All the more often, one would see a headline about a fashion designer DJ’ing at a concert, or an actor, a military general, even a priest. What was once known to be a specialised skill is now appearing becoming common knowledge, and it may seem like anyone who spends hours and hours of their entire childhood’s afternoons is wasting their time trying to perfect a skill that can easily be mastered who has otherwise pursued an alternative profession.
A skill set for commercial enterprise
Since the death of club culture began shortly after the turn of the century, there has been very little opportunity for anyone to experience and have a chance to see and feel what a DJ really does. It can be easily said that the number of people in any population today that have seriously enjoyed a night out partying or a day at the festival, makes a very insignificant amount of any population. This being a blog, and not a statistics lecture, it may be difficult to back any of the claims I make with any concrete statistics. So it will suffice to state that most of the claims made are purely from observation.
So what has been the general observation of what a DJ really does? Well it has been conditioned by the commercial experience of music entertainment, firstly by the radio, and then the music festival; since there are no clubs left anymore. One cannot really grasp what the full effect of a well laid out mix can do from listening to it from a broadcast medium, be it radio or internet. The limit of it lies in only being able to discern the technical aspect of the mix; whether the beats match and go together, whether the melody is in tune, whether the song selection flows appropriately…the list goes on and on. What is the issue here is the level of experience; the listener only gets to enjoy the technical aspects of the skill and it ends there, they may derive joy out of it, but it is only fleeting.
This activity, when it is repeated through this medium, the only thing that is known will be conditioned to just that, the technical aspects of the mixing. This in a way creates the effect of dumbing down the listener as to what to expect and it is reflected in the choice of DJ they choose to go and see. The problem is, over time that is what then they become defined to be: Just people who have an ability to select and match a selection of songs of which the majority has consensus over enjoying. The image of the DJ is conditioned.
Technology has been developing at an accelerating pace, and so has the development of DJ equipment. There is now a vast variety of mixers and cd decks with a vast variety of audio visual aids for the user. These include enhancements such as electronic wave display and beat counting that it makes is so easy to obtain information about any particular track the user may be playing. As if that were not enough a computer can be added to the mix which opens up a whole new level of approaching the art form.
First is storage space, with capacities of up to 1 thousand gigabytes enable to user to have up to 10 thousand songs on their library . It is highly doubtful that anyone can build a meaningful relationship with their library, whilst still striving to fill up their collectiom as fast as they can. Second is processing power, sound manipulation can never be easier with the processing power of modern laptops and appropriate software. The control decks and the mixer are interfaced to the laptop to allow the user to manipulate each track at each deck through the software and the unit. This software has built in it features such as cue saving, which allows you to get to any point on the song with the touch of a button and built I effects which also come on at the touch of a button.
These tremendous advantages give the user of this equipment a lot of time to work on their set while playing, to go through the vast library of songs they have at the pleasure of the crowd. This is probably why the newer generation of DJ now interact with the crowd a lot more. The song selection is not often leading as it is always about whats popular so as to get the crowd hype going. This again, is fleeting.
What really goes on in a proper gig?
It is hard to imagine anyone that comes across a poster to an event and the first thing that comes to mind is the technical execution of how the music will be played. The first thing that comes to the mind of a person when they see a poster is information extraction. Where it will be, who will be playing there, what type and style of music is one likely to hear at this particular event. This gives the individual the various subtle clues as to who will likely grace this event, and would they be the sort of people one would be comfortable with interacting, this will form the basis of the decision whether they would likely enjoy the event or not.
This is where the distortion comes in. Anyone who goes to a festival with a camp chair is not going there to dance or enjoy the company of those who go along with them, instead what happens is that the camp chair becomes the front row cinema seat for people watching and technical judgement of the musicians and more especially the DJ, and deep down, they know that, everyone knows that. This has been conditioned by the endless hours spent listening to music mixes through the radio or internet device. How this occurs is that in the minds of most people at the event there are conditions that must be satisfied before they can start to enjoy event, such as safety, setting (decoration and seating), alcohol, and the people to enjoy it with and last of all, good technical execution of the music, so the mind that creates this scenario also wants to enjoy this scenario, but the catch is, it is not the mind that judges technical aspects of a gig that enjoys a day or night out with appropriate music, it creates a disconnect with the experience of the gig, so what you have is a crowd that is conditioned to cold judgement of the entertainment before enjoying it.
What the function of the musician is, is to set the tone for the event. The tone is set through their adjustment of sound and this, they are assisted by reading the crowd. At this point when the DJ or musician has engaged with the crowd, and the crowd with them, there is a whole new level of experience that is opened up, where everyone is connected by the same experience. This experience is occurring because everyone is trying to get to the same goal, euphoria and the music is the guide towards such an experience, which the people share the feeling about. It will not be through consensus judgement as to whether things were done right, because that in itself places an impediment towards this act of creativity.
The crowd that easily is satisfied with mere technical execution is also gullible to illusion, because of the inclusion of electronic technology assistance. The illusion that the person you are listening to actually knows what they are doing and that they are there for your enjoyment. So in this sense, anyone who is an opportunist sees the vast commercial gains that can be made by applying this technology to a technically gullible crowd. The DJ musician need not know much about music or DJing to be successful in what they will now present as an art form. The crowd will only be partially pleased and inebriated at the end of the gig, and when the after effects wear off, the sudden realisation that it was not as enjoyable an event as they had imagined sets in. This builds up an acute resentment towards the ability of the DJ or musician which only sets to diminish what can be truly appreciated I what they do. The thought that “anyone can do this shit” comes to mind. The true art form does not grow, it dies from that point, because the opportunist DJ invests their money in better technology to further cash in on the hype factor of the crowd and not in their ability to create a better and more enjoyable experience.
Do we then need to redefine the art form?
Music as an art and all art in general is under attack by the high tech industrial societies because of the conflicting values of both ideas. Where the real scenario is that both the ideas need each other to survive, what is to be done? A new way of appreciating events, clubs and entertainment in general needs to be redefined. Definitions will not save the art, but rather the way of its interpretation may have a chance in doing so. This will not take place through political will, because its goal is to move counter-intuitive to just that. It will not take place through some established organisation or registered society. It will not take place by establishing a set of rules as to how one is to enjoy the creativity. It will rather change, when each one of us both the individual and the artist recognises what it is they need to take away from the experience, where the only appreciation is for the art itself, for the sake of the art and not for some monetary gain. Street cred then comes after, as a result of a collective appreciation for what the artist creates.