Duke Ellington: The Duke: The Columbia Years 1927-1962 [BOX SET]

Duke Ellington: The Duke: The Columbia Years 1927-1962 [BOX SET] [ORIGINAL RECORDING REMASTERED]

It finally arrived, and I’m now one happy ducky. As you can probably tell, I’ve been bingeing on Ellington a bit lately. I now have quite a few excellent albums, and of course, there are plenty more to get. Ellington is one of those artists who continually surprise you with excellent music. His career was so long, and he did such diverse work, there’s always something for everyone.
This collection is neat because it offers some excellently remastered old faves (I’m especially happy to have a decent quality version of It don’t mean a thing (1932)), but also some more recent stuff – especially some nice 50s stuff which I didn’t have. I’m still not sure I feel entirely comfortable with the heavy duty high hat action in this stuff, but you can’t deny the standard of musicianship in some of these amazing recordings. The quality isn’t always better (I have some heinous Blanton-Webster Ellington stuff), but you get some great music.
Personally, I’d much rather dance old school, to that late 20s, 30s and some 40s stuff (depends on who and what it is, though – I adore Hampton, and he tends to sit in that later moment – 40s and 50s), but I do like to DJ across the board. And when you’re not dancing – you’re DJing – it’s easier to handle the 50s stuff at a dance. Pity the dancers, though…
Well, actually, most dancers don’t really mind – beginners are certainly the least picky in regards to specific eras, and most of the more tolerant experienced dancers would simply rather we played goodmusic than stuck religiously to one era… unless we can DJ well within that era.
As a DJ, I do actually like to play a wider range of stuff, if only to save my brain having to deal with balancing the levels of all-scratch, all the time.

Duke Ellington and his orchestra 1949-1950

Duke Ellington and his orchestra 1949-1950.
A chronological classic, so we’re listening to a comprehensive overview of a particular period, but not truly excellent quality. I picked this sweety up a few weeks ago (again from caiman.com, via amazon – fabulously quick delivery and cheap) so as to secure myself a whole album’s worth of stuff like B-Sharp Boston, a song Doz got me onto.
It’s neat stuff. I wasn’t really all that aware of Ellinton’s more mainstream stuff from the late 40s/early 50s – I have a bit of it, but it’s stuff on compilations or overviews of his career, so I’ve not listened to it in isolation. I also have to say that I’m always distracted by the earlier stuff – I am passionate about very late 20s and early 30s (1928-1931 mostly) Ellington – and find it difficult to move past songs like Flaming Youth and Rockin’ in Rhythm. Which is probably why I find it difficult to DJ a lot of later Ellington – I simply don’t know it as well.
…that’s actually an exaggeration – I do play quite a bit of early 40s Ellington. And love it.
So anyway, back to the early 50s Ellington.
I like this stuff. When it’s not veering off into artyfarty stuff, there’s good dancing action on there. I think I like Joog Joog because it manages to use that big vocal sound Ellington liked for his stage shows with accessible ‘swing vocals’ – so you get the singer from Creole Love Call (sorry, I’ve forgotten her name, and I don’t have it in the laptop yet) teamed up with someone poppier, and you get a rockingly good pop song.
So, as far as DJable music goes, this is a goody – a few I’d happily play for dancers (and have – and had them go down well), plus some arty stuff purely for your own listening pleasure.
Two thumbs.

the wrong sort of bounce

I’m sitting in my office listening to some straight-ahead swinging Ellington on headphones, watching a young African dood kicking a soccer ball around outside the Muslim prayer room. He’s jogging back and forth at about 140 bpm and I really want to be out there with him, running about and having fun, rather than stuck in here waiting for students to come avail themselves of my office hour.
Off behind him there are a couple of fatties smoking and chatting. They should be kicking that soccer ball too.
Watching this guy jogging about on the concrete in time to Joog Joog (currently favourite song – 1949 from the chronological classics Duke Ellington 1949-1950) reminds me of how lindy hop – jazz dances – are all about that relaxed, ground-eating, bouncy jogging motion. It’s about bending your knees, sinking into the floor and pushing up again. It’s about loose limbs, being strong in your core, getting into the ground…
And it doesn’t work to groover swing (Jersey Bounce, Ella, 1961 Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie)) – it encourages the wrong sort of bounce.

the tyranny of distance: audiences and performers/texts in high and low art forms

Laura has asked an interesting question here on a previous post:

…I would like to ask a question about “the everyday”, in those CS quote marks – is consumption of canonical or high art an everyday activity, and if it isn’t what is it? Posted by: Laura at August 7, 2006 03:30 PM

I think the man to answer this question is right up there in the cs canon (or at least the audience studies canon). Take it away Henry Jenkins
I skip about a bit in the next part of this post (I’m a bit distracted, so I can’t really take time to formulate a sensible argument)…
I think the key point (in my approach, anyhoo) is not so much the nature of the actual text or practice, but the way it is institutionalised, commodified and ‘valued’ by various cultural and social forces.
I’ve been looking at this issue in reference to dance (of course), comparing the way ballet and vernacular dances like hip hop or breaking are approached by audiences.
[In an aside, the discussions on wikipedia’s project dance (esp the talk pages) – people want to capitalise the names of specific ballet choreographies, but aren’t so sure about how to capitalise vernacular dances like lindy or hip hop].
I’ve also noticed that the way swing dancers – DJs in particular – approach jazz is quite different to the way the genre is approached by jazzniks. One of the clearest and nicest illustrations of how different groups imagine jazz lies in the way Bennett’s Lane puts on gigs (Bennett’s Lane is a well respected local jazz venue – devoted to ‘quality’ jazz). They are very strict about noise during performances, and do NOT allow dancing. This is such a strange and bizarre contrast to the way jazz functioned socially in the 20s, 30s and 40s – it was pub music. It’s also a serious contrast to the way I experience and enjoy jazz at the Laundry in Fitzroy on Saturday afternoons: it’s loud, it’s full of smoke and drinkers, the band members will get down off the stage and kick audience arse if they give them trouble. They don’t care if we dance, and there is – as a consequence – a really exciting and dynamic relationship between dancers, musicians and audience at these gigs.
But at Bennett’s Lane (and other venues around the place), there’s a definite positioning of jazz as ‘art’, which must be ‘appreciated’ from a distance, rather than enjoyed with the body, up close and personal. There are quite culturally specific ways of demonstrating appreciation going on. Just as Jenkins noted that Checkhov fans used different language to describe their interest in theatre, there are clear differences in the way certain groups approach jazz and music.
Here’s a quote from chapter one of my thesis about the relationship between audiences and performers, audiences and texts in dance:

Considering dance, whether vernacular dance or performance dance, as a public discourse, allows us to analyse it for ideological content, for the ways in which identity markers such as class, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, age and so on are represented and valued by a particular community of people. Reading vernacular dance as everyday discourse encourages us to see social dance as an exchange of ideas, and as a site for the negotiation of identity and social relations between individuals and groups within a community. I draw clear distinctions between vernacular dance traditions, where dance occurs in everyday spaces, between ordinary people, and concert or performance dance traditions, where dance is relegated to particular ‘dance spaces’ which are separate from the everyday spaces of a community. Ward makes this distinction: “there is a categorical divide between dancers and the audience in performance dance …that does not exist between dancers and spectators in social dance, where those roles are interchangeable” (18). I read this dynamic relationship between the roles of ‘spectator’ and ‘dancer’ in social or vernacular dance as a clear example not only of call-and-response, but also of the ways in which readers participate in the making of meaning in textual interpretation. (pg5)

Later on I add this:

The word ‘vernacular’ in a discussion of dance refers to the everyday or ordinary, common dance of a particular group or culture. Vernacular dance is distinguished from concert or theatre dance through its positioning in everyday spaces, rather than existing only as a formalised, and usually choreographed, performance of a particular dance on a concert stage. Vernacular dance is intrinsically participatory and happens in all sorts of spaces, both public and private. It is also necessarily mutable and reflexive, responding to the cultural needs of its performers. (pg9)

I wonder if one of the key differences between ‘low’ and ‘high’ cultural forms and practices is this issue of distance – there is (in Western culture …?) a divide between the audience and text/practice in high art forms, whereas the ‘low’ forms encourage close proximity between audiences and texts – you have only to consider the Big Brother website and voting system to see how particular industries and textual forms encourage audiences to get close to texts. If only so that they can be more easily targetted by advertisers.
It can’t be an accident that high art forms like ballet and opera have trouble keeping audience numbers up, and that various marketing strategies that aim to make these sorts of forms more approachable to wider audiences are at once endorsed, yet also regarded with some suspicion by those sections of our community which have a vested interest in maintaining social heirarchies.
…there’s a good article by Joann Kealiinohomoku on reading ballet as an ‘ethnic’ dance that examines how race and class work in high and low art form (and in anthropological approaches to ‘culture’ and ‘society’): Kealiinohomoku, Joann. “An Anthropologist Looks at Ballet as a Form of Ethnic Dance.” What Is Dance? Readings in Theory and Criticism. Eds. Roger Copeland and Marshall Cohen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. 533 – 49.

I am John Travolta

In our house The Squeeze is convinced that BB is not only foul, but also immoral. He leaves the room if it’s on. I don’t care much either way, in fact I’m watching it now. I’d prefer it if it was unedited, and just a bunch of people in a room with no ‘tasks’ – just like watching a bunch of sharehousers who’re on the dole. No money, so they can’t afford to go out. No imagination, so they don’t go do free stuff. Eeeexcellent.
But I do have a problem with the new program ‘Honey I’m killing the kids’. Ostensibly a program committed to ‘helping’ parents with overweight kids, rather than focussing on positive reinforcement for the parents and children, I suspect the tools are guilt, guilt and more guilt. Nice. I won’t be watching that.
I’ve watched very little telly lately – beyond the eternal Buffy and Angel (seasons 4 and 2 respectively) – but I have my eye on tonight’s OC. Nice.*
In other, more important news, I have a John Travolta obsession. I am convinced, when I’m dancing, that I am the man. It doesn’t help that I think I’m funny when I strut it, Saturday Night Fever style. It’s particularly unhelpful that lindy is built for strutting. Or, more importantly, blues dancing is built for strutting. A keen balboa fan was asking “you’re into this blues stuff – what’s the deal? I just don’t get it,” and of course, the only response is: “strut. You need to strut. Either take it incredibly seriously, or incredibly unseriously. But strut.” It’s true. Blues dancing is all about strutting.
*NB Willow now has an ibook. An oooold one.

recent reading

Ok, so I haven’t read that article, yet, but I have read most of this:

It’s one of the most recent contriubtions to dance studies work on African American vernacular dance history, edited by Tommy DeFrantz, who does some interesting work on queer black masculinity in dance. While there’s a little more emphasis on concert dance than I’m really interested in, there are also some neat articles, especially one on ring shouts which is really worth reading for a discussion of African slaves’ experiences with christianity, as represented in dance.

that big fat bottomless pit of uncritical critical theory (wherein Buffy, ibooks and a horde of cyberdykes take on The Man)

I think this series of entries is really me logging in my reading process, as I go through an article in a journal. Tedious stuff if you’re looking for a coherent, sensible argument. Interesting stuff if you’re into active readership… dang. Did I give away the punch line?*
If you’ve already read my last entry (who am I kidding?), you might be interested in reading this – it’s the McKee text I quoted. Interestingly, McKee notes that

I’m trying to encourage people to break out of their normal habits, to think about the culture they consume. I’m thinking that maybe we shouldn’t just do the same thing, every day week in, week out.
….a global campaign encouraging people to boycott books for one week and to challenge you to explore new ways of passing time.
You could try talking to friends, or dancing to some music. You could even watch some television!’

Do you like the way McKee lists some of my most favourite things there? And how, for me, these are the cultural practices in the forefront of my mind? Will I dance? Will I stay home and watch telly? Will I talk with friends while watching telly? Will I read? Oh, dilemma, dilemma.
I still feel, even though I love telly and understand all those arguments about high/low culture, loving mass culture for its own goodness, that perhaps encouraging people to ‘turn off their telly’ for a week is not a bad thing. And not just because it saves power.**
Look, I’m getting off-track now, and I still haven’t read that article, but really, why am I so bothered by McKee’s comments? Surely it’s not just because it seems to have toppled into that big fat bottomless pit of uncritical critical theory which seems to dogg me at every conference***?
Geez. I wonder if all this confusion and brow-furrowing on my part is really just a result of watching too much Buffy and Angel, where there seems to be an eternal tension between ‘old knowledge’ and ‘new knowledge’, namely in the persons of Willow (read: Witch/feminist/lesbian/macslut****/hawt young thing with irritating approach to slang English) and Giles/Wesley (read: Watchers’ council/patriarchy/booknerds)?***** Probably.
and CRAP, where is the INTERNET in all this book v telly crap? I mean, geez, hasn’t anyone read that thing about media convergence yet?****** Or is that as totally uncool as globalisation/global media now?*******
*this was meant to be a joke where I linked to a post by a local Aussie acblog, but I can’t find the link now. Sorry. It was funny and clever. Was.
**this is where I link to what I’m thinking of as the ‘sequel’ to the save water campaign in Melbourne. I’m kind of interested in the ramifications of this power campaign. I like the whole ‘you have the power’ plug (so to speak) – it makes me laugh to think of how this switching off unnecessary power soures is kind of functioning as an incitement to quit consuming… vig gov goes socialist? I wonder how origin feels about all this?
*** Hell if I’ll name names – these doods seem to be so online I’ll totally get busted. But you know who I’m talking about. Don’t you? They tend to be a bit slow to engage in any satisfying way with issues of race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, etc, beyond glib book titles and throw away lines. And they love that new media.
Though, frankly, who doesn’t love that new media?
****Go on, tell me you didn’t find Willow’s steady progression to the world of macdom just a little bit signficant to her appeal as thinking-woman’s-hero/hawt-young-dyke/Wicced-kewl young thing? Go on, admit it – you just love to see a slightly-undernourished-young-academic-sexually-ambigious-mildly-androgenous-gingah sporting those sexy safety-corner apple products. you bet your i-life you do!
…you know that we’ve been sitting here on the couch the past few months quietly noting her progression from ugly, clunky pc desktops in Ms Calender’s class to her clunky oldskool macbook, and now are waiting (somewhat breathlessly) for her ibook to appear. But be assured – I will blog it as soon as it appears.
*****off-the-top-of-my-head reference: Blind Date in Angel season one, where Cordy scoffs at Wesley’s slooow old school bookteck, while kicking his arse in the research stakes with her computer, and yet also spending 1 hour and 40 minutes on the phone to Willow who has also been decrypting files all day (ref for the Buffy parallel eps where that goes down – the Yoko Factor and Primeval). Though, really, if I was Cordy at that moment, and considering Willow’s recent Outing at that point in season 4 of Buff, there’s plenty to talk about – at least 1 hour and 40 minutes’ worth.
******Wait til you read my thesis. It’s right there in Chapter 5:DJing as the convergence of media forms and practices in embodied dance discourse
*******Chapters 2 through 6.
———–
Post Script
You might be interested in this issue of the CSAA newsletter, three articles down, where Greg Noble writes about “A cultural studies anti-canon?” Speaking as someone who did an MA on newspapers (how uncool! how …analogue of me!), this caught my attention…
NB the whole mac thing – you know that I’m making a joke about how mac has so totally scored with its marketing towards my demographic with the whole white/safety corners/block colour thing, right? Right?

remind me

to write about female role models for lindy hoppers, will you?
Thinking about Frida has made me think about expanding a bit of one of my chapters (ch3 I think) where I wrote about gendered resistance and transgression in dance in contemporary swing dance culture.
In that chapter I looked at how women (and men, but I’m mostly interested in women) do resistant stuff while actually dancing. I write about:
– resistance within the lead-follow partnership, as follows (I think that’s where I talk about the swivel and African American v Anglo American styling and gender performance therein – and how women dancers in the 2000s can borrow from these 1930s examples to do active stuff. All via archival film, of course, and then (even more interestingly) via networks of shared clips).
– resistance within the lead-follow partnership, where women lead
– solo dancing for women on the social dance floor (with a reference to flappers and charleston as a radical departure from partner dancing (and the heteronormativity) in the 20s… and in the 2000s. Interesting point: the 30s and 40s were SO conservative compared to the 20s!)
I want to have a think and a write about this stuff in a more comprehensive way. Possibly something for an article for a feministy/gender studies journal? Maybe a feminist media studies journal?

weekly round-up

Today is a kind of day out of time for me. The thesis is with the Supes, to be looked at later on (and to be talked about next Thursday). Next week I’m going to get into all the annoying administrative bits of submitting a thesis – cover sheets, descriptions, forms, etc. But this week (ie the last 2 or 3 days, incuding today) I’ve given myself leave to do whatever I like. That means:

  • obsessing about the MLX6 site. I have some neat stuff from our Arty Team (ie Kylee and Scotti – designer and scribbler respectively), and a good plan for the site. But this week was all about designy stuff – trying to make the logo work with the practical functions of the site. Or, in other words, laying it all out on the page in a pretty and yet usable way. Eek.
  • finishing off some sewing jobs that really needed doing (PJs for The Squeeze – bad wobot, altering my lovely plum stretch needle cord trousers so they’re not mega bags, finishing off a neat black (with white arm-stripes, red wrist-cuffs and big red cross on the front) fleece jumper – fleece is neat. I promise to post some sort of pictures at some point. This last jumper was black, white and red in an attempt to be Serious and Grown Up (esp after my pink and red fleece hello-kitty lined hood fleecy cardigan thing), but ended up looking like something Dennis teh Menace would wear:
    dtm.jpg
    I like to imagine that I am, in fact, a comic book hero when I’m burning down Sydney Rd, dodging cars and yelling “BAM!” under my breath* like Frida: Frida.jpgShe does actually yell “BAM!” and she’s probably shouting “YEAH!” in a loud, Swedish-American accent in that photo.
  • discovering last-minute thesis jobs and FREAKING out about them
  • actually submitting my Intention to Submit form (yes, I know – it’s madness. But you have to give them 3 months to find you 3 markers or else you delay the return of your thesis post-marking), with abstract, thesis title (what? you mean I have to name this thing before it’s even finished gestating? what?!). I can’t remember what that was. No, wait, I’ve found it:
    Hepfidelity: Swing dance and the role of digital media in embodied practice
    Ta-DA!
  • And… what else have I done? Oh, I went to see Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, where there were 4 of us in the cinema – me and 3 teenage/first year boys. I laughed at the Huxtable jokes, they laughed at the hip hop references. Cultural capital for all.

So it’s been an ok week. I feel a bit lost, but still. I’ve also been looking for work. Yeah, right. Let’s not talk about THAT.
Anyhoo** here are two interesting things to read:

  • this blog called avant game, which is a far more interesting games studies blog than any I’ve ever read before
  • and B’s entries on meditation, starting here which are quite a lovely read.

I especially like this bit:

Upon returning to Alice Springs, I kept up my practice, and found other people to meditate with from time to time. One group that met on Sunday afternoons was a small Sangha group. It was held in the artist’s workshop out back of the house of one of the members. Although I was not really studying Buddhism, they were always welcoming, and it was a pleasure to sit with them for a half hour in that quiet room, and feel their energy.

I really like this idea of being part of a group while meditating. Meditationg, martial arts and other inwards-looking practices like yoga or Thi Chi can often be seriously inward-looking, or in-the-body. To such an extent that they can affect your outward-looking interactions with others***. I am really interested in the idea of being-in-the-body and inward-focussed, and yet to still be aware of and part of a group or partnership. It’s an idea I’d like to explore a little more. Particularly when you keep in mind that African American vernacular dance – vernacular dance is about being part of a group, about social context, and about call-and-response between dance partners, between dancers on the floor, between musicians and dancers, and between dancers and audiences. Being seriously inwards-looking is kind of not so great in a social dance situation where the dance is all about conversations with others…
* I’m brave, but not that brave.
**that was for you, Galaxy – I’m crazily aware of it now. But I think of a friend called Dave who says it a lot. He’s probably referencing the Simpsons, but I’m referencing an insanely good dancer who’s also a Thai Chi master country boy.
***it’s not uncommon for hardcore martial arts people or yogis to be quite terrible partner dancers because they’re so focussed internally, they are so good at responding with their bodies, they’re not so good at responding with their bodies in relation to others, as a partnership.