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July 24, 2009

i'm probably not listening. speak louder

Today I did not answer your email or respond to your private message.
I didn't RT your tweet and I didn't follow your track-back.

"i'm probably not listening. speak louder" was posted by dogpossum on July 24, 2009 7:51 PM in the category clicky

July 16, 2009

amiri baraka at last

Finally, I've made it to Amiri Baraka (aka LeRoi Jones). It's taken way too long.

I've just read this: Jazz and the White Jazz Critic. I didn't read it there (in a google books page that make me suddenly think 'what the fuck do we bother with publishers and book deals? All our rights as authors are dead with this one new technology... which really just does as the photocopier did for us all 20 years ago, but faster). I read it in a paper book.

And I got excited.

And then I went here and read that story. But mostly I looked at the youtube clip and got a bit excited.

I recommend the Jazz and White Critics article, as it sums up my misgivings about the jazznick fanmags and magazines and newsletters and recreationists.

Here's one bit I like:

There were few ‘jazz critics’ in America at all until the ‘30s and then they were influenced to a large extent by what Richard Hadlock has called ‘the carefully documented gee-whiz attitude’ of the first serious European jazz critics. They were also, as a matter of course, influenced more deeply by the social and cultural mores of their own society. And it is only natural that their criticism, whatever its intentions, should be a product of that society, or should reflect at least some of the attitudes and thinking of that society, even if not directly related to the subject they were writing about, Negro music (Baraka 138).

And here's another:

Most jazz critics began as hobbyists or boyishly brash members of the American petite bourgeoisie, whose only claim to any understanding about the music was that they knew it was different; or else they had once been brave enough to make a trip into a Negro slum to hear their favorite instrumentalists defame Western musical tradition. Most jazz critics were (and are) not only white middle-class Americans, but middle-brows as well (Baraka 140.)

This article is important because it was written by a black man in the 60s, and published in Down Beat magazine. I can't remember whether Down Beat was moldy fig or modernist, but I think it was the latter. I cannot tell you how rare it is to come across a commentary by a black writer on jazz from the 60s or earlier. Doing all this reading of 'jazz histories' I'm beginning to think I might have to kill myself. It's tedious. I like Baraka's comment about 'gee-whiz' approaches to jazz. I was just saying to The Squeeze the other day that I'd have liked one of these guys to stop gushing about how wonderful jazz is, and to actually open their freakin eyes and see what's going on around and beside the music. Hells, even in the music!

I'm gearing up for Blues People and will report back later.

"amiri baraka at last" was posted by dogpossum on July 16, 2009 2:31 PM in the category cat blogging and ideas and lindy hop and other dances and music and research | Comments (2)

July 15, 2009

i am obsessed with nikola tesla


Today I bought one of his biographies. He was played by David Bowie in The Prestige. He was a strange, unusual man. It was his birthday recently and I wrote this poem for him:

Happy Birthday, Nikola Tesla,
inventor of alternating current,
unfortunately not
a pro-rock-n-roll wrestler,
but still: fully sick,
Nikola Tesla.

Now I think I might like to be a scientist and inventor.

"i am obsessed with nikola tesla" was posted by dogpossum on July 15, 2009 9:40 PM in the category | Comments (0)

July 14, 2009

jjj's hottest 100: where was Lil Armstrong?!

John has posted an interesting piece about JJJ's Hottest 100 and I thought I'd better comment at length here rather than cluttering up the comments thread there. I will annotate for those who haven't been following the twitterati/bloggy chat.

[Point raised by others: the hottest 100 was a bit 90s-nostalgia trip for blokes who were teenagers in the 90s]

JJJ and Rage have always felt a bit 90s-nostalgia to me. But perhaps that's because the 90s were about the last time I listened to mainstream music...

I was wondering where Blondie, Siouxie and the Banshees and other punker chicks were at in the hottest 100?

[This is where I get into some stuff I've been thinking about]

To be honest, I wouldn't really expect JJJ's list of 'hottest 100' songs to come up with anything particularly inclusive or properly representative of rock (let alone the broader music world). It's a list made by listeners of one particular (state funded national) radio station in one particular historical moment, so audience demographics, radio playlists and radio/record company relationships are going to be the guiding factors.
I'd be more interested in 4ZZZ's list - localised indy music? Or in comparing hottest 100 lists from different radio stations and then different media sources generally.

[Here I address a bigger couple of issues]
Someone noted that I should respect the opinions of the women voting in the hottest 100. If not, wouldn't that also be neglecting women's contributions?
My response is that this approach simply accepts the broader social and institutional factors that have lead us to this point. It is more the case that the hottest 100 and the way it is run and organised is at fault, and that it's more useful to discuss the way the music industry works, and to think about the audiences of JJJ and popular music generally. In other words, I do not accept the premise of the question - that it is not JJJ that is at fault, but women (and their voting or failure to rock).

Firstly, here's a point that's been raised by a couple of books I've been reading about women in jazz (Placksin and Dahl, primarily):

women have been making music forever. It's just that the music industry has not recognised this. Both Placksin and Dahl point out that the profound absence of women in jazz histories is in fact a complete fallacy. There are and have always been plenty of women in jazz. It's just that they haven't been scoring recording contracts, haven't had properly managed careers, haven't been promoted or even hired by venues or band leaders, and haven't even been allowed into bands in many cases. Placksin and Dahl produce a massive list of fully sick jazznick sisters, and make the point that there _were_ plenty of women in jazz. We just have to look beyond the popularly accepted myths about jazz history.

So, in reference to the Hottest 100, there are heaps of women who rock. It's just that people aren't seeing or hearing them. Who are these people?

a) the DJs playing music on the radio,
b) the station programmers making up playlists,
c) the record company promotions teams who aren't sending promo material to radio stations,
d) the record companies who aren't putting women musicians under contract,
e) the company and radio peeps who aren't looking beyond their own memories of the music world - they're not actually getting into the library to see what's there,
f) the audiences of these radio stations who are (voting) and buying/listening to music,
g) and of course the machinery of live music, where bands get their starts - the venues and festivals and so on simply aren't giving chicks a go. If women even feel comfortable asking.

So, there are fully sick women musicians.

There are fully sick women musicians who rock.

There are fully sick women musicians being recorded.

There are fully sick women musicians playing live gigs all the time.

It's more that the problem is with the music industry not promoting their music, and that the music industry itself is inimical to any type of professionalism which is not aggressive, competitive, misogynist, etc. It's not that it's even a masculinist culture; it's more that a particular set of skills and personality traits are required. And these tend to coincide with hegemomic masculinity.

Sigh. Just once, I'd like this not to be about the goddamn fucking patriarchy. Or capitalism.

[This is where I think about industrial and cultural factors which might prevent/discourage women from getting into bands/rock]

I was just reading an interesting discussion of the way different instruments are perceived as 'female' or 'male' (Dahl). This was an issue in the 20s and 30s - there's a famous quote from Jelly Roll Morton where he states that there was some concern that playing the piano would sissify him (and this from such an aggressively heterosexual man). Looking through jazz history for women musicians who played instruments (other than vocals), there's a preponderance of pianists. In the 10s, 20s and 30s the piano was an acceptably ladylike instrument, as was the voice. This is not to say that there weren't women playing guitars, trombones, trumpets (the most masculine of 1930s instruments), etc. It's just that they weren't recorded and didn't feature on stage in a big way until the war years, when all-girl bands became a novelty. Even though bands like the International Sweethearts of Rhythm were massively badass, and bands led by people like Lil Hardin Armstrong had a very long history of badassery and fully sick jazz roots and cred.

I wonder if 90s grunge was important for stimulating a garage band phenomenon which offered young blokes something else to do in the garage beyond fiddling about with cars? There's also that story about Seattle's climate facilitating the development of such a vibrant live music scene (similar comments are made about lindy hop today - Seattle has a massive lindy scene, in part - I suspect - because indoor activities suit rainy, miserable weather). But part of me is sure that all the time spent fiddling about with instruments has something to do with the way girls and boys are encouraged to spend their leisure time - domestic duties for girls, guitars for boys?

[Here is where I testify and you hear a lot about me. And me.]

I spend quite a bit of time in music shops (usually the DJ Warehouse, but often a music store when I'm looking for cables), and I am almost always (as in 99.99% of the time) the only woman in there. I've never dealt with a female retail worker. I have the same experience in jazz music shops. I don't mind this, really. I'm used to being around blokes, and I'm not exactly your conventionally feminine chick. I'm not adverse to kicking arse and taking names. But more importantly, I'm stubborn and determined, and it'll take more than a cock to distract me from purchasing the perfect headphones.

I'm a DJ rather than a musician, and the mainstream DJing scene seems just as male-dominated as the band scene. In swing (where I'm DJing), most top tier DJs are male, whereas the gender divide is fairly even in the everyday, bread and butter DJing. ie, women and men are doing the everyday DJing for regular events (keeping the local scenes going), but there are very, very few women at the top end, doing the big name interstate and international DJing.

Sound familiar? Looks like there are glass ceilings in the swinguverse too.

This is partly because of social/cultural factors: DJing is an intimidating world, with an emphasis on technology and a fairly intimidating culture. Women DJs are no more collaborative and supportive of new DJs than male (I've found), but they're less likely to speak up in online DJing talk and less likely to pursue a DJing career aggressively. They do good community stuff, men can do good community stuff, but male DJs tend to have the skills and appproach required by professional DJing.

Economics are also important. DJing requires:

- A fairly steady income (which can be frittered away on music, software, hardware, etc),

- copious amounts of time (to spend cataloguing music, dealing with tossers in music shops, practicing, learning to use technology, researching music, participating in online DJ talk (networking, skilling up, etc), etc).

Basically, you need time and money to get a certain skill and experience base.

- Actually getting gigs also demands some serious networking, and it's very masculine, male-dominated networking: you have to really work hard to get into the gang if you want good, high profile, paid gigs.

Working conditions are challenging.

- Once you're actually there, the hours are hard (late nights, long hours, lots of coming home late by yourself), dealing with the technology can be challenging (working in shitty venues with shitty gear) and there's quite a bit of pressure - you're responsible for entertaining a bunch of dancers, you have to be assertive enough to not get screwed over by event coordinators and also confident enough to put your hand up for challenging gigs.

All of these are the usual, familiar issues facing women in employment. I think that many of these issues face women in bands as well. While no one in the swinguverse has ever said (or even implied) to me that women shouldn't be DJs (like to see them try), the work and role are heavily gendered in the sort of sneaky, invisible way that we see in many other industries.

And girls in bands, of course, have to deal with record companies, with PR machinery, with radio networks, with the importance of visual presentation (ie what they look like), video clips, etc etc etc.

Add all this to the fact that a large proportion of teenage blokes have been trained to think of women only as boobs with legs, should we be at all surprised that JJJ's Hottest 100 didn't sport a higher proportion any women?

Fuck, I'm surprised. And it'll be a sad day when we stop commenting.

Blogging commentary:
The Hoydens have had at it already.

Stubborn mule has given us some figures re the list's favouring the 90s.

John brings it (after a long stream of interesting tweetage, btw).

Something to remind you:

 What is male privilege? (I have to add: even writing that makes me cringe in anticipation of a kick from some bloke. I've spent far too long in the swing world, which is so scarily patriarchal even I've absorbed it. egads.)

Book references:
Dahl, Linda. Stormy Weather: the Music and Lives of a Century of Jazz Women. Limelight: NY, 1992.

Placksin, Sally. Jazzwomen: 1900 to the Present. Pluto Press: London and Sydney, 1982.

"jjj's hottest 100: where was Lil Armstrong?!" was posted by dogpossum on July 14, 2009 2:01 PM in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

July 8, 2009

charleston is really tedious


This photo (from Camp Jitterbug's solo charleston comp this year) by the very talented Bryant Gover just proves it.
I'm not sure of the ethics of posting a pic I found on faceplant on my blog, but think of this as promotion for this photographer's work. It's tricky to find a photographer who can not only take a good pic, but a good pic of dancers that really captures the feel of the dance. This one is of Hurley and, by geebs, it's sweet.

"charleston is really tedious" was posted by dogpossum on July 8, 2009 12:40 AM in the category lindy hop and other dances | Comments (0)

July 7, 2009

violence and film and blues

Reading Gussow's book about racial violence in southern America, I wonder why I keep coming back to violence. My honours thesis discussed female violence in film, and this book really is about violence in blues music. Both are about violence from the perspective of the disempowered; one discussing women, one black men and women in America.
I'm not comfortable with this stuff - I don't like stories about violence, I don't like watching it in film. But both seem linked to hopelessness. Violence for the women in the films I discussed was a last resort or an act of desperation. In the blues songs I'm reading about now, violence is either to be borne or to be perpetrated in revenge or rage or desperation. Both are domestic or carried out in ordinary, everyday spaces.
In my honours thesis I was interested in what happened to female characters when their acts of violence were institutionalised or sanctioned by institutions in the role of assassin. In these blues songs, we are continually reminded that white men were perpetrators of violence which was ignored by the state or unofficially condoned - or at least ignored. These acts of violence contrast clearly with the violence of waged war. I'm interested in the way some types of violence are sanctioned by the community and some not. And who gets to enact this 'sanctioned' violence. You know, of course, that class and gender and race are at work here.

One of the other elements of these representations of violence is the role of fantasy, or imagined violence. In the blues song, it might be an imagined retribution for a lover's deceit, or for a lynching. Music allows the playing out of ideas or fantasies, and the public performance of this music encourages an attentive, participatory audience. It is not enough simply to imagine; it is necessary that the imagined violence be laid out and commented upon by the broader community.

"violence and film and blues" was posted by dogpossum on July 7, 2009 1:21 PM in the category fillums and ideas and music and research | Comments (1)

July 6, 2009

duke ellington's 'difficult' 1949/1950 period

I'm trying to get a better grip on my ever-increasing collection of music. I'm finding that my DJing is suffering from both my time off the dance floor and my spending on emusic. Emusic in particular challenges me, because it means I'm buying one or two songs rather than whole albums and as a result not getting to know an artist or particular period in depth.
So here's something about one CD I've just been listening to this afternoon.

I like it that Ellington stuff from the very late 40s and early 50s can be so challenging. Almost good for lindy hop. But then, also often experimenting with dissonance in a way that dancers can't quite handle. This Ellington collection from 1949-50 is an excellent example. Track listing? Here:
You Of All People
Creole Love Call
The Greatest There Is
The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise
Joog, Joog
Good Woman Blues
On The Sunny Side Of The Street
B-Sharp Boston

Hello Little Boy
The Greatest There Is!
Take The "A" Train
Untitled Blues
Blues For Blanton
Mean Ol'Choo Choo
Me And My Wig
How Blue Can You Get
Juke Bop Boogie
Set 'Em Up
New Piano Roll Blues
The Man I Love

I picked this one up on Chron Classics a few years ago, and really like the combination of songs. Chron Classics are just that - a chronological (and complete) collection of songs by an artist (or featuring them) during a specific period. But the development of Ellington's style is quite marked in just these two years, on one album of 'singles'. When I first bought it I was spending a lot of time on public transports and reading Gunther Schuller's Swing book. I'd combine listening to music with reading Schuller on PT via The Squeeze's ipod. Ellington had such a long career, and was so musically interesting, it's no wonder Schuller devoted such a long chapter to him. Or that I kept coming back to him on the ipod.

I play 'Joog Joog' a lot for dancers. And 'B Sharp Boston'. 'Joog Joog' has an unusual beginning, and dancers are never quite sure about it. But the beat is insistent - you _will_ dance to this medium-tempo song. But there are a few here that are really quite... unusual. Ellington was interested in dissonance quite early on - earlier on that a lot of other doods. But when it's mixed in with his more conventional, danceable fare, it comes as a bit of a surprise. I like listening to the transition in his approach over just this short two year period. The second version of 'The Greatest There Is' has an earthier, more vernacular vocal, but it's a bit less comfortable harmonically in parts. Even 'Take the A Train', a standard in the lindy hopper's collection, is challenging. The piano intro is dissonant, the bass solo is long and complicated. It's all fabulous music, but it's not stuff I'd automatically play for a general lindy hopping crowd.

"duke ellington's 'difficult' 1949/1950 period" was posted by dogpossum on July 6, 2009 6:01 PM in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music | Comments (0)

what again?! I'm still crapping on about dance, power, etc

I'm refining and developing these ideas. So I'm just going to keep writing and posting these same points. Over and over again.

One of the more interesting discussions I've read about derision dance (from Jacqui Malone's book I think) discussed derision dance in African American dance as a way of responding to white power/black disempowerment 'under the radar'. In other words, the cake walk (or whichever example you're using) allowed dancers to deride or mock whites surrepticiously or indirectly. To 'get the joke' you had to recognise who was being mocked, and how the mocking was intended.
This sort of idea comes up in a number of different cultural practices across cultures. I've read a bit about satire and humour and derision-through-impersonating-for-humour's-sake.

I'm reading this book at the moment:

(Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the blues Tradition by Adam Gussow.

Gussow is a a blues musician who's interested in violence and the blues. One of his central arguments is that the blues (as in blues music - both sung and instrumental) gave black musicians access to a 'blues subject'

who then found ways, more or less covert, of singing back to that ever-hovering threat. Although blues scholars have long claimed that blues singers remained self-protectively mute on the issue of white mob violence, lynching makes its presence felt in various ways throughout the blues tradition: not just as veiled references in blues lyrics and as jokes recounted by blues musicians...

Gussow discusses the fact that black responses to white violence (in southern America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) were limited by necessity. In the simplest terms, if you fought back, if you responded to white violence, then white retaliation would come ten-fold. Without this 'right of response' (legal or otherwise), music offered a way of dealing, publicly with violence. Albert Murray talks about singing the blues as a way of 'stomping' the blues - of sharing woe and therefore easing its burdensome weight. The idea with singing a song that implies lynching or violence (ie you might simply sing 'I have the blues, my body is broken') is that you share your pain and frustration without directly inviting white censure. Singing and music allow you to sneakily respond, but without risking violent retribution.

Gussow begins his book with a comment from the book What is Life? Reclaiming the Black Blues Self by Kalamu ya Salaam:

[W]e laugh loud and heartily when every rational expectation suggests that we should be crying in despair. [T]he combination of exaggeration and conscious recognition of the brutal facts of life is the basis for the humour of blues people (Gussow x)

So in these cases making jokes when it seems impossible to laugh is an important part of subverting white power and violence. Simply being able to laugh is a way of saying "I am not beaten down". The joke part is an extension of the sneakiness of singing about violence indirectly, of responding indirectly when direct responses could get you killed. Humour is of course utterly subversive and powerful in this sort of setting.

The sort of violence Gussow talks about in Seems Like Murder Here is a fairly extreme example (though I highly recommend the book - it's disturbing but also fascinating), but it makes the point that humour through music can work as humour in dance does. By hiding your true meaning or intention under a layer of melody or rhythm, you can say subversive things, do subversive things and reclaim some control over your life and public discourse. You mightn't be able to speak out, but you can sing out.

I'm particularly keen on the idea of multiple layers of meaning. The cake walk can function just as silly clowning. But (as every clown knows), the surface humour hides something deeper and more subversive. While at first glance the black clown appears as the butt of the joke to white audiences (of the day), to white dancers and observers, the butt of the joke lies elsewhere. Tommy deFrantz writes in Dancing Many Drums that, when faced with white forbidding of black religious dance,

serious dancing went underground, and dances which carried significant aesthetic information became disguised or hidden from public view. For white audiences, the black man’s dancing body came to carry only the information on its surface (DeFrantz, discussing black masculinity in dance 107).

I've also heard similar discussions from aboriginal Australian elders discussing religious dance. While some dances are strictly for women or men or older women or older men or not to be seen at all, under any circumstances by the uninitiated, the meaning of a sacred dance can be hidden in plain sight. The uninitiated, watching a sacred dance (or looking at a sacred image in a painting) doesn't have access the important, sacred meaning, simply because they haven't been initiated, and therefore don't understand what they're looking at. They look, but cannot see.
I think it's important to say here, though, that having control over who looks at your body (dancing or otherwise) is a matter of power. I've been thinking about it in reference to film and how we give permission to have our own image photographed or filmed (and I repeatedly return to an article on the Warlpiri Media Collective's siteabout managing access to sacred or even just private space in indigenous Australian communities). But discussions about, for example, women's rights to control who looks at their bodies has just as long a history as white occupation of Australia. It is, after all, a similar discussion about occupation, colonialism and the power of the gaze.

I've read some interesting discussions about this in music in other places as well. There's quite a bit of discussion about Louis Armstrong and his 'mugging' or 'uncle tomming' for white audiences. Krin Gabbard discusses Armstrong's work with Duke Ellington, including the filming of Paris Blues (in which Armstrong starred, and for which Ellington contributed the score) and the recording of the 'Summit' sessions:

…at those moments in the film when he [Armstrong] seems most eager to please with his vocal performances, his mugging is sufficiently exaggerated to suggest an ulterior motive. Lester Bowie has suggested that Armstrong is essentially “slipping a little poison into the coffee” of those who think they are watching a harmless darkie….Throughout his career in films, Armstrong continued to subvert received notions of African American identity, signifying on the camera while creating a style of trumpet performance that was virile, erotic, dramatic, and playful. No other black entertainer of Armstrong’s generation â€" with the possible exception of Ellington â€" brought so much intensity and charisma to his performances. But because Armstrong did not change his masculine presentation after the 1920s, many of his gestures became obsolete and lost their revolutionary edge. For many black and white Americans in the 1950s and 1960s, he was an embarrassment. In the early days of the twenty-first century, when Armstrong is regularly cast as a heroicized figure in the increasingly heroicising narrative of jazz history, we should remember that he was regularly asked to play the buffoon when he appeared on films and television (Gabbard 298).

Gabbard continues the point here:

...Armstrong plays the trickster. Armstrong’s tricksterisms were an essential part of his performance persona. On one level, Armstrong’s grinning, mugging, and exaggerated body language made him a much more congenial presence, especially to racist audiences who might otherwise have found so confident a performer to be disturbing, to say the least. When Armstrong put his trumpet to his lips, however, he was all business. The servile gestures disappeared as he held his trumpet erect and flaunted his virtuosity, power, and imagination (Gabbard 298).

Again, there's this idea of layers of meaning. On the one hand, Armstrong appears as the smiling, 'safe' black man, entertaining white audiences with clowning. But on the other, his sheer musical talent empowers him and defies his reduction to 'harmless' clown.

There's quite a bit written about black masculinity and layers of meaning in musical and dance performances, but I'm especially interested in women in all this. Gussow has a fascinating paper about Mamie Smith's song 'Crazy Blues' (which is in that book). And Angela Yuval Davis talks about lyrics and women's blues performances and power.

Ultimately, though, the idea of layers of meaning is important to a discussion of African American dance. Any one dance can yield a whole host of meanings or interpretations. And at times it's important to hide the most subversive or dangerous meanings way down inside, where you need a lived experience with violence and disempowerment to really understand or to 'get' the joke.

Here's my current absolute favourite example of layers of meaning in dance. This is a scene from a musical stage play version of the book The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Most of us are more familiar with the film version (with its wondeful music) and with Oprah's interest in the story/film.


On one level it's very much 'classical' musical stage play fare - 'singing', dancing, 'period' costumes (late 19th, early 20th century), young black men with phenomenal dancing ability performing a 'light hearted' song about 'love'. That's the straight reading (well, almost straight). It looks quite a bit like some of the clips we watch for lindy hop or jazz dance dance from the 30s and 40s. Almost.

But it takes on a different meaning when you've seen this.

Immediately, another layer of meaning can be found in that first clip. Men dancing a 'woman's' song. Add the fact that this is a contemporary stage play, not a piece from the 30s or 40s. The lyrics, the movements of the dancers all gain new levels of meaning. The reading is 'queered up', not only in terms of sexuality (gay? straight? tranny? wuh?), but in terms of power and gaze. The Color Purple is a story about gender and power and race and ethnicity and class. It's themes and story are heartbreaking in parts. And yet here are three gorgeous young blokes performing a dance which invites a smile or a laugh. It's 'queer' in that it's played 'straight'. The dancers are dancing 'seriously', but the entire performance seems unusual, something is happening here, below the surface. Actually, not below the surface. It's right there, in your face. Making you want to dance. This sort of performance is often talked about in critical literature as provoking a sense of unease in the audience - should I laugh? Or is that wrong, considering the story of The Color Purple? This unease or anxiety centres on issues of sexuality, gender, class, ethnicity, etc etc etc. In some ways, this is what makes the performance so powerful. You can enjoy it simply as badass dancing. But you can also left wondering what it means. And context is everything. Watching from an expensive seat in a huge concert theatre is a little different from watching from the audience with different vested interests:


I like the second version because it's not a quiet audience, sitting and listening quietly and politely. It's a loud, rowdy audience interacting with the dancers. It's ok to laugh, to cheer, to want to dance with them, to enjoy the show. The audience are part of the performance. The 'mistake' where one dancer drops his hat becomes a chance to demonstrate their ability to improvise, to work it for a crowd. Three men dancing the overtly sexualised, feminised steps from Beyonce's clip changes the meaning of the movements. It changes the way their bodies are sexualised or regarded as sexualised bodies. It's 'feminine' movement, but this is definitely a performance of masculinity and masculine sexuality. Just not a terribly straight or mainstream one. And when the women appear on stage, all this gets tipped over again.

Is it derision, though? I think it's more complicated. But it makes a point that we can apply to cake walk. On one hand, it can be read as 'straight', fabulous dancing. But it can also be read as clowning or buffooning. Or it can be read as queer-as-fuck politics. Or sexed-up awesomeness. Or race politics. Or mocking Beyonce. Or celebrating Beyonce. It's imitation and flattery and derision and commentary. It's complicatedness invites us to engage and to look for layers of meaning. Which of course is the point: one dance becomes a discourse, a discussion, rather than a monologue.

Davis, Angela Y. Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. Toronto: Random House, 1998.

DeFrantz, Thomas. "The Black Male Body in Concert Dance." Moving Words: Re-Writing Dance. Ed. Gay Morris. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. 107 -

Gabbard, Krin. “Paris Blues: Ellington, Armstrong, and Saying It with Music”. Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 297-311.

Malone, Jacqui. Steppin' on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996.

Murray, Albert. Stomping the Blues. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976.

Hinkson, Melinda. "The Circus comes to Yuendumu, Again," reproduced from Arena Magazine no. 25, October-November, 1996, pps 36-39.

"what again?! I'm still crapping on about dance, power, etc" was posted by dogpossum on July 6, 2009 3:59 PM in the category ideas and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

July 5, 2009

things i have done regularly lately

Cooked a large piece of meat in milk for a long period of time. Pork, chicken, whatever. I'll cook it, you can eat it.

While searching blindly in my backpack, felt something soft and hanky-like, pulled it out and discovered it was a single maxi-sized pad*. This has happened: at the bi-lo checkout with a middle aged woman cashier, trying to pay for bread with a cocky indie boy salesman, rummaging for cables at the DJ booth while sitting next to a very-christian tech-dood (this happened twice in one weekend with two different christians), looking for a hanky, desperately, while trying to obscure a post-sneeze-excitement nose. The one time I actually _needed_ a maxi (as in badASS absorbency) pad I couldn't find the fucker.

Played more than one song from The Spoon Concert album while DJing for a bunch of spazzed out lindy hoppers. It's like a sickness. Not the lindy hop - my playing stuff from this album. I just can't help it. I need to get some sort of clue.

Wandered why mormons bother with plural marriage** where the arrangement is one man + many women. While I know that many women is a fully sick option when you're looking at running a conference or a university degree or planning a lindy exchange, I'd have thought the ideal solution is one woman + many men within a marriage. Because I sure as fuck know The Squeeze is run a little ragged riding back and forth between the couch and DVD shop and could do with a sub some time soon.

Thought I might like to re-watch Aliens, mostly for Bill Paxton.***

I like imagining him ranting "Game over, man, game over!" when the Law discovers he's a polygamist.

Wandered why I didn't believe people when they told me Veronica Mars was good. I used to enjoy that bit in Deadwood when Kristen Bell was eaten by Woo's pigs. Now I can't believe I wasn't into this shit.

Wished we had broadcast TV. But only when people are tweeting like motherfuckers about freakin' Masterchef. Whatever _that_ is.

*as in PERIODS.

**this is what happens when you re-watch Big Love.

*** Big Love, again.

"things i have done regularly lately" was posted by dogpossum on July 5, 2009 9:53 PM in the category djing and domesticity and fewd and fillums and gastropod and lindy hop and other dances and television and veronica mars | Comments (5)