linkthink re: hip-hop, reggae, the US, jamaica, and anything else wayne wants to wax on


electro class: a crunk genealogy

cross posted to the riddim method | giffordization by 893

next tuesday is the first meeting of my electronic music class at the harvard extension school. this will be the second year i've taught the course, and i'm excited that this year the class can be taken from a distance as well as here in cambridge. i look forward to having some non-local perspectives added to the already rather diverse set the extension school attracts.

we'll be starting off with a bang--or at least an eerie sort of hum: the renowned--and awesome--theraminist, pamelia kurstin, (who's playing at beat research the night before) will be the first of many talented guests to share perspectives on techniques and technologies with us (and usually, hopefully, a wicked demo). over the course of the semester we'll also be joined by paul dailey, DJ C, DJ axel foley, david day, DJ BC, keith fullerton whitman, and DJ flack.

i've been making gradual changes to the syllabus, and i still view it as a work in progress and as a growing resource for various people hoping to learn more about some of these musics, these artists, and their socio-cultural and historical contexts. (so feel free to leave some feedback, perhaps in the comments here, but bear in mind that i'm also trying to keep this manageable as a set of course materials. if anything, i'm looking for better musical examples and readings rather than more.) before you pass judgment on my "ivory tower" canonization (if that's your inclination), please see my disclaimer from last year, which still holds. see also, this interview, which i hope provides further insight into where i'm coming from in putting all this together.

ultimately, i'm hoping to share what i've learned about the vast world of electronic music, a world about which i am deeply--omnivorously--curious, a world which increasingly intersects with every aspect of musical experience, and a world with its own myths and ideologies--some derivative of dominant discourse, some radically insurgent, expansive even. what i hope to do with the class is to generate a critical discussion--not critical meaning bad but critical meaning good incisive--of musical experience, musical practice, and musical subjects in the digital age.

if you're interesting in joining the conversation, i'd love to have you along for the ride. (but don't sleep: registration ends feb 5 and class starts jan 31.)

considering the course's attention to historical connections and its emphasis on the post-african funky side of the electronic music narrative, one might rightly dub this a crunk genealogy. as a bit of a demonstration (or an extracurricular exposition, if you will), i've put together a little mix, an embodied crunk genealogy, to give shape and form to one of the course's major themes: electro legacies.

the mix uses bambaataa's "planet rock"--or at least its predominant rhythmic pattern--as its thematic "dem bow", as its "amen", as the musical thread running through it. (let me be clear: these songs--except for a couple, such as "mentasm," which i've remixed by layering an electro pattern on top--all share a similar rhythmic pattern, the one powerfully promulgated, but not by any means created, by "planet rock"; they do not all employ samples of "planet rock," though some do.) of course bam's and baker's beat for "planet rock" derived no small inspiration from kraftwerk's "numbers." (it's essentially a re-lick.) but kraftwerk were listening to the same funk and rock that bambaataa was--much of it latin-tinged. the underlying beat in "numbers," "planet rock," and indeed in most every track in this mix is essentially a 3:2 clave played against some steady snares. it's one of those things that's become so common that it's heard as quintessentially american (which it is), despite its strong connections to latin musical culture.

the mix begins by (playfully) submitting stockhausen to the post-african repetitions he decries. after spinning karlheinz into an electro frenzy and mixing him with plastikman--one of the very "technocrats" he attempts to advise--the mix moves onward and outward to trace a cycle though various styles. one hears how rave/'ardcore borrows from electro and techno and then feeds back into brazilian funk, altanta crunk, and the sundry global forms created by various members of the electro generation, those for whom the crunk-clave provided a ubiquitous, slightly syncopated pulse. and a sizeable generation it is, for as you may know, electro morphed into freestyle and freestyle set the template for the next 20 years of teeniebop pop. that a clave-derived pattern underlies it all should not surprise: the clave propels much early and classic rock, a good deal of pop ballads and soul numbers, and a good many jazz tunes. (what do you think jelly roll was referring to when he spoke of jazz's "spanish tinge"?)

i'll leave it at that for now and let the sounds speak for themselves. the mix takes some wild turns as i try to thread the electro beat through a few decades of electronic music, and it ends up in an strange spot indeed, with a mashed-up jason moran giving "planet rock" the sort of modernist interpretation it calls for while aphex twin pursues a sort of drill'n'bass romanticism, an odd cluster of associations and allusions--and that about says it.

wayne&wax, "a crunk genealogy" (27 min | 31 mb)


stockhausen, excerpts from "zyklus," "hymnen," "gesang der jungliche," und "kontakte" (w&w "post-african" remix)
plastikman, "gak"
kraftwerk, "numbers"
afrika bambaataa & soul sonic force (w/ arthur baker), "planet rock"
autechre, "crystel"
kraftwerk, "trans-europe express"
gary numan, "cars"
cybotron, "clear"
missy elliott, ciara, fatman scoop, "lose control"
foreigner vs. missy/cybotron, "urgent" (rndm blend)
SD boys, "planeta dominado"
joey beltram, "mentasm" (w&w crunkt-up mix)
usher w/ lil jon, "yeah" (w&w crunkt-up mix)
2 bad mice, "bombscare"
the juan maclean, "my time is running out"
outkast, "the way you move"
tagteam, "whoomp! (there it is)"
matmos, "lipostudio"
bambaataa, "planet rock" (reprise)
jason moran, "planet rock" (w&w remash)
aphex twin, "4"

// *** //

finally, i plan to make each month's "wicked wicked thursday" (every fourth thurs at river gods) a night where some of the course's guests and i play through the previous month's music, all well-mixed'n'mashed, of course. tomorrow night we'll kick it off as i play through the mix above and pursue related strands while pace digs into the "weirdo" electronic side of his library of vinyl archive and blends some breakbeats 'pon top. should be a good vibe and a good semester.


Blogger Alice B. said...

fascinating. too bad i don't live in boston...

11:21 PM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

of course, one needn't live in boston to take the course, as i mention above.

6:37 AM  
Anonymous isaiah said...

very, very exciting, wayne! sorry to be out of the area tonight, but planning to catch a later one. btw, what time do festivities commence?

8:11 AM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

hi isaiah! thanks for your enthusiasm.

if you mean "wicked wicked," festivities commence at around 9/9:30 and go until 1.

the class runs from 7:30-9:30pm every tuesday night.

8:21 AM  
Anonymous isaiah said...

thanks,wayne. good luck tonight!

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Matt said...

Under your April 25 syllabus, the last piece of music you have listed is credited to "The Juan Mackean" but I think you mean "The Juan Maclean". Honest mistake I'm sure.

Syllabus looks as tantilizing this year as it did last year. Wish I had the extra money lying about and the extra time. Damn medical education always getting away of my musical education.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

I doubt it would add anything to the tracks you've already assembled for your Febuary 14th class, but I think it would be interesting to showcase a track embodying more contemporary funk. Something from Jamie Lidell's "Multiply" LP from last year, maybe 'When I Come Back Around." Or even a track showing that people are still laying down the funk in the 21st century like they were in the 70s: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings "Pick It Up, Lay It In the Cut" comes to mind.

I just know from my own experience that too many people are under the impression that funk died in the 70s and don't really see how it connects to contemporary music.

1:08 PM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

damn k--always sitting there next to l.

typo duly noted. thanks, matt. hmmm, maybe i should contract out my proofreading more often..

and good suggestions, too. i'll definitely add some more contemp funk, if just to show, as you note, that funk never died. (nope--it multiplied.) the thing about those two examples you mention--as solid as they may be--is that they seem to suggest that funk hasn't really changed over time. (but maybe i should listen closer; they've certainly got a digital sheen despite their strivings for mimesis, evocation, homage, whatever it is they're going for.) i'd probably want to pair one or both of them with other contemp examples that aren't as trad but are definitely as funky.

1:57 PM  
Anonymous matt said...

Excellent point. I can see the homage aspects from both artists, but something about Jamie Lidell's work (maybe the blatant electronic production) screams out 'contemporary funk' to me. I've seen several different critics claiming that his entire album is just an 'homage' to James Brown, but to me it sounds so much more. Probably just the lack of any real formal musical training on my part. :)

While I'm thinking of it, your class might find that DJ Zinc jungle/dnb megamix interesting (the one that Kid Kameleon posted on riddim method a couple months ago). It'd probably be a bit intimidating for a group that's relatively unfamiliar with jungle, but I think it's an excellent overview of the genre and wrapped into a nice little 5 minute package no less.

2:59 PM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

good points again, matt. i'll definitely consider adding lidell and that zinc mix. gonna put a bunch of time into updating the syllabus this weekend. appreciate the suggestions!

feel free to keep 'em coming, y'all.

6:57 AM  
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11:14 AM  

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