Citizen DJ is the brainchild of Brian Foo, a 2020 Innovator-in-Residence Program at the U.S. Library of Congress. The goal of the project is simple: to provide free audio and video samples to encourage creativity through remixing. Or, in Foo's words:
Cultivate the creation of new and transformative music using free-to-use audio and video materials from the Library.
Connect the general public with culturally significant, underutilized, and free-to-use audio and video collections available from the Library.
Engage communities, such as secondary school students and amateur musicians, that may have a strong relationship with hip hop music, but little to no existing relationship with the Library or the Library’s materials.
Provide the general public (in particular, those with little to no formal research training) with the tools and resources to navigate the United States copyright system in the context of sample-based music creation.
Contribute to human-computer interaction research and best practices for search and discovery of large audio and video collections.
As for why, specifically, to take a DJ/hip-hop approach to this kind of project?
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Today, collage-based hip hop as it existed in the golden age is largely a lost (or at best, a prohibitively expensive) artform.
I believe if there was a simple way to discover and access free-to-use audio and video material for music making, a new generation of hip hop artists and producers can maximize their creativity, invent new sounds, and connect listeners to materials, cultures, and sonic history that might otherwise be hidden from public ears.
Legendary musical force Andrew Weatherhall -- who produced Primal Scream's seminal album Screamadelica, famously remixed the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Meat Beat Manifesto, and as a DJ helped turn the world on to acid house -- has died. He was 56 and suffered a pulmonary embolism. From The Guardian:
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Following a young adulthood in the post-punk scene, Weatherall became a key figure in countercultural – and occasionally mainstream – British music after becoming one of the key DJs in the acid house movement of the late 1980s. He was recruited by Danny Rampling to play at London nightclub Shoom, and soon founded the record label Boy’s Own Recordings and the production outfit Bocca Juniors.
Further musical projects included the group the Sabres of Paradise, which splintered into the duo Two Lone Swordsmen with Keith Tenniswood, though perhaps his most famous musical work was with Primal Scream on their breakthrough 1991 album Screamadelica. By taking the band’s anthemic songwriting and adding samples, loops and the euphoric energy of Ibiza, Weatherall’s production made the album one of the most celebrated of the 1990s....
He spoke of the eternal appeal of DJing in a 2016 Guardian interview: “It’s quite vampyric, DJing. You’re never going to have that feeling of hearing that record for the first time again, but if you look into the eyes of someone who’s hearing it for the first time, it’s a nice vicarious feeling. But it’s not selfish. I think I’ve never lost that thing I had when I was 12 years old and inviting my mates round to my house.
My old friend and favorite DJ, DF Tram, pulls threads from from far-out jazz, psych, experimental ambient, spoken word, downtempo EDM, and avant-garde classical to create transgenre ambient mixes. A crate digger of the highest order, he has turned me on to countless artists, tracks, and albums that I'd never hear anywhere else. A collaborator with Alex Patterson, Mixmaster Morris, and Youth, DF Tram has toured with The Orb and performed at the most prestigious electronic music festivals in the world including The Big Chill, Glastonbury, and OZORA. Above is his live set from the 2019 OZORA Festival. Lose yourself.
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As a teenager in the 1970s, hip hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash hacked together his own DJ mixer in his bedroom. At the time, he was attending a vocational high school in the Bronx where he had developed some electronics repair chops. Flash needed his Sony microphone mixer to have a cueing feature enabling him to preview his mix through headphones before sending the audio to the speakers for everyone to hear. So he hit Radio Shack for the parts to make his own musical tool, and history.
For more on the development of DJ mixers, see this classic Cuepoint feature.
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What is a preservationist to do when someone drops off a plastic grocery bag full of 30-year-old cassettes created by some of San Francisco's most influential DJs? Digitize them, of course. Read the rest