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Session 4: Turntable music

The 4th session on turntable music started with Taku himself talking about the history of turntablism and his own work.

Taku explained his talk was based on his 2006 paper on this topic, he started by attempting to define turntablism; “a musical practice of using the turntable as a instrument for the skillful playback of media”. Next the history was covered, the emphasis on virtuosity and the strong community. He covered the history of the technology as well, from early recording devices to modern turntables aimed specifically at this type of performance. Not only do we now have these specialized hi-tech turntables, there is also a large range of digital playback devices that are inspired by the possibilities of turntables or tries to emulate them, for example for the playback of CD’s or the controlling of computers.

Taku covered the extending of the turntable/mixer instrument for a few angles; he talked about attempts to make scratching easier (for example using crossfaders that make several “cuts” for a single movement), something he explained the turntableist community frowns at. He also explained a little about his own work in extending the technique; the use of a simple sampling patch running on his computer and triggered by the cross-fader. Taku places a lot of focus on virtuosity, explaining this is one of the most important things turntableism brings to electronic music (as well as circular interfaces and a unique take on durability for simple mixers). Another topic touched on was his setting up of a forum ( http://forum.itchymuzik.com/index.php ) meant as a gathering place for people interested in “alternative turntableism”.

The second half of the session was covered by Kjetil Falkenberg Hansen, who is researching turntableism. He himself doesn’t perform in this way; he told us he gave up after about a hour. He plays the clarinet instead. Kjetil started by listing some important properties of turntableist culture; the taboo against copying other performers, how this led to there being no set repertoire and no formal notation for this music. These factors turned out to have interesting influences on the music. Sadly little research has been done into this field so far, even if there are many possible angles to explore; scratching could be looked at from a acoustical, gestural, musicological or physiological angle… and perhaps even more. Kjetil next talked about the gestures used, he ended up concluding turntableism has a vocabulary of about 100 gestures, some of which are compulsory, others more rare and noted that these are often blended into eachother and repeated in performance. He too feels virtuosity (particularly ambidexterous performance) is one of the main appeals of turntableism, also mentioning the appropriation of every day objects, it’s fast evolution and it’s informality. Kjetil has researched to what degree scratching can convey emotions to a audience, at first he was unsuccessful but this turned out to be due to the  list of emotions he used which were a bad match for the vocabulary of turntableism. Finally he covered his experiments with the Reactible, attempting to apply higher level control to scratching techniques.

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