|Conference on DJs to feature dance, scholars, more|
|Thursday, January 21, 2010|
A DJ doesn’t just put on a record and sit down.
He or she manipulates vinyl records on two turntables while operating knobs and sliders on a mixer, creating new music. Some even scratch records, choosing from among dozens of techniques.
“Many DJs will practice for hours and hours a day,” said Mark Katz, Ph.D., associate professor of music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “They know where on a record a drum solo is just by looking at the record. They can put the needle down on exactly the right groove at exactly the right time.”
Katz is organizing a free public symposium, “The Art and Culture of the DJ,” to take place Feb. 18-19 at UNC, with scholarly presentations, performances, a dance party – and of course, DJ-ing. The impact of digital technologies on the art will be discussed, as well as a theme best articulated by Katz.
“The underlying concept is that the DJ is a musician and the turntable is a musical instrument,” he said. “I’m a violinist, and when I move a record back and forth under the stylus, I get the same feeling as when I’m drawing the bow across the violin.”
The symposium is part of the CHAT Festival, Feb. 16-20 at UNC – Collaborations: Humanities, Arts & Technology. Festival details and registration information are available at http://www.chatfestival2010.com. Registration is not required for the music department’s contributions to the festival – those will be free to the public.
The music department events will make up this year’s Festival on the Hill, a mix of presentations and performances about a composer or topic that the department hosts every other year. This year, the DJ symposium will be part of Festival on the Hill, as will performances and discussions of electro-acoustic music Feb. 16-19. For more on electro-acoustic music, see http://uncnews.unc.edu/content/view/3265/66/.
“The Art and Culture of the DJ” will start with an open rehearsal in Gerrard Hall, 160 Cameron Avenue, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 by Charanga Carolina, a student ensemble that plays Cuban and salsa music. David García, Ph.D., assistant professor of music at Carolina, directs the group.
Katz commissioned a composition for the symposium by DJ Radar, who is called a turntablist, and composer Raul Yañez, both of Phoenix. The two, who have performed at Carnegie Hall, have written a piece for turntables and ensemble for Charanga.
“‘Carolina’ will be in the title of one of them,” Katz said. “Raul’s grandmother is named Carolina, and he thought that was a nice bit of serendipity.”
The Feb. 18 rehearsal will mark the composition’s premiere. DJ Radar will perform on turntables and Yañez will play piano. Afterward, the composers and musicians will explain their work and take questions and feedback from the audience.
The rehearsal will be part of the Process Series, a project of UNC’s Office of the Executive Director for the Arts. The series presents artistic works in progress with discussions afterward to illuminate the creative process and help artists complete their works.
On Feb. 19 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Gerrard, Charanga Carolina will perform the composition that results from discussions the day before. “We’ll set up chairs, but we’ll be sure to leave some room for people to dance,” Katz said.
After the rehearsal on Feb 18, a dance party will ensue from 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. in Gerrard. Student, local and visiting DJs will perform in the balconies, including local artists DJ One Duran and DJ Misty Touch. VJs – video jockeys – will project complementary videos on screens around dancers on the main floor.
Scholars and DJs will discuss the art from 1:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Feb. 19 in Hyde Hall. The speakers and panelists will include Larisa Mann, whose DJ name is DJ Ripley. A law student at the University of California, Berkeley, Mann studies the intersection of music law and technology.
“A lot of her research is in Jamaica, which is an important center for DJ-ing,” Katz said. “American hip-hop was strongly influenced by Jamaican DJs.” Other scholars speaking at the symposium will include music theorist and UNC alumnus Mark Butler of Northwestern University; historian Rayvon Fouché, University of Illinois; and sociologist Oliver Wang, California State University at Long Beach.
Katz welcomes skeptics about the art of DJ-ing to the symposium: “If someone comes in very dubiously, I think that after they have heard what these scholars have to say, they will be convinced that there’s a very rich musical tradition that has grown over the last 30 years, and that the DJ today is a major figure in popular culture.”
Charanga Carolina Web site: http://music.unc.edu/ensembles/charanga/