Beyond the Dance Floor: Female DJs, Technology and Electronic Dance Music Culture

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The calibre and experience of the DJs interviewed for the study are worth noting, and certainly lend credibility and authority to the research findings. One issue with the selection of the three DJs is that they all come from a background of performing music that emphasizes broken beats, working in styles such as drum and bass, hip-hop and electro swing.

This is in contrast to the 'smoother' and 'four-to-the-floor' styles of house and trance. Despite the authors' identification of the DJs as "multi-genre" p. In dance music sub-genres such as house, scratching would be perceived as anathema for many DJs. Thus, while the limitations of the study prevent a more inclusive range of DJs from being used, I believe a degree of caution needs to be taken into account when considering the extent to which the findings are applicable to DJ practice as a whole. Arguably, understandings of musical shape in DJing within hip-hop culture would contrast markedly to such understandings within the trance scene, due to the different sonic moods and environments DJs in both styles seek to create.

In further extended research on this topic, it would be interesting to compare and contrast understandings of musical shape across a variety of DJing contexts club, bar, festival and a variety of dance music styles house, trance, techno, hip-hop. The interview procedure, with its fusion of musical demonstration and discussion, is a unique approach that could, and indeed should, be implemented in future analyses of DJ practice.

The use of different media to capture interview material allows for a thorough representation of responses.

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In this respect, capturing the gestural responses of the DJs when articulating their ideas on musical shape is particularly useful. The choice to utilize unfamiliar records in the demonstrations is an intriguing one. While I can see how it generated some interesting situations for discussion with the DJs of their approaches to mixing, it is important to note that DJs would rarely, if ever, play with unfamiliar records.

Indeed, both Matt and Rich highlight how track familiarity informs their approach to DJing. As such, it is perhaps important to keep in mind that the research contexts presented here do not parallel the performing situations DJs are typically involved in. Some of the discussion in this paper recalls the debates around the use of various playback platforms in DJ culture, some of which I have explored in my own research Montano, With recent developments in technology and subsequent shifts in preferred formats for consuming music, DJing has become riddled with tensions around the use of vinyl, CDs, laptops and software such as Serato and Ableton.

While I am unaware of any professional dance music DJs who continue to use vinyl within my field of research the commercial electronic dance music scenes in Sydney and Melbourne , vinyl continues to be used by various DJs around the world, if not for nostalgic reasons then because the genre in which they perform places an emphasis on the format. For example, one would expect vinyl to figure somewhat more prominently in hip-hop DJ culture, with its focus on scratching although that is not to say that scratching cannot be performed via digital technologies.

The different 'feel' of digital technologies impacts upon the way DJs choose to engage with particular formats, while there are the various affordances of these technologies and formats, which subsequently impact upon the way clubbing crowds perceive the skills of a DJ. While the use of software such as Serato maintains the tactility and physicality of vinyl mixing, with the shift away from tangible formats comes a shift away from visually engaging with the format as a means to inform the act of DJing.

As Matt identifies p. With software, this visual inspection is replaced with a viewing of data on a computer screen, with the visualization of both individual tracks and the overall structure of the mix. This potentially allows for a more thorough engagement with the notion of shape, Rich identifying how the visualization of track waveform in Serato provides certain advantages when it comes to mixing tracks together p. This is further emphasized by Tony's description of a particular track's content in terms of "seeing" rather than "hearing" p. Prior to the development of this DJing software, any understanding of shape would have been conceived in a mostly abstract way in the mind of the DJ.

Now, the visualization provided by the computer screen provides a concrete representation of sound. Potentially this could turn DJing into something based less in the selection and playing of tracks, and more centred on the live manipulation of sound.

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While the creative reworking of sound is not new for DJing a simple setup of turntables and a basic mixer allowing the DJ to manipulate the bass and treble of tracks, for example , the use of digital audio workstations such as Ableton unlock the creative limitations of DJing and provide opportunities for a radical realignment of the skills associated with DJ culture. Greasley and Prior's paper makes an important contribution to the developing field of electronic dance music studies, and more specifically to our understanding of DJing as both a profession and a cultural activity.

Such understanding is important given the contemporary commercial explosion of electronic dance music, particularly in the U. DJs may once have been consigned to the dark corners of bars and nightclubs, but over the past two decades, with the development of the superstar DJ phenomenon, it is clear that the DJ is now one of the world's foremost cultural figures. DJs have become brand names, selling not only their club performances but also music, equipment and mix compilations.

For Herman , p.

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Interrogating how DJs develop their skills and interpret their profession provides important insights into the way creativity and technology are negotiated within particular social and cultural domains. I look forward to reading the further research that will surely develop from Greasley and Prior's paper.

Indeed, I have been inspired to re-activate my own investigations into DJ practice. Oldenziel goes on to discuss the ways in which these discursive practices worked specifically to position engineers as the new technological heroes.


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Since the s, numerous scholars Wajcman ; Cockburn and Ormrod ; Ormrod ; Green ; Wajcman have argued that the meanings of both gender and technology are discursively and socially constructed through everyday practices, whereby 'technology is best understood as a social as well as technical process which blends seamlessly with the everyday' Green The power that technology affords 'produces knowledges, meanings and values, and permits certain practices as opposed to others' Ormrod The social construction of the relationship between gender and technology has created an atmosphere in which 'femininity is incompatible with technological competence; to feel technically competent is to feel manly' Cockburn Thus, the situating of women as always already outside invention and technology naturalizes and preserves a seemingly innate relationship between men and technology.

The framing of technological interests as not only natural but also defining features of masculinity is widespread in popular culture, beginning in early childhood. At the time of this writing a search for the phrases 'toys for boys' and 'toys for girls' on Amazon.

For girls, a jewellery box, tea set, cookware and bracelet-making kit were included in the top ten. These 'girl toys' foster the development of skills that today fall outside of the purview of technology.


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  4. A hopeful note may be found in the one item that appears on the top ten lists for both boys and girls: a Multi Voice Changer by Toysmith. Though it looks like a simple megaphone, its purpose is reminiscent of some electronic musician production gear; it features ten different voice modifiers that can create hundreds of voice combinations. This example notwithstanding, for the most part toys that speak to modern-day technologies are marketed to boys much more than to girls. As a result of the historical, discursive and material practices that frame technology — including music and audio technologies — as men's interests, women's positionality and mobility across popular music genres and within the popular music industry have been restricted.

    This book contributes to the ongoing discussion of how and why popular music industries, scenes and practices continue to be male-centric spaces. Overwhelmingly, men occupy the powerful positions in these environments, dominating the lists of DJs, rock stars, critics, sound engineers and even avid collectors. The male-centricity of popular music can be traced back to early music technologies such as the phonograph and radio, which were themselves packaged, advertised and sold along gender lines Carlat ; Kenney When it was first mass-marketed to the public in the s, radio's place in the home was uncertain, but it did not take long for manufacturers to perceive and reinforce gender differences concerning its use.

    From the earliest days when amateurs tinkered with wireless sets and used radio technology to explore aurally distant cities, such practices were considered to be the hobbies of boys and men, despite evidence of some female amateur operators Anon In contrast, following the invention of broadcasting, radio came to be viewed predominantly as a technology to acculturate the family, which was regarded as women's work Carlat However, compared to men women were already viewed as being more passive users, who desired simple radio sets.

    Consequently, manufacturers began to make easy-to-use, female-friendly models, but curiously, they were still advertised almost exclusively to men. Carlat attributes this seeming contradiction to advertisers' belief that women might be interested in radios as furniture or a source of entertainment, but men would be the ones to instigate and carry out the purchasing of radio receivers.

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    Thus, for most of the s radio ads in The New York Times for example ran in the Sunday sections that also featured automobiles and airplanes, two other predominantly male concerns. Another strategy the editors of the trade publication Radio Merchandizing suggested was for radio dealers to place female mannequins 'reclining in languorous positions' in store-front displays to attract male customers editors of Radio Merchandizing 'The Female of the Species is More Attractive Than the Male', as cited in Carlat In addition to being labeled as passive users, women also experienced marginalization in the radio industry as executives and on-air announcers.

    Despite considerable success in these roles in the industry's early years, they were squeezed out in the s as the pay and prestige associated with such positions increased Douglas This occurred despite the success of announcers like Halloween Martin, whose popular early morning wake-up programme 'The Musical Clock' featured her playing phonograph records, making Martin one of the nation's first real disc jockeys.

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    Notify me. Description A pathbreaking study of the women who create electronic dance music, "Beyond the Dance Floor" focuses on the largely neglected relationship between these women and the conceptions of gender and technology that continue to inform the male-dominated culture surrounding electronic music.

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    In this volume, Rebekah Farrugia explores a number of important issues, including the politics of identity and representation, the bonds formed by women within the DJ community, and the role female DJs and producers play in this dance music culture as well as in the larger public sphere. Though Farrugia primarily focuses on women s relationship to music-related technologies including vinyl, mp3s, and digital production software she also deftly extends her argument to the strategic use of the Internet and web design skills for purposes tied to publicity, networking, and music distribution.

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