Over the weekend, we were invited to join a friend at the EMP for the DJ Spooky Multimedia Workshop as part of Black History Month. The workshop began with some crispy turntable action, as DJ Spooky dexterously demonstrated his free ipad dj platform and cross-squawked James Brown with the ethereal chants of Korean youth vocalists. The tools were great and the sounds spectacular. I love mixing sound and space but have always wondered what it means to be a DJ. How do they work? Who are they?
DJs sample and mix and scratch and cue, wind it all up and bring the house down. But this new sort of sampling goes way beyond the vinyl. DJ Spooky aka Paul D. Miller That Subliminal Kid told us all about the ice in Antarctica, not just what ice is, but what ice means. He then gave us a crash course on the avant-garde origins of rhythm science, how to change the face of copyright, what it will take to restore education to Vanuatu, and how to sample audible wave vectors from the Maldives. Needless to say, it was quite a little workshop with quite a lot of sampling.
The widespread availability of digital everything has turned us all into DJs. Do you have a cell phone? Then you’re a DJ. It sounds silly but makes so much sense. We all have access to the same amazing stuff all over the world, so why not just imagine that your voice speaks through everything and start sampling? DJ Spooky says it’s our turn now. Real is as real does.
So, how do we get started?
“You begin with something that is just familiar enough that you can take it somewhere else.”
“Once you get into the flow of things, you’re always haunted by the way that things could have turned out. This outcome, that conclusion. You get my drift. The uncertainty is what holds the story together.”
“Sampling is playfulness with memory; no one remembers anything exactly the same way so it doesn’t have to be just right.”