…and I’ve been neglecting my music.
I can’t help it – I upgraded my motorcycle to a Honda CB500X and now I’m riding everywhere – dirt roads, logging trails, twisty highways and back roads. Loving every minute of it. But I’ve been slacking on the music front.
One of my projects for the fall/winter will be to relocate and upgrade my studio at home. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and I’m finally going to start on it really soon.
Of course, I’ll see what I can do about posting more often, but we all know how that goes.
…and I got a new motorcycle.
The world keeps on spinning. Prince passed away and I was reminded of how much of an impact Purple Rain had on me when I was in high school. Living where I did and having the limited musical exposure I did, Prince was something from another universe (wasn’t he always?). We didn’t have MTV at first, there were few radio stations (classic rock and top 40 as I remember), and this was the time before internet. So much has changed with the internet – even the way we find out about the deaths of famous people.
When I went out Thursday to ride my motorcycle, it was a beautiful day. Out in the woods, I rode over dirt trails and crossed a stream with no bridge. Every so often I’d stop to send a text to my husband to let him know all was okay. After all, I’m out in the woods on trails where I could (and did) fall down. Just letting him know what was up, that I’d fallen and gotten up (and gotten my 400 plus pound bike up as well). It’s part of the deal with trail riding out here, especially when you’re a novice at it (the trail part, at least). Part of learning.
But when I came home, the spouse told me the news. I thought he was joking. Told him to check and make sure it was true. It had been true, for a couple of hours, and I hadn’t known. He could have told me while I was out, but he waited. Motorcycle riding is not something you want to do when you’re distracted or upset – there’s just too much to watch and do to keep yourself safe.
Prince was someone who made an impression on me when I was very young and didn’t have the musical knowledge to appreciate what he was doing. The musical history that came before him (funk and soul specifically) were mostly unknown to me, so all of it was new, without context or reference points. I did know some about rock music, so his guitar playing and virtuosity was obvious. I loved that music, and it was so evocative for me. Now that I’m so much older and know a lot more about music (but never enough), I have a better appreciation for what I truly believe was his musical genius.
I hadn’t been up on his music in a while, but I knew he was still producing so much music, music that hasn’t even been heard by anyone but him and the people who helped him make it. Maybe this will be the time for me to start learning more about who he became musically while I wasn’t paying attention. It’s certainly time for me to connect with all the music I knew back then.
Life is short and you never know what’s going to happen. Best to do and be and listen and love while you can, every day. Be in the moment and pay attention. This applies to the single track in the woods on the back of a motorcycle or listening to music or being with someone you love.
Be in the moment and pay attention.
For a while now, I’ve been working on encoding my music collection so it can be stored on computers. I think back to when personal computers started being a thing – when things were so much smaller in capacity (storage and processing) and so expensive in price. Moore’s Law being what it is, I recently added a computer to my home network that had two hard drives that were over a hundred thousand times bigger than my “big” hard drive in the old days (well, we’re talking 20 Meg to 3 Terabytes, so even more). The price for the whole thing was, if my memory is right, less than my entire computer cost in the old days. This allows me to do things that wouldn’t have been possible back in the day – storing my whole vinyl and CD collection on a few hard drives, in great quality. Networked so everyone in the house can get to the music. I need to play with the Raspberry Pi and make a file server/music player to get music to the kitchen side of my little house.
This tinkering with technology brings me back to what I did for years in the working world. Now, it’s just a hobby – a useful hobby in my case. I’ve got a big storage server now and can get back to encoding records to computer. I’m looking now at things that will serve me well in an environment where people can dance to what I’m playing. Why?
Next month, I’ll be the DJ at the Airspray Queer Dance Party at the Electric Haze in Worcester (see next post for update). I went out to their party this month (the third Friday of the month) and scoped out the crowd to see what it was like and whether I felt like I could do what I thought that audience wanted.
Being out at a club was a strange experience, because I realized how long it had been since I did that. When I was just a sprog, I would go dancing – out, by myself. Yes, I had friends there, but I never have been one to stay home because I had to go out by myself. My standard MO is to get there early – I have to settle into the waters gradually. Being in a club as it fills up is easier for me than diving in when it’s already full of people. So I got to Electric Haze (26 Millbury Street, Worcester MA) at just after 9PM, ordered a drink and found a seat in the corner. Yes, I’m a sitting in the corner girl. I like to watch what goes on.
I wanted to see what kind of music they were used to hearing at this party. Living in Worcester and having friends who loved to go dance (and are part of the Queer community), I’d been asked to go to this with them in the past but hadn’t gone yet. What blew me away about this party was how much people were wanting to dance. If you were even remotely aware of dance crowd psychology (really, just paying attention), you could see it – people clustered in groups on the floor once the DJ got set up and started playing music. They were bobbing even when they didn’t have anything that really made them want to dance yet. That energy – I was at ground level and I just felt like this was my kind of people – the people who would go out and dance like crazy if you gave them grooves. Funky grooves. Smooth grooves. Leftfield stuff that they didn’t expect grooves. Basically the DJ Muse special, you know?
Classifying what I do is never easy. It’s so fluid and crosses genres so much – I’ve never fit in an easy box. At the “turn of the century” everyone who was a DJ seemed to be specializing like insects – you weren’t just house, but you were Progressive House, or whatever that specialty might be. Given that slots were only an hour long, that kind of made sense, I suppose. I’ve never really enjoyed that, although I learned to get better at constructing a tight set. But constructing that set kills any spontaneity, which I really believe is where the magic and connection happens. Sure, you can still connect with a crowd, but there’s something about working your way around, testing what makes people dance, what makes them holler – and then giving them more. It’s not something you do in an hour, and it takes a lot of work and attention. You can’t autopilot that, you shouldn’t phone it in. I won’t.
So, Worcester, I’m coming out to play, and we will dance. Until we’re a damned sweaty mess, we will dance. We’ll have fun. It’s something I’m going to do while the reigning DJ of Airspray is taking a month off, and I’m really grateful to the wonderful folks at Airspray for making it possible. I’m glad to be part of something creative and fun in Worcester – and even gladder that it’s such a short drive from home.
Second week of the year, and so much going on. Last night (1/10/16) at the Sahara we had a special extra show and the slam to select a poet to represent Worcester at the Women of the World Poetry Slam (WoWPS) and it was an amazing show. The talent that showed up to compete was inspiring. Most of the poets I knew or had heard of before, but there were a few new ones who blew my socks off. The winner was one of those “new” (to me) women, and she was a powerful, talented performer with a strong voice (both literally and figuratively). Worcester can be proud of their representative and I know she’ll do well.
It’s funny – I was just talking to the other half the other day about how I used to write poetry but I never felt I was good enough at it to continue. Sometimes you just know you’re not getting where you need to go – in my case, poetry is too compact and requires way too much attention (and strong editing) to suit my writing skills. As you might guess from even these blog posts, I’m not good at doing “short and strong” poetry. Ironic, because that would probably describe me as a person. On the other hand, my musical tastes bear out my strengths – I like long sets to elaborate on my ideas and themes, and have been waiting for a long time to jump back into something that’s a long-form, DJ-centric event. I’ve been doing musical work for poetry pretty much exclusively for the last 9 years or so, and that’s just crazy to me.
But last night, I had a discussion, and passed a card. I’m going to go out this weekend and check out something that may become a new monthly home for me. I’ve missed the immediate, visceral feedback of people dancing to my sets. With the 7 Hills Slam gig, I’ve had more and more people come up to me and tell me they enjoy my music. It’s always a nice surprise, even after all these years of being a DJ. Then there are my super fans, who give me all those reactions to the strange things I play. Angel and Rushelle, and my dear friend Jenith – giving me the love and bopping along when I get it just right. I missed that. Going to see if I can get that kind of feedback more often.
I know that part of my guiding philosophy is to keep things interesting. Keep changing things up (in the context of a coherent framework) and add in as much diversity as possible. This goes back to the time when I was going out to dance clubs every weekend, all weekend long. The DJs then were playing everything, dance music was blowing up in all directions, and the influences were so eclectic. You always knew that things would change direction again and again, and anything was possible – from old school rave music to acid house, from Nine Inch Nails to Depeche Mode to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I miss those days, but they definitely played a part in making me the musical misfit that I am. My collection is diverse, but it mostly spans a couple of decades with an emphasis on certain periods when I was the most active. I’m still adding, but as I get older, I realize that there is so much music out there, and so much more being produced all the time. It’s easier than ever for someone to create music and put it out to the world. It’s also easier to find the music you feel best expresses your voice and curate that music for others to take them on your journey. I’ve never been big on having the “latest and greatest” of everything, but I have always known when I hear that song that makes me go WANT NOW and I am constantly reminded how that voice is spot on even years later. Of course, I’m not above pimping when a friend puts out something amazing, so that happens, as well. I think I’ll get to see pretty soon what that will be like with new people in a new setting. Check back soon and I’ll say more as things develop!
Stay warm, enjoy your new year, and play a David Bowie song for you and for me.
Grandma Funk (DJ Muse)
Nope. I try, but really I just get sidetracked.
There were some decisions to make about where we wanted to be long-term. Many considerations, and the world is just so crazy these days. It made me question a lot of things, and I had to decide where I wanted to be for my own well-being and long-term stability. Yes, the idea of picking up and moving away to the country is crazy, and the idea that I could even do it is an indication of how fortunate I am in many ways. Most people live where they are as a result of circumstances of family, of employment, of “that’s just where I ended up.”
Family. My family is all married and found – so many people I chose to be part of my life because they were someone I wanted to have in my life. Again, I’m fortunate. I choose well these days, the result of so many errors in discretion and judgment when I was younger. Luckily, I eventually learn from my mistakes. I chose music as part of my path, and writing as the other – and there are so many amazing people in those areas who became part of that circle I call friends and family. We support each other. We cheer each other on. We share information and inspiration and music.
So, I’m trying to set up my life so that I create more, noodle more, play with music more. Write more. My husband thinks he’s the only one who reads my page, and he might not be far from right. But I’m going to try writing here every day or as close to it as I can get. Expect things about my life, the projects I do around the house, and my music. Fun stuff about the music I’m encoding from vinyl, that ongoing, never-ending process. Maybe some links to the songs, especially when I have trouble finding them on YouTube (those end up on my Facebook page a lot of the time when I find something I want to share). Basically being more forthcoming with what I’m doing on a more regular basis.
Right now, I’m still doing the Seven Hills Slam on the first Sunday of each month. There’s talk about expanding the reading to more nights (like making it biweekly) and I’ve verbally committed to adding those nights when they happen. I’ll try to keep the gigs page updated accordingly.
So, let’s see where this goes! Feel free to drop me a line at my djmuse address. I’ll write back, I promise.
Got the Seven Hills Slam coming up again. There’s also a fundraiser in the works and I believe I’ll be doing something for that, as well. The slam team has been chosen and they’re going to nationals in Oakland, so they need to raise money. There’s a regional slam the first weekend in July and that should be fun, also.
Here’s to summer, friends and music.
So, I’ve been doing the monthly poetry DJ thing at the Seven Hills Slam, and it’s been great to get out again.
I’ve also been encoding vinyl and finding things I’d totally forgotten I had. With hundreds of records in various crates and bins in my house, that’s not surprising.
I’ve also been cleaning up my music files and consolidating from three different computers over the years. One of my discoveries in that process was an old mix I did probably around 2002. I don’t even remember what the release name was, but its working name was “Boom.” Lots of breaks and some old gems from the Chems and the Propellerheads that still make me want to dance. No matter what I do, I’m never quite satisfied, but I have to say that mix came out pretty damned good. Going to post it up on the Mixes page and post a link on r/breakbeat because the kids need some good “old” music.
DJ Muse, aka Grandma Funk
..I forgot to mention – I have a new monthly. It’s the poetry thing again. This time, it’s the 7 Hills Poetry Slam in Worcester. Next one is February 8th (Sunday). A featured poet, an open mic, a spotlight feature and a slam. I play in the middle of all that stuff. I’ve been reconfiguring my live gear so it’s a bit more streamlined and I don’t have to dismantle my studio every time I got out to play. Enter the new gear!
So now I’ve got new gear with fully midi mappable surface. I’m working on tweaking it to have more control with Traktor beyond the standard midi map for it and find myself using more of the creative functions (like looping and cue points). Having the buttons rather than having to click everything makes a huge difference. I guess I’m just a huge nerd at heart.
Sometimes I get busy with life. I don’t post here as often as I should, and I really don’t know how many people actually look anyway. But I’m still plugging away at my music organization, talking to other people who are more active at the moment, and finding a lot to enjoy while still living my life.
My record collection is a monster. There are well over a thousand records of all kinds. Then there’s all the CDs, which I have mostly encoded and backed up. There was a large chunk of mix CDs and compilations in my collection that I still haven’t digitized (in FLAC format – I had to go back and start again because I realized MP3s, even at their highest quality, weren’t good enough for me). I’m actually to the point where I’m trying to digitize my vinyl now. It’s time-consuming, but also rewarding.
A technical problem for a family member brought me their cast-off laptop, which was an extremely nice piece of hardware with a defective hard drive. Luckily, my past life as a computer person enabled me to replace/upgrade the hard drive and now I’ve got a new, non-mac laptop for my DJ software. The last few months have found me trying to carve time out to manage the collection of music on that laptop. I basically dumped my entire collection of music onto a partition of the hard drive (which pretty much filled the whole thing) and am now culling out the tracks I don’t see myself needing when I play out. That work will probably continue for a long time.
Playing out – that would be nice, and I’ve actually started thinking about it more and more. I’d love to do a weekly sort of gig like I had at the Java Hut back in the day. Making connections with interesting people in the community will eventually lead to the right bar (it would have to be a bar!) where I can play that weird variety of music that I’ve got for people who’d like to listen and enjoy.
In the meantime, I continue with my life. Sometimes I think about moving to Finland. One of my grandparents emigrated from there, and it’s an option for me to apply for permanent residency and eventual citizenship. Even though I’m only a quarter Finn, I feel like I’m all Finn at heart. I love the cold, snow and skiing. I’m also a bit reticent around strangers and take a bit to warm up – I’m told this is also a Finnish thing. Living somewhere that’s a Social Democracy where people have a sense of responsibility for their fellow citizens and aren’t just looking out for themselves really appeals to me. Lately I’ve felt more and more like a freak who’s ill-equipped to live in our society. I feel physically uncomfortable about being anything less than truthful, and I have a strong desire to see people do the right thing (and expect that of myself). I don’t mean that I’m perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I try my best to do the right thing and treat others as I’d like them to treat me. Maybe what I’m looking for is community – people looking out for each other, not trying to make divisions and tear each other down. That whole PLUR thing from back in the rave days might be pie-in-the-sky, but Peace, Love, Unity and Respect seem pretty damned good to me.
Been thinking a lot lately about how there is so much music at our fingertips in the internet age. Go into the studio, grab a record, play it. Think about how your friends might like to hear that, so you look on YouTube for the song – find it, and then post it on your FB. Even going back to when I started getting serious about vinyl (around 1996 or so), it was hard to find certain records. Hell, a lot of records, really. If you were buying DJ singles, you had to hope the record store had one. The popular ones sold out fast. Online record buying was just starting out around then (or a bit later, really) and you’d have to hope they took the time to encode clips of the single so you could get an idea what you were buying.
Go back further than that – to the stone ages when I was in high school. I lived in the sticks of North Central Massachusetts, separated from the “metropolis” of Boston and its radio stations by hills that made any station other than the strongest nothing more than tantalizing snippets through the static, no matter my antenna contortions or adornments with tinfoil. One day that sticks in my mind, I heard “Der Komissar” by After the Fire on the radio. I’d heard it before and loved it, so I rushed to hit record on the integrated tape recorder to capture the song so I could figure out what it was and listen to it repeatedly. This was also before the Walkman became readily available and I could only really listen to it holed up in my room. There was no looking on the internet to figure out all the related acts and what that genre was so I could wallow in new music. It was probably the perfect environment with easily distracted, probably ADD me, because I had to concentrate on one thing. It gave me time to examine and absorb things, and make connections to what I already knew. Granted, at that time, all I knew was classic rock and maybe a tiny bit of hip-hop from going to the skating rink (Rapper’s Delight!), but it was something new. I know if I grew up in NYC or LA, it would have been totally different, but to most of the world was stuck like me – having to find the music by accident or through friends. There weren’t many friends who were musically savvy in my neck of the woods.
I remember a friend in the Air Force (late 80s) who was from NYC and gave me Depeche Mode and the Cure to listen to for the first time (Music for the Masses and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me respectively). It blew my world wide open and led me down the rabbit hole of clubs and electronic music and I’ve learned so much. Hearing that music at that point in my life, it really made me feel like I’d found “my” music. It fit where I was emotionally and was just right for me where all the other stuff I’d listened to felt like my mother’s hand-me-down clothes (which it kind of was).
Today, you can stumble across a song from a decade ago and find a whole subgenre of music that you never knew existed. I’m thinking about all the dance music I’ve been exposed to in my adult life – I see such a wide array of styles as I try desperately to wrestle my vinyl collection into some semblance of order. There’s stuff that I try to categorize and fail. There’s music like 2-step that existed for a brief period of time and nestles into another style (house, with hints of breaks) but is its own unique flavor. Personally, I have a kind of tunnel vision and try not to get too involved in every song and style of music that happens around me – it would be too much and I have to focus a bit to even get by. As things get more fragmented and blown wide open stylistically, I feel like part of what I can do as a DJ is be a curator of music. With so much music available, it’s harder to focus it and find things that you’d like, in a group that you can listen to (YouTube playlists are great for this).
As I mentioned, I’m trying to organize my vinyl these days. It’s going slowly. I wanted to make a mix for a friend who’s a similar age of a bunch of the songs we listened to when we were younger. My husband has never even heard some of the stuff I’m pulling out, because he grew up on Cape Cod in the same time period as me, and he didn’t even get the stations from Boston out there. He went the punk route, and I went the art fag route. Grin It’s been fun to teach my spouse some new musical tricks, as he has taught me more than a few. There’s always new music (and old music) to learn about. Not sure if that’s just too much or that I need to get busy learning more of it. 🙂