In Praise of Copying

Was listening to DJ/rupture‘s consistently awesome Mudd Up show on WFMU there recently. His special guest was Marcus Boon, a writer, journalist and Associate Professor in the English Literature department at Toronto’s York University. They had a pretty interesting chat, discussing ownership in dancehall and hip-hop, the human need to copy, as well as discussing Marcus’s new book, ‘In Praise of Copying’, which you can grab for free, in pdf form, here. He also plays a few tunes, including one called ‘Logobi Hardcore 100%’, which will tickle your footbuds. Listen to the audio here, and while you’re at it you might as well have a browse through the archives there.

2011 probably means waaaay more music than you can ever hope to filter through, despite feed subscriptions and other digital funnelry. Rupture is one of the few podcasts I’m probably going to keep listening to this year just cos the man never gets stale: he’s put on some great shows in 2010; personal favourites would include Das Racist, Larisa Mann aka DJ Ripley, and Andy Moor & Yannis Kyriakides, all top notch stuff and more than worthy of a check out. Don’t forget yr wellies.

While I’m on about Rupture, check out his new mixtape, ‘Harlem Is Nowhere’, which is featured on Italian architecture zine Domus. Featuring author Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, the mix contains excerpts from her new book, ‘Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America’ (hence the mix title). The mix itself doesn’t explicitly feature heaps of music from Harlem, it more aims to create the essence and vibe of Harlem. Rupture and Pitts describe it so:

We first arrived in Harlem through books and poetry and music; a Harlem of dreams. The street-level view came later. Listening to and walking through this city-within-a-city requires having one’s ears to the ground and eyes to its expansive sky. If Harlem is a “nowhere” in the sense of a utopia, we hope to slip – via the music – into that location.

I really like this idea of trying to tap into the vibe of an area through music. There were a few out-takes from my thesis on the geographical context of music and how it’s impacted by digital media. Didn’t fit in with the vibe of the thesis but I guess the beauty of a blog is that you get to exercise these otherwise-homeless ideas. Here’s one:

Although it could be argued that the internet has the power to negate music’s geographical context, ethnologies such as bass culture ‘totally go in for fetishizing origins and roots, they have this intensely territorialized sense of ancestry.'[Reynolds, 526]

Dusk and Blackdown’s 2008 album ‘Margins Music’ created something akin to a sonic map of London, a ‘celebration of these places and people, and the culture that has inspired us for so long… We tried to use as much colour as possible, sample from different cultures, paint different shades and then blend them together like the city that surrounds us.’

Some of the key factors that help sustain bass culture in a localized area are described by Martin Clark, in the case of London, as multiculturalisam, racial integration, a history of pirate radio broadcasting and DIY culture. Although tempos and genres change, the sense of ownership of this music stays the same. Clark describes ‘a sense of belonging to London… but also a sense of confusion over identity as well’. He suggests that the problem of identity is more of a problem for the media who can’t easily label the culture, whereas those who participate in the culture ‘just get on with life’. Yet they deal actively with identity problems by engaging in group ritual at bass culture events. Although genrification can be beneficial to those active within bass culture, e.g. distributors and retailers, it can also be used by the media enable a better understanding of how a section of society feels, without necessarily having to go out there and ‘slum’ with that population.

One of the original goals I had in my thesis was going to be a discussion on the viability of creating a localized sound for Dublin. The only way of testing this out would be to go about trying to create one, and that would have been a thesis in itself. Richie !Kaboogie is currently curating an attempt to do so, albeit with the use of a fairly strict production template that artsits have to adhere to. Although that sounds pretty restricted, there’s actually a huge variety in the tracks that have come back so far, a testament to the imagination of Dublin-based producers. I guess why something like this succeeds is less because it’s aiming to recreate sounds clearly identifiable with Dublin (the Moore Street market, the LUAS, the sound of greasy palms melting into each other in Leinster House… ), and more due to the fact that it’s created a template for those who live there to sculpt out the vibe. Less the actual ‘streetview’, and more the metaphor, which is going to vary wildly from person to person (and indeed, producer to producer). Sure, you mightn’t be able to tell whether such a project was based on Dublin or Galway, for example (or further afield), but it’s not like we’re trying to create audio postcards for Bórd Fáilte now, is it?