“Dance music” is a term that has lately become maligned all over again. And the press is often fond of deriding the music of machines, as if drum machines and computers are sentient alien technology that climbed out of the smoldering remains of a wrecked UFO rather than the handiwork of someone’s imagination.
For me, though, these two materials – movement and machines – are the reason I do what I care about this field, exploring new sounds in a way that is human and gestural, whether the music is in an experimental concert at 8p or a party in a club at 4 or at home on your iPhone in bed.
I got the chance to reflect on that again recently, while releasing an extended set of my own music for modern dance, which I titled simply Music for Dance.
I want to occasionally share the music I make as a practitioner, as that’s part of who I am and I would feel I didn’t want to write about music technology if I didn’t make music. But I have twice the reason to share now, which is that I got to have a really fulfilling conversation with one of my favorite music journalists, Marc Weidenbaum of the superb ambient blog Disquiet. You can read the full interview:
“DANCE CAN’T BE STORED” [disquiet.com]
And this is the music release. It’s pay-what-you-like (including free), Creative Commons-licensed, via Bandcamp:
But it brings me back to my original reflection. I think there’s something special about connecting the parts of our brains and selves that handle music and handle movement. Body and brain are, after all, not separate parts, all integrated, organic wetware rather than hardware and software. I recall in college once getting stuck trying to do improv with an ensemble I was playing with, accompanying some modern dancers. We just weren’t listening and playing together. So I suggested we retreat to one of the adjacent dance studios and try doing the same thing with movement improvisation. By the time we’d returned to the stage, we had a completely different outlook. Moving together in silence had somehow freed up the ways in which we communicated with our instruments in hand.
All this focus on controllerism and interfaces and gestures is I think because it’s so important to connect thought and body – a challenge in ways that transcend even the question of technology. When I could first reach the keys of the piano, discovering seemingly-impossible sounds with my hands was a physical activity. Now, we can again discover and reinvent those relationships with something as simple as the pads on a drum machine or the invisible seeing eye of an infrared sensor or camera.
And I love club-style dance music as well as this “experimental” material, precisely because I love the fact that we make music that is expected to get people to move around. All the debates about quality and culture aside, I can’t imagine the music scene without this element. This seems like what we do: make people move, make people trance and feel, and sometimes both at once.
Finding ways to feel what we’re doing as we listen, and to move around, can be vital in either context. And maybe, just maybe, when no one’s looking, it’s worth dancing around to our tracks in an embarrasing way, and finding silly gestures.
It is, in the end, “playing” music.
Hope you enjoy the interview and my music. If you are curious about tracking me, you can follow me at http://pkirn.com — though of course it’s likewise a gift to be able to write about everyone else’s music here.