Archive for February 16th, 2012

February 16, 2012

The Belleville Three

The three individuals most closely associated with the birth of Detroit techno as a genre are Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May, also known as ‘The Belleville Three.’ The three, who were high school friends from Belleville, Michigan, created electronic music tracks in their basement(s). Eventually, they were in demand at local dance clubs, thanks in part to seminal Detroit radio personality The Electrifying Mojo. Ironically, Derrick May once described Detroit techno music as being a ‘complete mistake…like George Clinton and Kraftwerk caught in an elevator, with only a sequencer to keep them company.’ The location of Belleville was key to the formation of the three as musicians. Because the town was still ‘pretty racial at the time,’ according to Saunderson, ‘we three kind of gelled right away.’ The suburban setting also afforded a different environment in which to experience the music. ‘We perceived the music differently than you would if you encountered it in dance clubs. We’d sit back with the lights off and listen to records by Bootsy and Yellow Magic Orchestra. We never took it as just entertainment, we took it as a serious philosophy,’ recalls May. Belleville was located near several automobile factories, which provided well-paying jobs to a racially integrated workforce. ‘Everybody was equal,’ Atkins explained in an interview. ‘So what happened is that you’ve got this environment with kids that come up somewhat snobby, ‘cos hey, their parents are making money working at Ford or GM or Chrysler, been elevated to a foreman, maybe even a white-collar job.’ European acts like Kraftwerk were popular among middle-class black youth.

The segratory stigma attaching to Eight Mile Road was comparable to that dividing lines around Watts in Los Angeles, The Bronx in New York City, or Chicago’s South Side. Although the Belleville Three lived outside the city limits, their influence in loft apartment parties, after hours and high school clubs and late night radio united listeners of progressive dance music from above and below Eight Mile Road. Even Techno-friendly regular hours clubs like The Shelter, The Music Institute, and The Majestic were incubators Techno’s progress from basements and late night radio onto the dancefloors of the world. During the first wave of Detroit techno scene of the 80s, huge parties were held with upwards to fifty or more competing DJs. Most of the early party-goers were made up of middle-class black youths. However, as Detroit experienced heavy economic downfall, many of the middle-class white families fled to the suburbs in what is called the ‘white flight” of the early 70s, while middle-class black families were displaced by the degentrification of once securely middle-class black districts. Detroit Techno as a genre created a new-found, integrated club scene in Detroit that had not been felt in a general sense after the Motown label moved to Los Angeles. Television programs like WGPR’s ‘The Scene’ featured a racially and ethnically very mixed selection of dancers every weekday after school, but the playlist was typically jammed with the R&B and Funk tracks of the day, like Prince or the Gap Band. Breakouts like Juan Atkins’s ‘Technicolor,’ under his Channel One moniker, eventually found their way onto ‘The Scene,’ and helped to validate the burgeoning local Techno underground with the urban high school set, college radio programmers and DJs from Chicago to London and beyond.

February 16, 2012

Emil Schult

Emil Schult (b. 1946) is a German painter, poet and musician. He is most famous for his collaborations with the electronic music band Kraftwerk. He has created most of their sleeve designs since 1973. He also co-wrote the lyrics of some famous Kraftwerk songs. For a short while around 1973, Schult also played guitar in the group; this was to be short-lived, since Schult by his own admission is not quite good enough to be a professional musician, and since the group had started to develop its synth-based sound it no longer had any use for a guitarist.

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February 16, 2012

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk (German: ‘power plant’ or ‘power station’) is an influential electronic music band from Germany. The group was formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970, and was fronted by them until Schneider’s departure in 2008. The signature Kraftwerk sound combines driving, repetitive rhythms with catchy melodies, mainly following a Western Classical style of harmony, with a minimalistic and strictly electronic instrumentation. The group’s simplified lyrics are at times sung through a vocoder or generated by computer-speech software. Kraftwerk were one of the first groups to popularize electronic music and are considered pioneers in the field. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Kraftwerk’s distinctive sound was revolutionary, and has had a lasting effect across many genres of modern music.

February 16, 2012

Trans-Europe Express

Trans-Europe Express‘ is the title track of Kraftwerk’s 1977 album of the same name, and released as a single at the time. The music was written by Ralf Hütter, and the lyrics by Hütter and Florian Schneider. The track is ostensibly about the Trans Europ Express rail system, with technology and transport both being common themes in Kraftwerk’s ouvre. The track has since found further influence, both in hip-hop by its interpolation by Afrika Bambaata (via Arthur Baker) on the seminal ‘Planet Rock’ and by modern experimental bands such as the electroclash bands of the early 2000s.

The musical elements of the suite have been described as having a haunting theme with ‘deadpan chanting of the title phrase’ which is ‘slowly layered over that rhythmic base in much the same way that the earlier ‘Autobahn’ was constructed.’ The song’s lyrics reference the album Station to Station and meeting with musicians Iggy Pop and David Bowie. Hütter and Schneider had previously met up with Bowie in Germany and were flattered with the attention they received from him. Ralf Hütter was interested in Bowie’s work as he had been working with Iggy Pop, who was the former lead singer of the Stooges; one of Hütter’s favorite groups.

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February 16, 2012

8-Bit Operators

8-Bit Operators: The Music of Kraftwerk was released in 2007 by the group 8-Bit Operators on Kraftwerk’s US homelabel Astralwerks and EMI Records worldwide. It features cover versions of Kraftwerk songs by several prominent chiptune artists. Inspiration for the project as quoted by Jeremy Kolosine (credited as Executive Producer of the release, and noted founder of the early 80’s electronic group Futurisk and chipmusic band Receptors.) ‘Well the first thing that comes to my mind when I saw a gameboy show was Kraftwerk’s Computer World Tour from 1981, where four of them played various handheld devices during the song ‘Pocket Calculator.’ Plus it came up in a print from a Glomag quote, and an 8 Bit Weapon April Fool’s joke that backfired.’

This Kraftwerk covers compilation was somewhat unique in the fact that Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hütter selected the final track line-up, ‘So Jeremy was a little nervous when meeting Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hütter after a concert by the group in New York last year. He passed along to him a sample of the compilation. Later Hutter said he enjoyed it and even offered some editing suggestions.’ In a subsequent interview, when asked about the 8-Bit Operators release, Ralf Hütter responded, ‘It is mind stimulating, the minimum/maximum coming from sound levels and thoughts and ideas. Like ‘Autobahn’ and ‘Trans-Europe Express’ are very basic and elementary ideas, but they offer a pattern or concept for improvisation.’

February 16, 2012

Blip Festival

The Blip Festival is a festival that celebrates chiptune music with musical performances, workshops, and screenings of movies. It has been held annually since 2006 in New York City. In recent years, there have been international versions of Blip Festival held in Europe (Blip Festival Europe) and Asia (Blip Festival Tokyo). The festival is curated and organized by 8bitpeoples, one of the foremost labels in the chiptune scene, as well as local arts organization The Tank. The New York festival (referred to simply as Blip Festival) has switched venues several times, beginning in 2006 at 15 Nassau Street in Manhattan, then moving to Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in 2007, and then being held in Brooklyn at the Bell House in 2008 and 2009.

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February 16, 2012

8bitpeoples

8bitpeoples is a DIY record label/arts collective centered in New York City that focuses around the 8-bit aesthetic, which is heavily influenced by vintage videogames. 8bitpeoples was founded in 1999 by Jeremiah ‘Nullsleep’ Johnson and Mike ‘Tangible’ Hanlon. It is currently run by Johnson and labelmate Joshua ‘Bit Shifter’ Davis. Many artists who have appeared on 8bitpeoples have also appeared on compilations on other labels, most notably Astralwerks’ ‘8 Bit Operators’ compilation, a collection of Kraftwerk songs as done in the 8-bit style. 8bitpeoples is also involved in the organization of the Blip Festival, which features 8-bit musicians, often including those on the 8bitpeoples roster.

They provide the vast majority of their releases for free via their website, including printable covers and inserts so that anyone can manufacture a hard copy of their releases.

February 16, 2012

Self-domestication

Self-domestication refers to the process of adaptation of wild animals to humans, without direct human selective breeding of the animals. The term is also used to refer to biological processes in the evolution of humans and human culture. Wild animals may self-domesticate when tame behavior enhances their survival near humans. Tolerating or even enjoying the close approach of humans in order to feed near them, and a lessening of natural adult aggression, are two aspects of tameness. An environment that supports the survival of tame animals can lead to other changes in behavior and appearance as well. Smaller skulls on tame animals have been noticed in other species. Noticing that a dog’s skull looks like that of a juvenile wolf, British primatologist Richard Wrangham goes on to say that ‘this leads to the thought that species can self-domesticate.’ Other characteristics that are associated with juvenility – barking and meowing (sounds used by wolf cubs and kittens of large felines, respectively, to communicate with their parents), more playful and less aggressive, and more eager to learn – are seen in tame animals. Self-domestication is described by Wrangham as being in an environment where lessening of aggression was beneficial for survival. As grain plants and livestock became domesticated 9,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, wild cats adapted to living with humans, hunting rodents in grain stores and ‘abandoning their aggressive wild-born behaviors,’ which led to today’s house cats.

The distance an animal will allow a human to approach before it runs away, or ‘flight distance,’ is a measure of tameness. Wild wolves are both aggressive and quick to flee from humans, but they are the ancestors of dogs. Biologist Raymond Coppinger, in work with wild wolves, finds that directly taming a wild wolf is very difficult, and must begin before the animal is nineteen days old. He finds it far more likely that ‘the wolves domesticated themselves’ (self-domesticated) into dogs over time, when wolves that could tolerate the closeness of humans were better able to find food in human village waste, and therefore those wolves’ survival was enhanced. Research beginning in 1959 by the Soviet geneticist Dmitri Belyaev on silver foxes selectively bred only for tameness revealed that a whole range of other physical and behavioral features, such as neoteny (also called juvenilization), also appeared along with the tameness, characteristics that were not specifically the result of selective breeding by humans. White spots on their fur, floppy ears, rolled tails and smaller skulls were seen in the tame foxes. Belyaev and his successors also selectively bred wild rats for tameness, with similar results. These results with selective breeding suggest that the natural process of self-domestication can occur within a single human generation. Self-domestication describes theories of how humans developed and evolved. The idea of self-domestication was used by early Social Darwinism which, according to psychiatrist Martin Brüne in an article ‘On human self-domestication,’ developed from the idea that humans could perfect themselves biologically. ‘Contemporary reproductive technologies such as selective abortion and genetic screening are typical examples where our self-domestication is most directly apparent,’ writes philosopher Masahiro Morioka, who also says that ‘Through domesticating ourselves like cattle, people began civilization.’ Gregory Stock, director of the UCLA School of Medicine’s Program of Medicine, Technology and Society, describes self-domestication as a process which ‘… mirrors our domestication [of animals] … we have transformed ourselves through a similar process of self-selection … our transformation has been primarily cultural, but it has almost certainly had a biological component.’

February 16, 2012

Rigpa

In Buddhism, rigpa  is the knowledge that ensues from recognizing one’s nature. The opposite of rigpa is marigpa (ignorance). In the ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead,’ the same term refers to the fundamental innate mind in its natural state of spontaneity and purity. It is translated as ‘intrinsic awareness,’ and is described as giving a meditator access to pristine cognition or the buddha-mind itself, and it stands in direct contrast to fundamental ignorance, which is the primary cause of rebirth in cyclic existence (reincarnation). The direct introduction to intrinsic awareness is a distinctive teaching within the Nyingma school. This practice is a central component of the Esoteric Instruction Class of Atiyoga, where it is known as Cutting Through Resistance (Khregs-chod).

‘A Dzogchen Master STARTS with ‘direct introduction’ with everyone. If they don’t ‘get it’ then one starts to use all the infinite methods and means to help bring about the experience of Rigpa. When one has the experience of Rigpa, then one confirms the validity of one’s path now being ‘remaining with Rigpa’ as path.’

February 16, 2012

Feiler Faster Thesis

The Feiler Faster Thesis (FFT) is a theory in modern journalism that the increasing pace of society is matched by (and perhaps driven by) journalists’ ability to report events and the public’s desire for more information. The idea is credited to American author Bruce Feiler and first defined by journalist Mickey Kaus in a 2000 ‘Slate’ article, ‘Faster Politics: ‘Momentum’ ain’t what it used to be.” Kaus describes two trends: the speeding up of the news cycle and the compression of the schedule of primaries for the 2000 U.S. general election. Kaus wrote: ‘Feiler’s point is that we should put these two trends together–and that when we do, Trend 1 considerably softens the impact of Trend 2.’ Kaus uses the observation to reassess the concept of momentum in politics, suggesting that there are now simply more opportunities for turns of fortune and that voters are able, for the most part, to keep up. Kaus’s second interpretation in a later article is broader and more succinct: ‘The news cycle is much faster these days, thanks to 24-hour cable, the Web, a metastasized pundit caste constantly searching for new angles, etc. As a result, politics is able to move much faster, too, as our democracy learns to process more information in a shorter period and to process it comfortably at this faster pace.’

The idea is based on James Gleick’s 1999 book ‘Faster,’ which makes the argument that the pace of Western society, and American society in particular, has increased and that ‘a compression of time characterizes the life of the century now closing.’ Gleick documents the ways technology speeds up work and the time people spend doing various tasks, including sleeping. He points out that ‘we have learned to keep efficiency in mind as a goal, which means that we drive ourselves hard.’ Gleick’s key observation is that ‘some of us say we want to save time when really we just want to do more.’ The FFT is sometimes misinterpreted as merely describing the shortening of the news cycle, which is actually covered as part of Gleick’s original observations. Kaus recognized the difference in a 2005 posting: ‘The FFT, remember, doesn’t say that information moves with breathtaking speed these days. (Everyone knows that!) The FFT says that people are comfortable processing that information with what seems like breathtaking speed.’

February 16, 2012

Bruce Feiler

Bruce Feiler (b. 1964) is a popular American writer on faith, family, and finding meaning in everyday life. He is also the writer/presenter of the PBS miniseries ‘Walking the Bible.’ His latest book, ‘The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me,’ describes how he responded to a diagnosis of cancer by asking six men from all passages of his life to be present through the passages of his young daughters’ lives. His recent work made him a respected authority on religion, politics, and relevant emotional issues. ‘Walking the Bible’ describes his perilous, 10,000-mile journey retracing the Five Books of Moses through the desert. ‘Where God Was Born’ describes his year-long trek retracing the Bible through Israel, Iraq, and Iran. ‘America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story’ discusses the significance of Moses as a symbolic prophet throughout four-hundred years of American history.

Feiler completed his undergraduate degree at Yale University, before spending time teaching English in Japan. This experience led to his first book, ‘Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan,’ a popular portrait of life in a small Japanese town. Upon his return he earned a masters degree in international relations from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, which he chronicled in his book ‘Looking for Class.’ His early books involve immersing himself in different cultures and bringing other worlds to life. In addition to Japan and Cambridge he also entered the world of a traveling circus for ‘Under the Big Top,’ which depicts the year he spent performing as a clown in the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus. Feiler is also credited with formulating the Feiler Faster Thesis:  the increasing pace of society is matched by (and perhaps driven by) journalists’ ability to report events and the public’s desire for more information.

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