July 5, 2011

A letter about The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information


Dear curious spectator,

I am currently reading the book Love Saves The Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979 by Tim Lawrence. (It is essentially a history of disco.) In it, there was one particular anecdote that fascinated me. In 1965, when the New York club Shephard’s replaced its house band with a DJ, the American Federation of Musicians picketed in protest.

This story echo’s many of my questions and artistic concerns. Is there something fundamentally different between the experience of going to see a live band and listening to a recording? Are there some essential attributes that make a performance situation ‘live’, and if so how do they differ from attributes of recorded media? Is a live experience more intense? More real? More immediate? More unexpected? I don’t have precise answers for any of these questions, but it’s my hope that our work itself is a kind of an answer, or at the very least a way of making such questions more rich, more complicated, of making them resonate.

In the above anecdote the DJ is literally putting the musicians out of work. (In such matters I always side with the union, but can’t fail to admit I love, and perhaps even prefer, listening to records.) It also suggests a certain dynamic between the individual and the community: the musicians cooperate with each other, they work, play (and in this case picket) together, while the DJ spins alone.

As we now know, the future was in many ways on the DJ’s side. We live in a world in which we are constantly surrounded by mediated experiences: photographs, television, movies, music, internet, advertising of every kind. I have always wondered if making a live performance might offer alternative ways of watching and of being together, ways that differ significantly from watching a movie or being on the internet.

In our new show The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information we play records and tell stories about them. We tell every kind of story: about bands, things that happened to us, to our friends and to complete strangers, theories about the world, about love and about life. They are stories that suggest the songs we listen to also affect how we think, live and understand our daily lives. The alternation between telling (live) stories and listening to (recorded) music also feels important to me. We have records by A Tribe Called Quest, Al Green, Broadcast, Burial, Caetano Veloso, Jacques Brel, Kronos Quartet, LCD Soundsystem, Omar Khorshid, Pavement, Prince, Public Enemy, Red Guitars, Robert Wyatt, Selda, Sister Nancy, The Ramones Eddie Kendricks, Cate le Bon, Hefner, Jane Weaver, Dirty Three, THEESatisfaction, The Jackson 5, Lloyd Miller, Nina Simone and so many more. (I think we have almost a hundred and seventy.)

I don’t think there’s anything particular you have to do to prepare yourself. For me this work is simply a place to relax, listen and enjoy. We don’t anticipate dancing but, then again, why not.

Hope to see you there.

Jacob Wren
Co-artistic Director


1 comment:

inotz said...

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