Friday, May 1, 2009

Some more ethnomusicology

Microblogging, blogging, dialoging using virtual, online tools and venues can be so great sometimes. There's lots of people online blogging about ethnomusicology and their research and other fascinating things. Feeling lots more positive today about sharing and being "out there!" I added a few links to the ethnomusicology and art category of links. Check em out! Today I'm getting down with ethnomusicology.

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!

3 comments:

chaircrusher said...

I've known Brendan for ... 15 years? He was one of the promoters for the Love From Beyond party that was the first Detroit event I was able to attend. He's a nice guy, and for some reason I've been in random cities when Ectomorph has been playing -- Rotterdam and NYC.

He and Carlos used to be roomates if I recall correctly, and between them there's not much about Detroit music they don't know.

Hating on the festival may be in theory a principled stand, but honestly it's become an tradition that encompasses the whole city musically -- what goes down on Hart Plaza is just one part of the picture.

pipecock said...

i view House, Techno, and Electro more as styles of playing music as opposed to genres. there's some crossover between all of them in terms of actual tracks played, but each feels different depending on what context it is in, how it is mixed, how fast it is pitched up, etc.

Andrew said...

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Andrew
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