DJ Culture

Level: undergraduate seminar
(Taught in Winter 2008 as ICS 3808, Information & Communication Studies, UNB Saint John)

Production and Research Resources

This course teaches the history and practice of DJ music performance and production, with a twofold approach that combines conceptual and applied learning. The conceptual component is an introduction to the DJ in popular music history, and the major music genres that have resulted directly from DJ practice (e.g. dub reggae, disco, hip-hop, and techno). Framing this component is a reading of Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton’s engaging and entertaining Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey. The applied component involves a variety of production and performance activities in podcasting, broadcasting (the campus radio station is collaborating with us on this course, generously offering us the use of their music catalogue and other resources), and other techniques in DJ-based music production and performance. Through this combined conceptual and applied approach, students in the course will develop critical, historically contextualized learning and hands-on technical training in a well-established and robust sector of the modern music industry.

20% Two critiques of two DJ mixes or programs (750 words each; worth 10% each)
30% Group-produced, 1-hour audio podcast & 1000-word statement
40% Individually produced, 1-hour audio podcast & 1000-word statement
10% Participation (class & course discussion and forum contributions, CFMH work, etc.)

See Evaluation Details for specific directions and expectations about your assignments.


Required Reading

Brewster, Bill and Frank Broughton. Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey. 2nd ed. London: Hodder Headline, 2006. ISBN 0755313984

“This will be on a university syllabus by 2010, mark our words.” –Jockey Slut

Course Reader
* Auslander, Philip. “Liveness: Performance and the anxiety of simulation.” The Popular Music Studies Reader. Ed. Andy Bennett et al. London: Routledge, 2006. 85-91.
Cochrane, Todd. Chapters 8 & 9. Podcasting: The Do-it-Yourself Guide. Indianapolis: Wiley, 2005.
* Eshun, Kodwo. “Futurhythmachine” [interview]. The Popular Music Studies Reader. 292-94.
* Haslam, David. “DJ Culture.” The Clubcultures Reader: Readings in Popular Cultural Studies. Ed. Steve Redhead et al. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997. 168-79.
Houpt, Simon. “FrankenArt: the mix and mash future.” Globe and Mail 15 May 2004: R1.
Jonker, Julian. “Black Secret Technology (The Whitey on the Moon Dub).” CTheory (4 Dec. 2002) 51 pars.
Pearce, Tralee. “The part-time DJ: Love my music, love me.” Globe and Mail 12 Jul. 2003: L1-2.
* Thornton, Sarah. “Authenticities from record hops to raves (and the history of disc culture).” Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Hanover: Wesleyan UP, 1996. 26-86.
Wilson, Carl. “Gone the way of the DJ.” Globe and Mail 18 Jun. 2005: R13.
—. “Ode to the yearning, churning mix tape.” Globe and Mail 4 Jun. 2005: R6.

• Texts marked with an asterisk (*) are available in a folder on reserve for this course in the library. All other texts are available in the course website’s content folder, or online at the links provided.

Required Screening
It’s All Gone Pete Tong. Dir. Michael Dowse. True West / Odeon, 2004.
Pump Up the Volume: The History of House. Channel Four, 2001.
World Final DJ Competition 2001. Los Angeles: Vestax, 2001.

Required Listening
Because you must write two critiques of two different DJ mixes or programs, you must find and listen to at least two such audio productions (each at least one hour long), sourced on the Internet or on the air. See Production and Research Resources for suggested mix, podcast, and program sources.

Week 1
a. Introduction: discussion of course outline and expectations
b. In-class screening: It’s All Gone Pete Tong

Week 2
Sound system tutorial.
Read: Last Night chapters 1-3 & 5; Haslam

Week 3
Mixing tutorial.
Read: Last Night chapters 6-7 & 9-10

Week 4
Podcasting tutorial: do-it-yourself mix-editing and –distributing
Read: Cochrane; Pearce; Wilson’s “Ode to the mixtape”

Week 5
Dance club field trip
Critique 1 due
[at UNBSJ, trip took place on 7 Feb. 2008 to Impulse, featuring DJ Dave Silva]

Week 6
Student-led tutorial/workshop: Using Virtual DJ

Week 7
DJ history review: 1. Afro-Futurism; 2. Disc culture; 3. The avant-garde
Read: Jonker, Eshun, Houpt, and Thornton

Week 8
In-class screening: Vestax DJ Competition World Final 2001; excerpts from Scratch
Group podcasts due

Week 9
DJ dance music in the USA: house, garage and techno
Read: Last Night chapters 11-13
In-class screening: Pump Up the Volume: The History of House episode 1

Week 10
DJ dance music in the UK: acid house, rave and jungle
Read: Last Night chapters 14-16
In-class screening: Pump Up the Volume: The History of House episode 2

Week 11
“Electronica” and the war on raves: DJ culture into the 21st century
Read: Last Night chapters 17-20; Wilson’s “Gone the way of the DJ”
Critique 2 due

Week 12
a. Individual podcast proposal presentations
For this class, prepare a brief talk (no longer than 5 minutes) describing and explaining your working approach to your individual podcast project.
b. Review: DJ roles; technology and authenticity; appropriation as production

First day of final exam period
Individual podcast due

Production and Research Resources

Recommended applications
Audacity Sound Editor (freeware)
Songbird Media Player (freeware)

Selected sources for DJ mixes, podcasts, and specialty broadcasts
CBC Radio 3
CFMH 107.3 FM UNB Saint John campus radio
CIUT 89.5 FM U of Toronto campus radio
Digitally Imported Radio
Hullabaloo: Hulla Recordings
iTunes podcast directory [proprietary to Apple’s iTunes application; see below]
Toronto Jungle Board DJ mixes
Tribe Board DJ mixes

Other online DJ music resources
Discogs: Building the definitive database of electronic music
Reynolds, Simon. Energy Flash
Roots [Reggae] Archives
Vidler, Mark. Go Home Productions
Wayne & Wax
The Wire: Adventures in Modern Music

• These suggested sources are a selective listing, not comprehensive. I invite you to post other Internet and broadcast mix and music program links, stations, and research resources to the course forum, under the Resources thread

Evaluation Details

20% Two critiques of two DJ mixes or programs (750 words each; worth 10% each)
1. Using the course outline’s recommended references or your own sources, listen to two DJ performances, each at least one hour long. These performances may be listened to live; listened to and/or recorded from broadcast or streaming radio; or downloaded in podcast or other digital audio format.
Each program you select must be a specialty program: e.g. an improvised DJ mix (or “set”), as would be played in a club or uploaded to a website for promotional purposes; a DJ-hosted music program focusing on a certain music genre, history, concept, or event; etc. That is, you may not simply tune in to an hour’s worth of “Top 40”-style radio programming, or deal with band-based music events or recordings, for the purposes of this assignment. (If you are unsure whether a mix or program that you have selected qualifies, ask the instructor.)
2. For each selected mix or program, write a 750-word critique. (Broadly defined, a critique is a critical analysis of the principles, effects, and functions of a given cultural product’s formal composition.) Consider these questions in preparing your critique:
• In your judgment, what is (or are) the guiding principle(s) that inform the DJ’s selection and organization of the music tracks or sound recordings?
• What methods has the DJ used to achieve that (or those) guiding principle(s) in the mix or program itself?
• What are the effects or functions (artistic, ideological, visceral, economic or otherwise) of the guiding principle(s) and the techniques used to realize it?
Rather than answer these questions separately, consider them together to develop a critique of the DJ “text” in question. You are encouraged to refer to the assigned readings (and/or other relevant secondary sources), to add depth and texture to your analysis.
3. Upload your critique to the designated blog thread on the course forum site. With your critique you must also provide a valid link to, or lend me a recorded copy of the mix or program you analyze. Without listening to your selection myself, I cannot evaluate your critique. Critiques uploaded without the accompaniment of their subjects will not be marked.
4. The first critique is due by Week 5; the second, by Week 11. Each is worth 10%.

30% Group-produced, 1-hour audio podcast & 1000-word statement

1. Organize a group of your classmates, including up to a maximum of four members. Collaboratively, you will produce a one-hour podcast of sound programming. The computer laboratory work stations on the second floor of Hazen Hall are all equipped with the Audacity sound editor (which we will practice using in Week 4).
2. In producing your podcast, you may explore or focus on any music style you collectively agree upon, or present a number of styles, or compose a DJ-style “set”, or use sound elements to make an argument or tell a story, or otherwise experiment with sound collage in a musical or non-musical way. That is, the content of the podcast is entirely up to your group. In approaching your collaborative project, you should keep in mind the fundamental principles of judicious selection and coherent organization that define the parameters of DJ practice; so you might also keep in mind the kinds of questions you ask of other productions in your critiques (see above). As a group, you must also compose a critical statement (approximately 1000 words long) that documents and reflects on your project’s process, purpose, and position in relation to course topics (especially assigned readings and DJ culture).
• For research project purposes, you have special access to the campus radio station’s catalogue, CD, and vinyl collections. (Copies of tracks you select for podcast production may be made, under the presumed protection of Canadian copyright law’s “fair dealing” provisions for non-commercial, research-based, and/or personal-use reproduction of intellectual property.)
• Fair dealing permission does not free you from the requirement to clearly cite and fully acknowledge your sources in a Discography, to be included with your critical statement. (Any citation system, e.g. MLA, Chicago, APA, etc.) may be used to cite your sources.
• You can, if you wish, produce your own spoken-word, musical, or other audio elements to include in your podcast (but these also need to be cited and acknowledged). If you wish to record any material for your podcast, ask the instructor about equipment.
• You may if you wish pursue technical DJ mixing skills (vinyl, CD, or digital beat-matching); if you are interested in learning and practicing these, in ask the instructor.
3. Upload your podcast to the designated journal thread on the course forum site.
4. Group podcasts are due Week 8, and will not be accepted without the accompanying critical statement.

40% Individually produced, 1-hour audio podcast & 1000-word statement

1. All instructions for 2 (above) apply here, except this is your own show as an individual student and DJ, developing your own approach to and interpretation of the craft, honing your own style and skills.
2. The individual podcast is due on the first day of the final exam period.

10% Participation

Your participation grade can be earned through: participation and leadership in class discussion; contributions to in-class or course site resources; contributions to forum-based class discussion; and/or undertaking new internship or volunteer work for campus radio or local music events or media organizations (either of which would need verification, in the form of a reference letter from the hosting organization).

ICS3808 student mixing final podcast assignment

ICS3808 student mixing final podcast assignment

University office as ad-hoc DJ studio

University office as ad-hoc DJ studio

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