole would suffer without any part. So I feel safe trusting Mr. Ellington, who said "if it sounds good, it is good".

billygomberg said...

I'm not in the mood for debate these days, but you tell it like it is Zhao. I don't know what kind of fire is under you but it is bringing out some necessary text.

Anonymous said...

I am down with the boundaries talk, but on the other hand...right now, djs do seem to make a lot more money than a lot of other creative artists. props for dj skills, but the economic imbalance makes for a natural resentment amongst people who are attempting to make a living performing or making music. The world is financially telling us that we should all become djs and stop making music, but I am not listening...yet.

zhao said...

hello r,

thanks for your thoughtful comments.

among master flautists in india, it is not an uncommon practice to cut the skin separating fingers on the hands of one's new-born child, so as to allow maximum stretch in order to cover the air holes on the flutes, which can be quite large. the child begins practicing as soon as is physically able, and one can imagine what kind of methodical, strenuous, and demanding schedule it keeps every day for the rest of its life.

so, compared to this kind of dedication to music, to BODY MODIFICATION in order to suit one's instrument, according to your logic, attending school for 12 years and having to know sound recording technology, does not amount to much. and according to your logic, the child who grows up to be a master flautist in this tradition is more of a musician than you will ever hope to be.

do you see how silly it is to equate what one has to go through for his art with the definition of being an artist or the significance of one's work?

another lapse of reason in your argument is the "working with the basic components of sound" = musician, and "working with machine recorded sound" = not musician.

so according to this line of reasoning, photographers are not artists. because they do not "work with the basic components of image making" like a painter does, and should be relegated to the status of collagist or craftsmen.

come now. you seem a bit too educated to seriously invest in such obvious non-sense.
the difficulty of a project (or life's work) has nothing to do with its validity or value. but since we're on the subject of difficulty, here is a little allegory, again using the example of photography:

painting a flemish landscape from scratch seems to be infinitely more difficult than taking a picture. but this of course is the childishly naive and shallow view of those ignorant of what it takes to create a good photograph. in the art university i attended the reading list and theoretical studies of the photo department was about 5 times as long as those of the painters, and ours (i was a painter) were LOOOOOOOOOOONG. not to mention other things such as carrying a dozen lights and tri-pods on as many location scouts as it takes, or doing thousands of tests with printing technology on a single night -- just to get that one perfect image.

my point here is that what one can see on the surface is often deceptive, and conceals a mountain of labor behind a single click of the camera.

so, even though (as i have demonstrated above) it is not necessary, i can assure you, that the sheer amount of work in the field, in the studio, in the live arena that a real dj goes through is absolutely comparable to the list you provided. much like with the photographer all you see is us having a good time in the booth with dancing girls all around, but you do not see the years of struggle, of competing against overwhelming odds, of personal sacrifice, of blood and sweat and tears and the the dedication it takes in the face of adversity, the determination and courage necessary, to get to that place.

zhao said...

and "sonic wallpaper for intoxication" is an interesting way to describe dance music.

others might be "transcendence of the self through ritualistic aural experience", "rhythm induced communion with eternity", or "indispensable and timeless celebration of being alive".

and i might describe modern classical music as "alienated and inconsequential games played by brains in jars". but i never would. (well maybe 12 tone stuff :D)

your decriptors and phrasing betrays the exact kind of bigoted ignorance i was talking about.

i agree that different "genres" (as long as we have them) do function differently, and each must be judged according to its own set of criteria. but the polarity you mention is silly: as if all music is not social? or if all music do not reveal something beautiful? such simple minded dichotomies make no sense.

zhao said...

in fact, a not only convincing, but indeed archaeologically backed argument can be made for dance music being the primary musical form in history, indeed an essential part of humanity, quite contrary to the frivolous margins which you would attempt to relegate it.

r said...

Soundslike - Fortunately, not only did no one tell me that I had to take the route I did, but I was actively advised against it by just about everyone, from my parents to my professors. In fact, some very great musicians basically told me I'm crazy for wanting to be a serious musician at all. And certainly everything in our culture actively discourages everyone from being a musician. To put this kind of work into becoming one is (whether intended or not) a major act of rebellion. And I do not regret it at all.

However, let me point out one major flaw in your argument. While there may be such a thing as talent, I had no more artistic/musical talent than you do. Very few do. I was not naturally inclined toward my instrument, or toward expressing myself creativity. I see very few students who are much different than I was. I do see young people who excel early on their instruments, and there is a can't-miss method to see if they're going to continue on and pursue music - see if they work. Their talent will take then to about 11th grade, maybe a little longer, and then they will be discouraged by outside influences, and by the fact that they can't keep up with those who practice. What do successful artists have in common? We all know it: they are obsessive and will spend hours on end perfecting something, and never be satisfied. They learn the language, and develop into artists. Ask anyone who is. So don't buy into the feel-good stuff - we've all had to work first.

And I can't believe I have to defend this - but it is no privilege being labeled a "musician". In fact, aren't you disparaging what DJ's do by calling them something else? I think I made it clear that as a musician I very much respect what creative DJ's do, and I even like some of what they do. If you really want to be saddled with "musician", like I said, fine. You can choose to fight the semantic battle forever if you wish for some perceived honor that comes with "musician". Let me tell ya though: Being a musician is something the world does not respect, and they are malicious about it. Good luck with that.

r said...

Zhao:

That's an interesting (if tangential) example about the flutist, although it says nothing about the kid's dedication to flute playing, only his parents. Mutilating his fingers as a baby is no guarantee that he'll be any good in music, so it seems to me that you're talking about the dedication of his parents to the art, not the kid's. Although I can certainly relate that to the trauma that some kids experience with "stage parents" in this country, some of whom I am sure would not hesitate to mutilate their children's bodies for some sort of advantage. However, I do not admire this.

"do you see how silly it is to equate what one has to go through for his art with the definition of being an artist or the significance of one's work?"

Well, that's my point, since your original post seems to have communicate such bitterness and disrespect toward musicians in particular (although you gave no specific examples). Certainly you offended me with your last two paragraphs under "Against Prejudice", which seems ironic since what you wrote seems to draw a line in the sand between yourself and "real musicians". Certainly you made no attempt to endear yourself to musicians or clearly define the "sides", except when you wrote:

"and people like this always have a big chip on their shoulder about how much money some DJ's make -- presumably in comparison to how little they make as a "real musician" (boo fucking hoo)" (emphasis mine)

So the best as I can tell, you see it as us versus them (the "real musicians"). So I'm defending "us", the ignorant musicians who know nothing about DJ-ing. And since you decided to take the "let's-see-you-try-it" defense to legitimize your art (why does it need legitimizing?), it seemed like you were inviting a comparison.

And the climactic final paragraph, with which you accuse the collective "us" of "condescending, bigoted and ignorant bullshit", before paining yourself as holier-than-us, I simply found as distasteful (and ironic) after all that came before. As a matter of fact, some musicians do go to dance clubs, listen to and admire the work of certain DJ's (even work WITH DJ's!!), and do actually know what they're talking about. And maybe they find something critical to say. Guess what? We have something critical to say about lots of music played by "real musicians" too, so if you want to to be one, you're going to have to learn to accept it, just like the rest of us.

I don't see how the comparison of photography works. All the most basic of elements are there: light, hue, form, texture, etc. The difference is the medium. More apt is the comparison to an interior decorator who works with elements ordered from a catalog or showroom, in a building that already exists. The individual elements are already made: furniture, fixtures, paint, artwork. The artistry is in the creative use of these elements. Is an interior decorator an artist? Yes, in the broad use of the word art, like dancers, writers, musicians, DJs. No, in the narrow sense of a "plastic" artist who works in paint, wood, metal etc.

(What dishonor is there in being a craftsman, by the way? Don't offend them too!)

"even though (as i have demonstrated above) it is not necessary, i can assure you, that the sheer amount of work in the field, in the studio, in the live arena that a real dj goes through is absolutely comparable to the list you provided."

Well, I'm asking. You seem to be willing do use plenty of hypothetical examples, but no specific ones. I'm serious when I ask, "give us a similar sense of what it does actually take to be a DJ". All you've persuaded me of in your argument is your disdain for musicians who don't see it your way.

Like I said, SOME music is indeed "sonic wallpaper for intoxication" - I know, I've played some. I certainly don't need to be persuaded how other dance music has been made for more noble purposes. No need to make a red herring and apply it to everything. And if you were to describe SOME modern classical music (to use your colorful phrase) as "alienated and inconsequential games played by brains in jars" - if you were to provide examples and a clear explanation as to why you thought so, I might well be inclined to agree with you. Since your method is to make blanket generalizations with confrontational language, give no specifics, and let the chips fall where they may, I am not inclined to see it from your perspective. Sorry, but I entered this to defend against your preemptive attack.

"your decriptors and phrasing betrays the exact kind of bigoted ignorance i was talking about."

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!:

"all you modern classical people stop dismissing techno as stupid machine nonsense for kids on drugs. this is pure ignorance."

"have you ever heard an idiot say, perhaps with drool dripping from his chin, that Free Jazz or improvised music is easy, and that anyone can do it? well, that's exactly what you sound like when you say the same thing about what DJ's do."

"so you think it's "easy" to "play records"? ... i will laugh my ass off when the bottles start flying and your legs turn to jelly after 15 minutes." (emphasis mine, though hardly necessary)

(see also the previous quotes)

Sorry, with whom did this kind of rhetoric begin? Perhaps that's where the "chip on our shoulder" came from.

r said...

Anonymous - is it actually true that creative DJ's are making any money? If it was true, why isn't everyone doing it? People want DJ's not because they're cheaper than bands, it's because they want what DJ's provide that bands cannot (club owners, OTOH, always want the cheapest thing possible, no matter what). I'm sure DJ's are getting screwed the same way bands were.

Soundslike said...

Actually, R-- I'm pretty disinterested in the "musician/not musician" debate you deny pushing even as your responses reinforce your grudge. My point was that such an argument as yours obviously implies a "music/not music" binary, with the "musicians" (yourself, the endless-practicers) as the sole creators/owners of "real music". It's pretty clear there's no talking with you about it, though; and I guess it's not surprising: your sense of the value of how you've spent your life is manifestly dependent on this supposition of exclusivity, so for you to countenance anything else is to let cracks form in your very sense of self. So, don't worry about it--nobody in this discussion was interested in tearing you down.

Opening up doesn't have to be so bad, though--because the fact is anyone making music (as I define them, hopefully even as you define them) is doing so because they have a love for doing so that simply can't be denied, with any other reason (benefits) distantly tertiary. So if you could really recognise that your competition/superiority-based view of musicians/music-versus-non is unnecessary, you'd realise none of the people you define as non-musicians is a threat to you. I'd say it could come in handy not to live in such a fragile construction so needy of maintenance as the one you've got going--it might be prudent to give it up. But it's obviously your choice, insofar as it affects only your life.

Again, we're not privileging the term "musician," afraid to "give it up" as you imply with your Cage anecdote. We're simply tired of the uselessness and dis-integration that "my way is the only right way" attitudes produce. If you can't hear the equal artistry in all music--however "practiced" its creators--that is based on passion and thought and the mystery of a bodily creative urge, that's simply your loss. While I feel bad for that loss, I guess, it's not affecting anyone else in and of itself. It's only when you take your axe to grind to the open ears and inclusive values of others that you go beyond a personal loss to something against which we must defend.

You impugn music-makers with your narrow, aggressive definitions; but you even tell me I am hearing wrong as a music-appreciator if my first criterion in assessing music isn't "how many years has this musician spent practicing". And if you've managing to narrowly define right-listening--well I guess I can see why you feel unappreciated and slighted as a "real" musician. The only time that the word "real" would be useful next to "musician" for me, I guess, is as in the phrase, "a real musician isn't worried about the people who don't hear music when they hear the noises he creates; a real musician isn't worried about exclusivity; a real musician just loves music too much to be anything else". "Real" as you're shaping it sounds more fake than any photograph or wallpaper or four-to-the-floor beat could ever be.


I'm pretty sure the mixes I create--dense webs of musique concret, modern classical, electronic music (abstract and beat-oriented), post-punk, hip-hop, funk, jazz, etc. sometimes six tracks interwoven--would drive you mad, because they represent listening so very wrong. But it makes me wonder--what brought you to Zhao's blog?

The Irate Pirate said...

*Grin*

Sometimes I think people can only click one button per blog post, so it's either the DL button or the comments. And since there's nothing to DL for this post... Or maybe everyone just loves to jump into a rant; gets the blood moving through the emoto-lingual centers of the brain.

I am most intrigued by mrG's comment, since the notion of Quahare seems to lay at the root of our blogging business, even if it is Quahare for a genre-less world.

But let me ask you this: do you understand where the lines come from? Why do we feel the need to separate everything in the world, name it and create artificial distinctions, and then qualify and order it based the evaluation of our own 'limited' experience?

This isn't a rhetorical question, either; I am genuinely curious to hear your (Zhao's or learned guests') thoughts on the matter, because I think it is the foundation of the present argument.

r said...

Soundslike:

(Let be begin by saying I'm only addressing your comments. I'll let Zhao speak for himself).

You know, this would progress better if you weren't insistent on arguing against stands that I haven't taken, or have actually spoken against. Sorry I don't fit into an easy category to bash, but I don't wish to defend against the straw-man bashing much longer.

The whole musician/other thing is purely a semantic discussion. I have no particular claim to the word, other than it does have a particular meaning. If you wish to redefine it to include whomever, fine. It had nothing to do with barriers or exclusion or whatever you're so hot to argue against.

"Real Music"/"Real Musicians" - This is, as I will wearily point out again, Zhao's terminology. They are terms that, as far as I can tell from his original post, used in a very broad and derogatory sense. They are not terms I regularly use. If you want more clarification on the use of these, please ask him.

"We're simply tired of the uselessness and dis-integration that "my way is the only right way" attitudes produce."

Then please take this up with Zhao. I am writing to combat this attitude.

"If you can't hear the equal artistry in all music--however "practiced" its creators--that is based on passion and thought and the mystery of a bodily creative urge, that's simply your loss."

I've always said exactly the opposite.

"but you even tell me I am hearing wrong as a music-appreciator if my first criterion in assessing music isn't "how many years has this musician spent practicing""

Where? I don't I've addressed music-appreciators at all. Again, sorry for thinking outside the box. And I certainly don't believe anything so absurd, nor have I said so.

"a real musician just loves music too much to be anything else"

Hmm. A real musician does not necessarily love music so much that he won't speak up when he and his peers are being maligned.

"I'm pretty sure the mixes I create--dense webs of musique concret, modern classical, electronic music (abstract and beat-oriented), post-punk, hip-hop, funk, jazz, etc. sometimes six tracks interwoven--would drive you mad, because they represent listening so very wrong."

I'm pretty sure you've read nothing I've said. I've mentioned nothing about listening. I've repeatedly acknowledged the artistry involved in creative DJ-ing, and as a matter of fact, there are some mixes I enjoy quite a bit that would fit your description there. So I must conclude that since I don't simply fall in lock-step with your point of view, that you must feel that I'm one of the cookie-cutter enemies that you are giving stock responses to. Too bad. I was drawn to this site because of the music. Perhaps it's just too hostile here for us outsiders.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous here - I dont like to draw distinctions between 'creative' and 'non-creative?' DJ's ;)

Everyone is doing it! So many djs out there that itunes is thinking of charging people money for mp3s! Seriously!!!

zhao said...

r,

firstly, it's all love. even the people i know who have made the condescending and ignorant remarks in my presence, i am still friends with, and am fond of, for many other reasons besides their conceitedness. because i feel secure and have more than enough conviction about my choice of musical work.

but r, i don't know how you can keep denying it, your stance is a thinly veiled one from the beginning. your attempt to disguise the judgemental dogma in your position with cordiality failed at the start, despite your professing of "even liking what some dj's do."

and one of many things which betray your true position, which, as Soundslike has correctly pointed out, firmly rests on the dichotomy between "real" and "non real" musicians (and you accuse ME of doing that -- a classic move, you wily, clever thing :) is your insistence on measuring dick size / practice hours.

again, i have demonstrated that perceived (and actual) difficulty or visible (and invisible) labor has NOTHING to do with how valid or valuable a creative project is.

(another good comparison to what dj's do would be collage paintings and found object sculptures)

but i am not a "professional" dj who has devoted his entire life to his music, which actually has always been an off hours passion (as the visual arts is my main creative domain). even so, my near encyclopedia knowledge about contemporary dance and other music, and formidable knowledge about world wide classical and folk music, which informs my dj work in every way, i can tell you took more than just a few years or just a few hundred trips to libraries and record shops. i have also spent countless friday nights alone, practicing on turntables at home (before switching to digital). researching software, learning technologies, investing in equipment, making and distributing promotional products, contacting and meeting with promoters and club owners, location scouting, renting spaces, renting and moving sound systems, working with lighting, curating shows, writing reviews, promoting events, etc., etc., all of this in my free time outside of work, and out of my own pocket.

but if you want to know about the practice hours and raw labor a "professional" dj puts into his music, someone like dj Koala would be a great example. you want calloused fingers? you want gravity defying virtuosity? you want impossible magic from scratch (pun intended)? you want "working with the basic components of sound"? you want innovation into uncharted sonic territory? you want mutation, re-invention, and transcendence of our collective notion of music itself??? believe me, brother, it's all there.

so, before this competitive listing gets tedious (probably way too late), let me just say: what ever belief system or mode of creative work you have invested in, and intend on not changing, it is OK with me, but just try not to judge or discriminate against those of others.

but even if you do, you will still always be welcome to visit this blog to download the "real" music here, because i have respect for musicians of nearly every persuasion (as have been said, there is no money out there for ANYone), narrow minded and conceited or not.

mrG said...

heh ... r, sl et al, what we have here is a classic case of Sayre's Law: The reason the genres disagree so viciously is because the stakes are so LOW. :)

It does take 10,000 hours to be a competent technician in ANY field, this figure turns up in trades, in arts, in dance, in music, it just seems to be a ball-park constant of human factors engineering and it takes that time whether that is symphonic composition or turntablism, although I've heard it said it takes 150 years to master the Sitar (via reincarnation) and if you are young with few other responsibilities, you can get that level in 3-4 years of earnest practice.

But that doesn't mean a child can't play music; they all do. As Ornette Coleman put it, "A man doesn't have to learn to read before he can have anything important to say."

Although there are those who would disagree with THAT statement too ;)

So what does it take to be a top DJ? Same thing it takes to get to Carnegie Hall (or where ever the place to be is now) -- it takes Attention, it takes Practice, it takes Devotion.

Khroustaliov said...

Zhao - you the man...

Septimus said...

I echo Khroustaliov.

Bring the truth. I like me a righteous rant. Especially when I agree with it.

And for all the times I've downloaded your stuff without a thank-you: this blog is the best blog.

Septimus said...

I'd also like to add: r, I don't think Zhao is denigrating musicians, or musicianship, at all. I simply don't see the 'bitterness' you apparently see. It isn't there.

His target (or one of his targets) is the belief that musicianly skill automatically trumps, by its very nature, the sensibilities and contributions of people like him, who listen and play.

He's also saying that music's music. That free jazz bores should open their ears, and techno bores should follow suit, and classical bores should follow the same links, and all should stop being so fucking boring.

He's also saying that you're pretending an attitude of disinterested equanimity when you're what you're actually doing is defending the position he's criticising with all the bitterness you say he has.

For my part, I don't recognise your characterisation of what he's saying.

La de dah.

r said...

Septimus:

"His target (or one of his targets) is the belief that musicianly skill automatically trumps, by its very nature, the sensibilities and contributions of people like him, who listen and play."

Well, this is not my position. I have consistently gone out of my way to acknowledge the artistry and skills necessary to go what he does.

"He's also saying that music's music. That free jazz bores should open their ears, and techno bores should follow suit, and classical bores should follow the same links, and all should stop being so fucking boring."

Yes, he says this under "Against Drawing Lines". I don't have any problem with this, other than pointing out that lines need not be walls, and that it can be helpful to discuss the various elements of different musics by acknowledging where one stops being one thing and starts being another. I don't believe these are or should be barriers. I'm not a DJ or an electronic musician, yet I appreciate the music on this site. I appreciate the artistry of the items found here, for their own sake.

"He's also saying that you're pretending an attitude of disinterested equanimity when you're what you're actually doing is defending the position he's criticising with all the bitterness you say he has."

Well, I'm not pretending anything. That's simply a wrong assessment, and makes me an easy target. My problem with what he's said is in his post under the heading "Against Prejudice", which is full of scorn. Particularly this sentence, which nobody wants to address: "and people like this always have a big chip on their shoulder about how much money some DJ's make -- presumably in comparison to how little they make as a "real musician" (boo fucking hoo)", after he defines "people like this" as "people who say they love music made on "real instruments", by "real musicians".[which would include, for instance, someone like myself]" Also "and most people who say things like this do not even go to dance clubs -- so please do us all a favor: stop spraying your stupid opinions about subjects of which you know nothing."

There is where I see the bitterness, and is what I wrote originally to defend. I for one like "real instruments" and "real musicians", and I have been to some dance clubs, and I have some opinions, and they are NOT the ones that Zhao characterizes me/us as having. I've never heard a musician say such things. I don't doubt that there are a few ignorant ones here and there who say ignorant things, but they are not common, and creating a stereotype of musicians thinking and saying this, and then holding them up for such ridicule is a red herring. It is also counter-productive in educating people about what it really does take, and bringing them together. You cannot make an argument that Zhao was promoting good relations and understanding between musicians (or whomever) and DJ's by choosing to rant about them so vociferously.

He then invited a comparison by utilizing the "let's-see-you-do-it" technique. I simply followed his lead with "ok-then-let's-see-you-do-this" to show how pointless his attack was to accomplish anything positive. And, I actually did want to know more about DJ-ing from his point of view, since he really had nothing positive or informative to say about it. And this is all after I began by inviting him to another discussion about related matters which I thought he might appreciate, and tried to be as even-handed as possible in contributing a slightly different point of view about his first subject.

Perhaps there is a misunderstanding. It is the internet, after all. But what kind of reaction did he expect from posting a message with such an aggressive, offensive tone? Did he expect that no musicians would read it, or at least respond? He has does nothing to clarify his position or shed any more light on any of this, but simply focused his attack onto me.

Nevertheless, if I have misunderstood Zhao, I am willing to change my point of view. In 4 responses, he has not defended against any of the things I have pointed out, so I can only conclude that he does not find any of my perceptions wrong.

r said...

Zhao,

(I looked up DJ Koala - I only found a MySpace page (if it's the guy you're thinking of... from the Czech Rep?). Sounds good, but I couldn't get much of a sample from his page.)

It has been suggested by others that I'm not reading your original post correctly. I think, however, that I've made it abundantly clear exactly what was so offensive about it and why. And I've not read any defense or attempt at clarification you've offered about it, so I presume you do not find my own reading of your original "us vs. them" post to be deficient.

In your most recent response, you congratulated yourself on being "secure and have more than enough conviction about my choice of musical work" (then why all the ranting and concern about who gets labeled 'musician'? why all the personal attacks??). Then, you basically called my own defense/clarification disingenuous, saying I had a "thinly veiled" agenda about how DJ's are somehow inferior to "real musicians", to use your term, and proceeded to to rail against my supposed "agenda", before finally implying that I was "narrow minded and conceited".

"and one of many things which betray your true position, which, as Soundslike has correctly pointed out, firmly rests on the dichotomy between "real" and "non real" musicians (and you accuse ME of doing that -- a classic move, you wily, clever thing :) is your insistence on measuring dick size / practice hours."

I'll point this out for the last time: these are your terms, quoted from your original post. You have steadfastly refused to define these terms (who are the "real musicians" - I guess I'm one), nor defend them in light of my interpretation of them. You treat "real musicians" as subjects of your scorn. Believe me, I would not be using these terms if you hadn't done so at first. Nevertheless, my criteria for who is or is not a musician is based more on the quality of the music they make than the amount of their practice (though I would say that it's true that those who work hard at something tend to do a better job - unpopular thought around here, I guess).

I keep denying your jabs simply because they aren't true. I'm sorry that you simply won't believe that I actually don't fall into the stereotype that you have created for what musicians think, instead of coming up with a more thoughtful and nuanced response. I'm getting tired of trying to get out from under all the straw man bashing. I'm more interested in music than argument. You might have found that many musicians would love to get to know what you do and how you do it, but since you've pegged us as "narrow minded and conceited", we won't be able to get near to you.

I will say that your paragragh starting with "but i am not a "professional" dj..." has been the most informative and civil of all your postings, and I thank you for that. If you could have started with that, or at least gone that route rather than the one you took under Against Prejudice, I think we could have gotten somewhere.

Finally, if in fact I've misunderstood you - I don't understand how you can expect to post a message in a public place in such language and not expect people to react strongly to it. There was nothing in your original post to suggest any desire on your part to reconcile, educate, or promote peace. It was all about disdain, divisiveness and bitterness - that much is very clear. In the future, if you really want to be against prejudice, I suggest you try to do it without cutting down others, because the negative route tends to work against your efforts.

r said...

mrG:

You get it.

Newk said...

This is a topic I've contemplated constantly, especially during those lonely days when I felt like I was the only one within miles diggin the things I dig, but every time I try to type a response, I lose the motivation. I'll just give an anecdote: Tonight I went to see two oud players, and for one piece, they played a blues. All the bourgeois folks there for no other reason than it being a social event looked at each other and snickered or frowned. I won't get into more details as to why that troubled me. Forgive some momentary cynicism, and thanks for bringing this topic up, although I believe it leads to endless arguments.

zhao said...

r,

you are right about the negative tone in the original post. i will try not to let annoyance which has built up over the years show next time i want to talk about something i feel angry about, and do it the right way: hide all of my feelings under a cloak of civility. (half sarcasm, half sincere)

however there is no "us vs. them" position in my post, in fact, exactly the opposite. but again, you are right in that if i want to bring people together, i should not have used tones which might have a divisive effect.

you have indeed misunderstood my "attack": it is not against "them". but only those who invest in bigotry. i have heard countless times retard DJ's say ignorant things about classical or improvised music, and i am against them also.

and maybe i have also misunderstood your reaction to my sharp language; now i do think you are on some level sincere about being non judgemental, and thus do not necessarily fit into my stereotyping of bigoted people. (and how about those people with "drum machines have no soul" bumper stickers huh? :D)

so anyway, thanks for being part of the discussion, i will perhaps take a more considered approach next time, and censor my feelings...

zhao said...

oh and sorry, i meant KID koala. not dj koala. his recordings often sounds like a full band, but is only him on 5 turntables: using a bit of snare there, a kick there, snippets of a hi-hat there, creating new rhythms and cutting entire new melodic lines from a saxophone record. if you get a chance to see him live: beyond the limits of what one imagines is possible.

r said...

Zhao -

Thanks for your last post. No hard feelings, and I'm glad I think we now understand each other better. For my parts, my apologies for being quick to engage in a fight. Let's talk about music instead. :D

Kid Koala - interesting, at first glance... I found some You Tube stuff; I'll have to check it out when I can listen closely, not here at work. The 'Moon River' variation looks very interesting to me... like an improvised version of Plunderphonics.

When you do this kind of thing, is there a form of notation that you use, or is it completely improvised?

zhao said...

would guess Kid keeps it all in his head, which is probably more organized than a german bank manager's briefcase.

but those youtube vids don't do no justice...

r said...

What do you do? Are you familiar with these?:

www.djnotation.org
www.ttmethod.com

I'm interested in how a composer would work with or write for a DJ. The second website was very interesting to me... do a lot of people use these?

zhao said...

nah i never f with anything like that. first one might be useful tho... but not second since i'm not nor am interested in being a scratch dj... i'm more interested in mashups. did you check out the FUSION 1 project?

r said...

OK, yes... I've heard things like this before (have your finished part 2?). I like it. There was something like this by DJ Food I was checking out last year that was pretty cool, showing off incongruous combinations of different stuff. Have you heard John Osward's "Plexure"? Not DJ, but using/combining/reimagining samples to the most extreme extent possible.

Fusion 1 sounds like it's a completely self-contained project. What if you wanted to work with a drummer, or keyboard player? Or a trombone section? Do you recreate this live, with all the records and original samples? Or if someone said, "I want you to be in our band, and we have stuff already worked out that we want to add you into," how would you proceed? I'm just trying to work out how the collaboration process works out with a DJ.

zhao said...

there are lots of people who can better answer that question since i've never played with a band. but these days there are almost countless ways interactions between "live" and dj/electronic can take place... from simple adding beats / effects to live sampling and manipulating the "live" sounds live.

another thing is that the role of the dj is always expanding, mashups, re-edits, re-mixes, and original production, it's all a part of it.

zhao said...

and thanks to the really interesting and worthwhile insights and comments, mrG.

sorry that i got involved in the other, slightly combative conversation and never addressed the good points you brought up...

things like that Zwahili words for blowing one's own horn and mudslinging... and this:

"So that's what all these musicians are doing. They are all musical organisms vying for ecological validity and struggling to keep their place in that ecology, all of them are working towards the very same noble goal, but by the very nature of their search they each must tenaciously believe that their own way is best, and let history sort them all out."

pretty well put and i've not much to add: in the day to day hustle and competition we forget the bond which connects us all...

The Irate Pirate said...

and, to add to mrG's great insights, this esoteric point:

what is the root of all these lines of separation? it begins within. as soon as we separate our self from the world around us, we begin to make distinctions and even from the start, we begin to not just separate but QUALIFY them in accordance with how they relate to us. the conscious mind (the one that uses language and logos), develops precisely by continual separation: it is a sword of distinction making arbitrary (if logical) distinctions between this and that. think about it: if we viewed all things as the same, a poisonous plant would be no different from an edible one, or for that matter, from the soil & air around it. without discrimination ('lines'), we would quickly die.

so, lines will always exist as long as the conscious mind exists. but do they have to be walls? we need boundaries, but we don't necessarily need to have rigid, fixed boundaries that we defend at all costs. that kind of action is produced by an ego which feels threatened.

so if you (or you, r.) find yourself angry at being attacked and resentful of "ignorant, narrow-minded bigots" then take a moment to feel and examine that anger, that threat to your identity and sense of worth. and consider why it effects you, why someone else's opinion (ill-informed or not) can sway your sense of self-worth. is your god-view internal, external, or nonexistent? when you plumb the depths of this experience, i think you will find no need to continue manning your defenses with such vigilance, and you won't need to suppress any emotions under a veneer of civility either, because you'll have dealt with them yourself instead of projecting them onto others.

but don't let me stop you from ranting! i'm not sure i've ever gotten 34 comments in the space of a week

The Irate Pirate said...

for further consideration:

can separate be equal?

zhao said...

wow. that was as good as Castaneda!

r said...

TIP:

I wholeheartedly agree, esp. paragraph 2. And far from esoteric, it sounds more like common sense.

Separate but equal? In theory, yes. Practice, as always, is a little more sticky. ;)

Anonymous said...

I love field recordings (ocora label); Musique concrete; Contemporary Classical like CRI; Blues early to Jessie Mae recent;Spiritual Jazz; Acid Jazz from the Dorado label, Itallian horror soundtracks; library music;Edda Orso; Maysa (both Maysa's)- MPB- love Brazilian MPB past and present; Early Industrial music like NWW list;Bluegrass;John Fahey;H.P Lovcraft from the 60's rock scene;spoken word--- always searching for good music

oz said...

djs are getting screwed too.

promo said...

I like your point. Even though I'm not much into techno and electronic music, I must admit people look at DJ's like at the guys who just pressed the "play" button and watch the vinil spinnin'. Yes, there are bad dj's but don't put all of them into the same basket. Like wise native american say: "Don't judge a man until you walked a mile in his moccasins."