Wednesday, May 27, 2009
A few general comments: I noticed a few times this weekend, way more than I wanted to, that a few local DJs played more of a trancey rave set with little to no variation in sound, rhythm, style, melody, or anything else, who at other times in the year, play all kinds of different sounds and styles in their sets, don’t stick to one genre, and certainly don’t try to feed Detroiters trancey rave stuff. But I heard an unnecessary amount of music that was uncharacteristic of these Detroit DJs. Not that I’m intent on holing musicians into a generically defined box, I just heard less creativity than I’m use to hearing in this musically diverse city. And I hesitate to say this because as a scholar, I’m really not a music critic. And no slight to talented writers who critique music and can do it really well, Infinite State Machine, but that’s not my job. That’s not the role I want to play with this blog. I also want to recognize that there are a lot of lesser known artists in Detroit who I adore and don’t want to make them feel like their turn for criticism is right around the corner, because it’s not. I just think it would be really great and inspiring to a lot of people to hear Carl Craig, and other big name DJs, play a set that was as interesting and fun and creative as Craig played at the Mojo Tribute party a few months ago at Bert’s Motown Room in Detroit.
Anyway, Friday night James and I went to Corktown Tavern to see Sassmouth, Punisher and James Pennington. I’m a fan of all three and have heard some really hard, funky, mixing it up sets from each of them. There were DJs upstairs and downstairs at the tavern. It’s a pretty nice space – lots of Detroit Techno Militia stickers up all around. And even though it’s an old building, by the time you have ascended to the landing midway between the two stories, you lose the lower level music and begin to hear upstairs pretty well. For an old tavern/biker bar, it’s got some nice acoustics. It was crowded upstairs, but kind of empty downstairs most of the night. They were grilling in back patio space and there were some chairs and tables set up, speakers from the downstairs set up were out there too. It’s nice to be able to go outside and hear the music, especially on a cool, exciting night like the first night before the festival begins. I was looking forward to meeting some folks that I have been communicating with online for a while, and wondering who I might see out that night. I didn’t meet anyone new that night, but texted with DJ Count Zero, aka Frank Glazer. It’s so great to be meeting people in person that I word it up with electronically. I have never really had this kind of experience of meeting people online and forming relationships in that way and then having it be important enough of a connection to actually want to meet in person. I’m so excited about this.
Another thing I like about Corktown Tavern, and the whole Corktown area in general, is that it’s nice to walk around outside there. James and I went for a walk in the empty lot behind the tavern and went partway around the old Tiger stadium. It was nice to be outside, hearing the music, stars were out, I caught the big dipper when we got home later that night. Pretty fun evening.
Okay, so onto the music. Sassmouth and Punisher played pretty hard techno sets. The DJ space in the upstairs is at the front of the building and the windows were open and street lights were shining in. There were no lights in that part of the upstairs, so the black walls and bright lights shining in through the windows made for a nice scene for watching DJs. James purposely didn’t bring his camera that night, but wished he had. I like how Punisher plays, she’s a tiny white lady who occasionally pumps her fist in the air and nods her head through her whole set. Towards the end of her set, James Pennington walked back behind the tables with his record bag, opened it, sat down in the corner and smiled and nodded his head to her set. I like that, DJs who seem to be from totally separate crews (not that it’s usually that formal, but it sometimes is), joining together and enjoying each other’s musical selections and DJing styles. James Pennington got on and played some fun techno. He clearly had fun. Most of the crowd was white and young that night, seemed like a lot of people were from out of town or from out past the city limits and new to that space or that music. Which was totally different from the crowd at that space during other times of the year. Most of the time, everyone knows each other. They’re all friends, went to school together, often play records together, have formed a label together, and other connections. James Pennington had some people there too, and that group made up most of the Black people in the place. The Butcher was there with them. So mild worlds colliding that night in Corktown.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Keywords for future posts here: Wignomy Brothers - new for me this spring, definitely sounded really interesting. Meeting a few new friends - fellow writers, thinkers, and music makers. Ass and titties - now you know that means I'll be writing about the Electrobounce business! More to come, I'll be writing for days about all this stuff, just be patient with me.
Friday, May 22, 2009
So I wasn't sure if I would get this post up before the weekend or not. But I figured if I didn't do it now, I would get all bogged up in the festival notes and for my conference presentation in San Diego next weekend...on GENRE...that I would never get this up. I met Kyle Hall Wednesday night finally, and he is the shit. Let me tell you, he truly is. I met him at the Red Bull Music Academy info session event in the loft space above Niki’s Pizza restaurant in Greektown. While we were talking, my brain imploded with all the excitement and slipped out through my ears and then Kyle and my husband James helped me pick it all back up again. Where to begin...well, I tell ya, Kyle Hall, 17 year old, fabulous producer of electronic music in Detroit, approaches music, Detroit, people, with an open heart and head. One point he made strongly to me is that he really wants lesser known figures in Detroit techno and house music to be given their much due props; he is frustrated when interviews get published about him and the writer only mentions a handful of people, like Theo Parrish, Rick Wilhite, and Mike Huckaby, as influential to Kyle's musical and creative background. And don't get me wrong, I will write these three names over and over acknowledging their many significant contributions as producers and DJs, as well as many other major contributions to Detroit life. Theo Parrish Theo Parrish Theo Parrish - who is, by the way, one of the sources for some quotes on genre that I'm using in my roundtable discussion on genre in popular music at next weekend's International Association for the Study of Popular Music conference in San Diego. "I don't believe in genre" he says. Love it! Anyway, back on track. Kyle spoke to me about, and this wasn't a recorded interview or anything, he was just sharing some thoughts with me in a very exuberant way, but he spoke about people who have been influential to him as a young musician in Detroit with affection, but also frustration over the lack of recognition that some of these people get. Like Alvin Hill, a local multi-media composer and DJ that Kyle met and then begged to be a student in Alvin's electronic music class at Youthville Detroit. Youthville is a community center for young people in Detroit with all kinds of arts and recreation courses year round for very low membership fees. Kyle started taking classes there a few years ago, and now, at 17, will be teaching his own class this summer in DJing and production.
He knows where he comes from and honors his teachers with the utmost respect, while at the same time, preparing himself to make his own decisions and figure out which rules he will follow and which he will break. Kyle mentioned Terri McQueen, otherwise known as DJ WhoDat, with admiration, as a person who demonstrates pride and confidence in deciding her own musical path. And that's my impression of her as well, she maintains an open head and heart to her teachers, while at the same time choosing what and when to make her own way. And then she just says fuck it, and goes to Germany to play some records a few times and opens her own record store in Detroit which supports local and independent musicians. She doesn't get hung up on grudges or cynicism, which seem to plague Detroit musicians way too often. And hell, she has spent more time teaching me shit about Detroit than anyone I know. And I have excellent video of her making a thunderstorm track on her 303 using the presets. And now you can Laugh Out Loud.
Man, what else did we talk about, oh yeah, fractals, physics, quantum physics, and generally patterns in nature (fractals) that apply to human interaction in ways that inspire him to help other people excel in their creativity. James, who was totally exhausted and could barely hear anything we were saying perked up when he heard Kyle talking about physics and patterns. That's when I sat back and enjoyed the geniusness that I was witnessing in my husband and Kyle. It was a great time and I'm very excited to meet this energetic, creative, innovative young Black man who is not afraid or shy to be intelligent. So go get you some Wild Oats.
Alright now, so onto the rest of the event on Wednesday:
I was really excited about the RBMA event all day, all week! It was an information session for the Red Bull Music Academy, but it’s also a really nice event to meet people and form relationships, and also to get to hear from DJs and producers who are associated with the RBMA, or not, talk about Detroit, music, their backgrounds, history of electronic music in Detroit, and so on. The group of producers was nicely diverse: iMix (Chris French), DJ Dick of Electrobounce, Mike Huckaby, Claude Von Stroke, Brendan M. Gillen of Ectomorph, Mike Clark, Todd Osborn, Jeff Risk (last year’s Detroit musician who got accepted to go to RBMA in Barcelona), and Brian Gillespie, who is the Detroit representative for RBMA and organizes these events. There’s apparently going to be another RBMA session in July that will focus strictly on production…and I’ll be at that one too. I’m not going to these because I’m planning on applying to the academy. I don’t make music, I just talk and write about it. But I enjoy these events because I love getting the opportunity to hear electronic musicians talk, especially talk together, to each other, about Detroit and music. So anyway, James and I arrived at 8pm, we actually got a babysitter for the evening!! And of course, we were early. Even though I’ve been going to parties and enjoying electronic music since the mid 90s when I was in high school, I don’t think I’ll ever figure out what the proper time to arrive is. I’m almost always early, even when I think I’m late and missing something important. It’s just something I can’t figure out. Saw Bill Stacey (DJ Seoul) there, gave us a flyer to a party this weekend. Tons of people were there promoting their events this weekend. Saw Todd Osborn up on the semi-stage area talking with Jeff Risk (although I didn’t know who Jeff was at that point in the evening). Introduced James to Todd. A few people I spoke with at the event who know me and know what I'm doing somehow think that I’m just doing a paper for a class, not a dissertation – I don’t know why. Somehow I'm not describing what I'm here for properly! When I meet someone or introduce myself, I think I'm explaining what I’m doing properly, but some people for some reason just think it’s something small for a single class or something, just a semester long class project. And me being too shy/polite to say anything, I don’t correct these assumptions, and that's just totally stupid! Ran into Jit Wiggins (Todd Weston) who is interested in doing an interview - yes Todd, if you read this blog, an interview will be happening!! Terri handed out some of her brochures to her record store she is opening, gave me one. She is going to be opening up shop at the Russell Bazaar for the weekend, and still plans on finding a permanent space to rent in the Russell center, not the Bazaar, in the very near future. Here's the website for her store: Ya Digg Records. I got so many flyers last night, and I’m excited about that because so many flyers are now so widely available online on Facebook, Myspace, Detroitluv.com, and other websites, and people promote their events online so much, that I rarely find flyers any more, even at record stores. I imagine if I went to a record store or to Spectacles today, I would find lots of flyers for the weekend. But usually it’s pretty sparse. I’m happy to have so many physical flyers to add to my research documentation.
I finally introduced myself to Angie Schwendemann of Detroit Techno Militia. We have communicated via email for a while now, but haven’t ever met. She introduced me to Tom Linder and we talked a bit. And girlfriend reads my blog! Thank you!
After all the talking and Q&Aing, Todd Osborn was set to play, and I was ready. In my mind, it was my gearing up for pre-pre-weekend festivities, or, you know, it's own event, however you want to think about it. They even cleared a dance floor, and then I got really ready. Then, the place all but cleared out. And I thought, what, are you kidding me?! Todd is playing...you need to stay! And then, as though everyone knew my husband was dragging and they were telling me to just let him get out of there and into bed, the lights were flickering on and Todd began to slow his track down. Oh well, at least there will be multiple chances to see him and many other great musicians over the weekend all over Detroit.
Oh, and I got press passes for James and me for the festival this weekend!! I was pretty shocked that they actually granted me "media credentials." Maybe they thought a nerd with a lanyard would be cool...except they have patches this year instead of lanyards, so I'll be a nerd with a patch? That doesn't sound very cool. I'm super stoked though to be able to get some good video and photos!
I'll be seeing some of you this weekend!
Friday, May 15, 2009
Oh, what's that about Spacelings & Bassheads? He's the guy who is doing the Bohemian National Home party tonight that I wanted to take James to with Carlos Souffront and BMG?? Are you kidding me, my new babysitter, who isn't much younger than me, is going to a party that I want to go to? Usually I feel so out of touch, musically, with other people I meet or spend time with in the family and work realms of life. Not that I have separate worlds..., but sometimes I feel like I have separate worlds. Most of my friends who are parents, homeschoolers are not into electronic music in any way. For some reason, I just don't meet and hang out with a lot of parents/families who are into the same kinds of musical, cultural experiences that we're into. And that's totally cool, because, like everyone, I'm not just unidimensional, I have a lot of different interests and I connect with different people in varying ways. So anyway, hiring someone to care for my children who I would automatically assume, under normal circumstances, would not share these kinds of similarities with my husband and I, who actually does share some sort of weird, twisty social connection to things that are really central to me, is super weird.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Wonderful community garden in Detroit. Residents of the community have given new use to empty lots in the neighborhood. There are plans for a community orchard. This Saturday, May 16th, is a yard sale and bake sale to help fund the Building Project for the community center. And here's a nice post from the Sweet Juniper blog about the garden, and other great things about Detroit as well: http://www.sweet-juniper.com/
And now some Detroit electronic music greatness leading up to the festival:
Paxahau webcast with Buzz Goree tomorrow evening, Tuesday, May 12th from 7-9pm.
Paxahau has actually been hosting a lot of Detroit artists on their weekly webcasts. And they are doing some interesting Q&A segments on artists who are performing at the festival in a few weeks, many of whom are Detroiters!!
Here's another upcoming event that I'm excited about, and is also being promoted by Paxahau:
Red Bull Music Academy - Information Session and Afterparty
Wednesday, May 20th
Panel Speakers: Mike Huckaby, Todd Osborn, Dj Dick, DJ Doc, Mike Clark, Jeff Risk, BMG (Ectomorph/IT), Brian Gillespie
Afterparty: Todd osborn, Dj Psycho and DJ Doc
Above Niki's Pizza - 735 Beaubien St
Free , 8pm-2am
Part 1. Info session
Host: Brian Gillespie www.redbullmusicacademy.com
Brian's message: "I'm looking for vocalists, DJs, MCs, musicians, studio engineers, or producers of any genre - but above all, lovers of music. Also looking for heads that are immersed in the Detroit music scene, any style - House, Hip Hop, Funk, Techno, Indie or any other electronic related music."
"I'M CALLING OUT ANY DETROIT HOUSE PRODUCER OR TECHNO & HIP HOP PRODUCERS THAT'S BEEN PART OF THE DETROIT MUSIC SCENE OVER 10 YEARS OR LONGER TO BE A PART OF THIS EVENT."
RSVP Brian Gillespie: email@example.com
The 2009 Red Bull CD Roms will be available shortly.
And, very exciting, Ableton Live 8 Demonstration and Clinic w/ Mike Huckaby
Thursday, May 21st
Detroit, MI 48202
Limited giveaways available courtesy of Ableton_________________________________________________
And finally, this Friday, Carlos Souffront and Brendan Gillen are playing at the Bohemian National Home!! Hoorah!
Friday, May 8, 2009
I have approval
I have been approved!
No issues with my study, no backtracking, no interruptions, no nothing.
"X Report represents MINOR noncompliance."
Oh yes it does. I have been approved, favorably evaluated, graded satisfactorily, endorsed, sanctioned. What am I, Lisa Simpson?? Grade Me!
I received this notice yesterday, and I was relieved to see that approval message. In addition to this happy result, sort of embedded in one of the many attached forms and letters to this email was a little phrase about the legalities surrounding the use of an informed consent form.
"Per federal regulations, there is no requirement for the use of an informed consent document or study information sheet for exempt research, although one may be used if it is felt to be appropriate for the research being conducted. As such, the IUB IRB will no longer stamp study information sheets / informed consent documents for exempt research. Please note, however, that if a study information sheet and/or informed consent document is to be used, you may use unstamped accepted versions. Please note that your study has been accepted with the use of a study information sheet / informed consent document."
My study is considered exempt because it meets the following qualifications according to the IRB website at Indiana University:
"Studies that involve certain kinds of interventions (mostly research involving educational tests or talking to people) and pose no more than minimal risk to human subjects are usually classified as being exempt from further review. Federal regulations mandate that someone other than the researcher determine whether research is exempt. At IU this is the IRB or Director, IUB Human Subjects Office."
That's kinda weird because I was under the impression that using a consent form for my interviews in which I ask the interviewee's permission to quote them in written works that I publish based on that particular interview was kind of important. On that same form, I also ask permission to deposit the audio recording of each interview at the Archives of African American Music & Culture at Indiana University. I will continue to use the forms, just to keep things consistent. The form also functions as an information sheet for my interviewees about my study and includes contact information for me. So all is good and I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing.
Dear Denise M. Dalphond,
I am pleased to inform you that your above named study has been approved by the IRB. Please find attached the documents listed below.
1. Signed Non-Compliance Report form
2. Non-Compliance letter
3. Signed Exempt Research Checklist form
4. Exemption Granted Approval letter
5. Signed Study Amendment form
6. Exemption Granted/Study Amendment Approval letter
Please contact the IUB Human Subjects Office if you have any questions.
Office of Research Administration-Indiana University
IUB Human Subjects Office
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Registered voters get out and vote for Detroit's next mayor! This city needs strong leadership!
Current Mayor Kenneth Cockrel:
Mayoral candidate Dave Bing:
Friday, May 1, 2009
I am working on a roundtable discussion with some friends of mine from Indiana University for the IASPM-US conference coming up at the end of May. It's going to be about genre, and we're all coming from really diverse backgrounds of scholarship. The official title of our roundtable is "What Work Does Genre Do?", but the secret title is "Getting Down with Genre." We've got women singer-songwriters and recording studio interactions and dynamics, music store guitar lessons, Middle Eastern music and dance camps, and politically inclinded music addressing public health and HIV/AIDS in Trinidad and Tobago. I'm the techno and house person, I'm also the anti-genre person. Not that I'm anti-genre, but that in my research here I have found widespread rejection of genre categories and classifications for a love of eclecticism and diversity which turns back around to genre and subgenre as reference points all along the way. I'll keep writing about this on here in preparation for the roundtable! Alot of Detroit electronic musicians laugh in the face of genre boundaries and cross them and blend them all the time, in DJ sets, regardless of equipment used, and in studio productions of electronic music. That's one reason why I sometimes opt for the phrase "Detroit electronic music" or just "electronic music." And this is not in place of techno or house music, because all of these terms and phrases are prominent in their use by Detroit electronic musicians. I sometimes find that "electronic music" accounts for a wider aray of musical genres. But I could also just use "techno and house, and sometimes electro" and that could refer to the same thing! And no slight to other scholars of Electronic Dance Music Cultures (EDMC), which is the generally accepted term; I just don't hear that phrase uttered in Detroit or about Detroit ever.
This reminds me of a great part of my interview with Carlos Souffront about genre where he was critical of the over use of genre distinctions. Cutting up techno and house music into a wide selection of very specific, sometimes divisive and exclusionary genre/subgenre titles is disturbing to him, and I have found, it is disturbing to a lot of producers and DJs in Detroit. Carlos' assessment of the functionality of genre in Detroit is as follows: there's techno and there's house, and then there's electro, and that's as far as we're willing to go in Detroit. He explained further: “Genre splitting has led to…some kind of cultural segregation, and some kind of sub-cultural segregation,… in some ways it was good, they can all celebrate music that turns them on, but in some ways it’s bad because there’s no space for everyone to come together and mix it up; which is why I think the festival is a really important event, because at least in proximity, you have the worlds colliding.”
And that leads me to write about Movement: Detroit's Electronic Music Festival. I haven't really written much about it here, I guess I've been preoccupied with other things. But I am very excited about it. There's often a lot of criticism of the festival by Detroit musicians and by some journalists, bloggers, fans, and electronic producers and DJs outside of Detroit. This criticism stems from a concern that this festival does not successfully put Detroit on display to the world. It is an extremely well attended festival and 2009 is the 10th year for it! Various people and companies have organized the festival, and currently, Paxahau has put it on since 2006. The major complaint is that not enough Detroit artists are invited to play the festival, and those that do play, do not get paid or treated like the international artists or the more main stream, popular artists. But at the same time, and almost in the same sentence, many people here tell me that they are thankful that someone is continuing to do the festival. They are thankful that it still happens in Detroit and someone has enough money and is willing to organize this festival.
However, there are some who boycott the festival altogether in protest of the perceived poor representation of Detroit, and I completely understand their perspectives. But if I boycotted the festival, I would be missing out on a hell of a lot of good music and good performances, and alot of Detroit producers and DJs! Had I boycotted last year, I would not have been able to get on the stage with Minx and videotape her! Had I boycotted, I would have missed Todd Osborn, Mike Grant, and many other excellent performers. And this year is just as great! There are a lot of local performers - freaking Stacy Hale, a woman who has been DJing in Detroit for decades, is playing! Al Esther, another long time DJ in Detroit who serves his city well. Buzz Gorree, Delano Smith, Kevin Reynolds, Los Hermanos, Mike Clark, Mike Huckaby, Minx, Norm Talley, Octave One (!!!!!!!), Rick Wade, DJ Seoul and T. Linder, Starski & Clutch, E.T.C. It's gonna be live!!!
Oh, and I met Erika Sherman and Brendan M. Gillen (Ectomorph) last Friday night at Oslo. The show was fantastic!! I'll be interviewing them both soon...very exciting!