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
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
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)
afrika bambaataa & soul sonic force (w/ arthur baker), "planet rock"
kraftwerk, "trans-europe express"
gary numan, "cars"
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)"
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.