a partial reckoning

We have returned from SLX.
Injuries acquired:

  • sore ear from my cold (and flying with ear infection – never have I felt such pain. Ever. I cried like a baby and people stared. But I didn’t care, because having blocked ears is like closing your eyes – no one can see you)
  • sore groin from doing stunts at a late night party (The Cheese regrets his spontaneity)
  • sore thigh from lawn bowls (The Squeeze does not regret learning to bowl)
  • a big bag of regrets (I wish I had been well enough to acquire injuries like The Squeeze’s – but I did a lot of sitting about and talking shit. It seems that Sydneysiders do not fall for long lines of bullshit as do our Southern Cousins from Tasmania. But I tried)

Australian-Melbourne-Irish-Global media?

As some of you know, I’m booked in to give a paper at the annual CSAA conference in Canberra in December. I wrote about my abstract here and moaned about not scoring a bursary here.
Well, things have actually turned around a bit since then. I have actually scored a smallish grant from the nice people at the CSAA, which will cover my conference registration and part of my airfare. Yay.
So, come December, I’m flying up to the Can to talk theoretical turkey with acadackas, hang out with my old school friend Kate (no, not ‘old skewl’, nor is she particularly ‘old’ – she is a friend I have had for a long time) and possibly see some local dancers.
This was all very nice to hear – I’m quite proud of having scored a competitive grant from an organisation which will look good on my CV. I’m also happy to be funded for my trip to the Can – I need to get a job some time soon, and these things are good networking activities… though I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging about with old UQ buddies. And as you can see from this entry, I seemed to spend more time thinking about jazz than any professional business at the last CSAA conference.
So anyways, I’m off to do a paper.
Here is the abstract again:

Swing Talk and Swing Dance: online and embodied networks in the ‘Australian’ swing dance community.
Since its revival in the 1980s, lindy hop and other swing dances have become increasingly popular with middle class youth throughout the developed world.
There are vibrant local swing dance communities in Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Perth, Canberra and Brisbane for whom dancing – an embodied cultural practice – is the most important form of social interaction. Swing dancers will travel vast distances and spend large amounts of money solely to attend dance events in other cities. The success and appeal of these events lies in their promotion as unique and showcasing their local dance ‘scene’.
In travel itineraries which criss-cross the country, swing dancers develop networks between local communities that are not only cemented by their embodied interpersonal interaction, but also by their uses of digital media. In this paper, I examine the ways in which the online Swing Talk discussion board is utilised by Australian swing dancers to develop personal relationships with dancers in other cities, which in turn serve to develop relationships between local communities. This insistence of local community identity in swing dance culture in Australia defies a definition of a ‘national’ swing dance community. I describe the ways in which ‘Australian’ swing dance is an ‘unAustralia’ – not a homogenous ‘whole’ but a network of embodied and mediated relationships between diverse local communities and individuals.

Right now I’m having trouble remembering what I wanted to write about. I suspect there wasn’t actually a lot of planning in there. But I have started to have some ideas. Of course stimulated by my impending trip to SLX (I’ll be off to the tram stop in a few hours – nursing this horrid cold that’s sprung up), but also prompted by planning for MLX6 planning.
Have a listen to this:

powered by ODEO
(which you can find here on the MLX6 music page).
Now, if that’s not an advertisement for glocal community, I don’t know what is. I mean, before we even get to the dance/exchange stuff, we’re listening to an Irish guy pimping Australian jazz for a Melbourne exchange to an international audience. Neat stuff, huh?
This is the stuff about lindy hoppers that I really love: the way they go nuts and do all sorts of creative things – off as well as on the dance floor. And much of this creative work is centered on big dance events like exchanges and camps. There are lots of film clips, mini-films, websites, DVDs, etc etc – and a couple of special official CDs produced – but I’m beginning to get interested in the way swing dancers use radio and audio technology. Specifically, digital audio technology. I mean, there is all that stuff about DJing, but swing dancers do other really interesting things as well: Yehoodi radio is streaming music chosen by swing dancing DJs from all over the world, the Yehoodi Talk Show is really just a chance for a couple of engaging dance/music nerds to have a chat online and Hey Mr Jess is even nerdier – a particularly lovely DJ chatting about swing music and DJing with another dance/music nerd.
Hello podcasts.
This promotional podcast by one of our MLX6 crew is interesting for the way it combines samples from local musicians’ albums (these are all bands we’re hosting for MLX6, from Melbourne and Sydney) – they’re all still living, all contemporary artists – with pimpage for our event.
I do need to sit down and do a bit of analysis of the content, but this is some interesting stuff. Radio has proved a particularly effective medium for connecting dancers in different countries – a natural complement to discussion boards. And this is one of (if not the) first Australian contribution to the international lindy hop radio world (excluding contributions by local DJs to the Yehoodi radio show) – this is the first locally produced Australian swing dance radio ‘bit’. And it’s narrated by an Irishman!
I do need to sit down and think about how this works: the way ‘Melbourne’ is presented, the way ‘Australia’ is presented, and how different audiences within and without Australia (and Melbourne) might receive/interpret/read this text, but it’s a starting point – a bit of motivation – for my paper. At the very least, I can add that to my usual list of clips and photos for the presentation – always fun to do.
–edit: you know, part of my brain is also a bit interested in the way I’ve used that odeo plugin, there: most times you see those sorts of things they’re ‘invisible’, in the way my sidebar over there is largely ‘invisible’ from the main body of the page over here. But I’ve actually framed that odeo thingy as something to use and listen to, rather than just stuffing it into my sidebar or at the bottom of this post. It’s an interesting contrast to the livefm thingy over there in the sidebar (which is still stuffed and giving me the shits). I am, of course, delighted and fascinated by all this convergence action – my blog as combining audio and visual as well as written? Let’s see a newspaper try that then! Of course, this issue is one I’ve been plaguing my students with lately in tutes – as I heard in a Media Report story about cross-media ownership and digital technology, the cross-media ownership legislation kind of collapses when faced with the internet and the fancy things newspapers have been doing online: they combine av with traditional ‘static’ text… and bloggage, and audio, and… lots of other lovely stuff.
This is such a great time to be a media studies stooge! How could you not love the internet?!

old and new

My new CD has another version of Jive at Five for my collection.
I love this song more than anything. I love the way the rhythm section stomps along (hello Freddy and Jo – guitar and drums – and bass-player-whose-name-I-do-not-know). I love the featured muted trumpet. I even love the wandering saxophone. And the piano? Lovely. My favourite version (which features all these things) is a 1939 jobby, by Count Basie (and orchestra) of course. It trucks on in at 175pm.
I DJ it very rarely, in part because I have been afraid of ‘higher’ tempos until very lately (we had an epiphany last week – quicker transitions. Yes, yes, we knew, we had been told before. But now we Know). And it’s ‘lowerenergy’, and I tend to prefer playing faster stuff only if it has ‘highenergy’.
But things have changed, now, so I will soon play it every single time I DJ. Every. Single. Time.
I never tire of this gem.
I have also played a version by Jo Jones from this album, which is wonderful. Jo Jones (whom I wrote about here) was Basie’s drummer for ages. And rocks). That’s a great song, but it’s 4.07mins long, and has a big fat bass solo in the middle which goes down like a ton of bricks with dancers. Especially since the whole song is 182bpm. It is still a mighty track, made even more wonderful by Jo’s spoken introduction: “you hold up five fingers in each hand” and the chunky drum intro. The trucking rhythm section is emphasised (not surprising, considering Jo is a drummer, and this is his band), though the piano still gets in there… but with more vigour, and I think it’s all in a different key (again, I’ll have to think about it) – taken down a bit…?
But this new Basie album has another version of Jive at Five on it. It rolls along at a ponderous 147bpm, which kind of kills the sprightly, uplifting feeling of the original (sounds corny, but it really is uplifting – it makes you feel like trotting along on your tippy toes… well, that and stomping along with the rhythm doods).
But it’s a neat track, with a trombone solo substituted for the sax solo (I think it’s substituting – I can’t remember – something’s different there, anyways. I’ll have to have a look), some nice additions and embellishments to the original version. It’ll be a good track to play for noober dancers.
I have embarked on a Grand Scheme of late – playing newer ‘more accessible’ (ie hi-fi, or slightly slower, or simpler) versions of great old school tracks, then (over a series of gigs – not during the one song!) substituting the ‘originals’ and fading out the newer versions. This has worked a treat with songs like Viper’s Moan, where I started with Mora’s Modern Rhythmists’ version, then used the Willie Bryant version (which is vastly superior – I am currently obsessed with Bryant and his band. This is some HOT shit). Similar stuff has happend with the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra’s version of C-Jam Blues (though I am thoroughly sick of that song, and wouldn’t play it again unless I had to), with other DJs (obviously echoing my sentiments) pulling out alternative versions.
I really like C-Jam Blues, but my preferred version is a Duke Ellington version from 1941 (the Blanton Webster era) which sits on 178bpm and rolls along. The LCJO version rocks – it’s live and very exciting – but it sits on 143bpm, and while the energy really builds in this top-notch contemporary reworking of a great song – it kind of loses the original energy of the faster version. There are some different things going on in the rhythm section too, and the neat violin solo in the third phrase has been replaced by a trumpet, which, while cool, isn’t quite as cool as the original. But that could just be the gypsy jazz in me showing.
I don’t play it very much, but Sydney Bechet’s version of Stompy Jones would be a good way of getting to Ellington’s (fabulous) version. Interestingly, Bechet’s version sits on 216bpm, while Ellington’s is about 199bpm. Ellington’s is vastly superior, in part because he’s using a whole orchestra, while the Bechet version I most prefer (Bechet and his New Orleans Footwarmers) uses a smaller group (5 or 6 or something). One of the neat things about the Ellington song (as I discovered reading Gunther Schuller’s Swing Era) is the layers and rhythms (layers of rhythms?) going on in his version.
The Ellington version I prefer is a 1934 job, while Bechet’s is from 1940. I could talk about Bechet and revivalist New Orleans jazz, and the way the rhythm section works in each, but I can’t really be bothered.
One of the side effects of listening to all this stuff with an ear to dancing is that I’ve become obsessed with rhythm sections – with the way each note is played in terms of tempo and timing and accent and emphasis, rather than in terms of melody or tone or pitch. I guess it’s because it’s difficult to make those things visible in your body, when you’re essentially working with a percussive instrument.
I’d never really thought about all this rhythm stuff when I was singing a lot at school – then I was all about pitch and stuff.
I’m also fascinated by the idea of polyrhythms. Which I need to learn more about.

The Count Basie Story – Count Basie

This lovely thing came in the mail today. Recorded in 1957, 58 and 1960, this is a collection of Basie’s big hits re-recorded by his ‘new testament’ band. It’s interesting stuff.
I’m not usually such a big fan of new testament Basie, but I do find him useful for DJing, as it’s a nice cross-over point for old school scratchy fans and hi-fi kids. This CD is great because it’s such good quality, is an interesting idea (especially in reference to Basie, whose earlier band(s) had such different sounds to his later big band(s)). If you don’t think about the ‘originals’, this is one sweet album. I know a few DJs/dancers who’d love it.
I’ll go through and listen to each song in comparison to the ‘original’ or earlier recordings and let you know what I think.
I don’t doubt that this will give me some useful fodder for my sets at SLX… now, if only I could figure out how to reinstall my bpm counter after the Great Reinstallation of 2006, prompted by the incredible CRAPtitude of itunes 7.0. BPM counter tips for mac would be very welcome.


There are so many things I could say about this clip.
I could start with the fact this is ‘traditional’ Korean music and costume, matched with ‘traditional’ beat box and breaking (with some seriously old school moves in there – a real grabfest for anyone who’s ever watched a fair amount of break dancing). And then I could go on to talk about how this is a peculiarly Korean way of moving and dancing – these are not African American dancers, nor do they dance or move like black Americans. This is Korean dance… or a Korean appropriation of a black American dance and musical form and costume and…? And then, that this is a Korean appropriation of a classical piece of music, in a hip hop context – how wonderful!
Then I could talk about the beauty of the round performance space – the perfect jam circle, with the viewer invited to take up the empty space and join in – to become part of the jam. The inclusion of the musicians in this circle only emphasises the way dance and music are inextricably bound.
And then, of course, there is the use of editing, focus, pans, cuts, etc etc to exaggerate and emphasise certain aspects of the choreography – to speed up fast parts, to add staccato to jagged movements, to highlight small movements which might otherwise be lost. The use of a constantly moving camera to heighten that sense of movement, which – if you’ve ever stood at the edge of a jam circle, digging what you see, or perhaps considering coming in – is exactly how it feels and looks. As part of the audience, you move with the dancers and the music. This is more than call and response, it is cooperative meaning making at its most pleasurable. And do I need to mention the use of video ‘screens’ in the shot to emphasise the presence of the musicians, in the face of such mesmerising physical display?
And if I had more time, I’d talk about the use of light, the use of colour, and what all this means for an art form that is so heavily inflected by discourses of skin colour and shade…

Duke Ellington’s House of Lords

Ok, so a little while ago I crapped on about Bluesology.
Today I’d like to crap on about House of Lords, which I have on acomplete centennial something or other collection (well worth the (massive) cost – it truly is a ‘complete’ collection… well, for that one label. whatever that may be). It’s live, recorded in 1966 and it’s five minutes and thirtyfive seconds long. It’s also 136bpm and I classify it as ‘groovy swinging’, which means that it has the tsi-tsi-tsii high hat sound and rhythm section, but trucks along – not that sort of formlessly swingingly groove that irritates old scratchy fans. Because it’s Ellington, it really cooks. And it really feels like it’s trucking along – grooving, but rocking. Chunky but still palatable for the smoothy types.
So, anyways, the thing I like about it is a) it’s live, and b) you can hear Duke laughing – no, chortling – away in the solos. The band are really enjoying this stuff, and it’s really rolling along – you feel like it’s going somewhere. Kind of makes me feel like this is the type of stuff Oscar Peterson would do if he had more guts. Guts as in, if his music was a little more visceral.
I’d certainly like to dance de lindy hop to this song. Which sounds as if it’s really just drums/percussion, piano and bass. And groaning adn chortling.
Matter of fact, I wonder if there aren’t two pianos in there – could it actually be Peterson? Or maybe it’s Basie? I’d hazzard the former, though I don’t think they really worked together (actually, what would I know).
Dang! I just NEED to rush home and look at the liner notes!
At this point I really wish I could insert a sound clip so that you could all listen along with me, but of course, there are copyright problems there. Maybe I need to get into that streaming radio action?

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.