“[T]he mix breaks free from the old associations. New contexts form from old. The script gets flipped. The languages evolve and learn to speak in new forms, new thoughts. The sound of thought becomes legible again at the edge of the new meanings.”
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”
“I say, play your own way. Don’t play what the public wants. You play what you want and let the public pick up on what you’re doing, even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years.”
Dedications is an experimental jazzy hip-hop remix project born out of a love of listening to records. The album mixes, mashes, samples, spins, cuts, signifies, rhapsodizes, poetizes, layers, collages, remixes, breaks, distresses, archives, remakes, reshapes, and re-edits pieces of recorded history to create a sonic audio homage to a host of musicians and styles with a nod to the avant-garde. There is a lot of poetry on the album because, as a literary scholar, I have also always understood that poetry is musical, and that music is poetical.
The Greek root of the word poet, poiein, means “to make, create, form, or produce,” which is essentially what musicians do with the raw materials they have at hand. The music that you hear, which has been mixed, cut, mashed, and recontextualized from fragments of different pieces of music, functions like the Poundian maxim to “make it new.” Although approaching cliché today, there was prescient truth in Marshall McLuhan’s aphorism “the medium is the massage,” particularly the notion that today’s virtual media can be an adequate substitute for actuality. In both “embodied” and “digital” spaces there are always connections to be made—we can never get away from embodied experience, and now we can never get away from digital experience, which is also embodied. As McLuhan says, “Our time is a time for crossing barriers, for erasing old categories—for probing around. When two seemingly disparate elements are imaginatively poised, put in apposition in new and unique ways, startling discoveries often result.” Music (and listening) is about the process of doing, of discovery, which connects the scientist to the musician, the scholar to the artist, the past to the present—all venturing out onto that unknowable edge.
I perform under my DJ alias, DJ Techné. Techné translates as craftsmanship, craft, or art. As an activity, techné is concrete, variable, and context-dependent. In ancient Greece, techné signified all the mechanic arts, including medicine and music. The English aphorism, “gentlemen don’t work with their hands,” is said to have originated in ancient Greece in relation to their cynical view on the arts. Due to this view, it was only fitted for the lower class while the upper class practiced the liberal arts of “free” men. Well, I think that art is about getting your hands dirty. The breaking down of borders requires a dance with the muck, the grit, the crackle, and the unknown.
Dedications takes various phonogrooves (from jazz, hip-hop, and spoken word, to unusual recontextualized samples) and mélanges them together to create polyvalent dedications to a host of musicians and poets. If you listen closely you will hear William Blake (with Archie Shepp), Sun Ra, Glenn Gould, Pharoah Sanders, Ravi Shankar, Inspectah Deck, Jack Kerouac, Ella Fitzgerald, The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron, Charlie “Bird” Parker (with Ontario songbirds), Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane (with Michael S. Harper), Louis Armstrong (with Gwendolyn Brooks), Fats Waller, Earl Birney, the poetry of The Four Horseman, Tom Waits, John G. Diefenbaker, Ginsberg reading Howl over Horace Parlan’s keys, a Japan Airlines record chopped up, Thelonious Monk accompanied by Amiri Baraka, Clifton Joseph, MF Doom, and Mutabaruka dubbing over The Zombies, among a myriad of other sounds, samples, echoes, and cuts. At times I add a live-recorded layer of chant, singing bowl, or beatbox. I played almost all the drums on an MPC, and most of the samples are recorded live from vinyl. If I made a mistake in a recording, I usually embraced it as part of the process. For me, music—whether in performance or in listening—is a malleable activity about making sense of the world, and not a “fixed” product. I agree with Christopher Small’s assertion, in Musicking, that “There is no such thing as music. Music is not a thing at all but an activity, something that people do.” I think music, as well as literature, is always a metaphor and an open signifier. Dedications is an opening.
released December 4, 2013
Recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered by Paul db Watkins.
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