Friday, March 27, 2009

Gainsaying the gainsayers:

By defining hipsterdom as " artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras" the writer is essentially saying that a style from the 70's--say the flannel shirt--was more genuine or authentic during its introduction because it was worn in a way that expressed creativity or youthful rebellion; ideas that hipsters now, because they have "stolen" them, somehow lack.

Instead of deriding the current state as a meaningless rehash of "true" meaning from cultures past, why not strive to understand it as the highly mutating, overtly self-conscious meta-culture it really is? It feels cheap to dismiss the hipster's dance party on the basis of its lacking a "dance style" because this view assumes that we can judge the groups that have developed what are considered compelling dances (seen in the krumping below) alongside those that (seemingly) haven't (the goofy hipsters even further below).

To be sure, I enjoy watching the guy krumping more than I enjoy watching the hipsters bounce around, but I also understand that the second video is just that--kids having fun, getting drunk, rebelling for the sake of rebelling
. The writer, in his insistence that hipsterdom is nothing more than a vacuum of originality, misses out on the interesting things they do/create:

It seems to me that more accurately, we have a culture where information--in the form of fashion, music, dancing, blogging or whatever--is in an unprecedented state of availability, making informational melting pots, where, like the writer said, "formerly dominant forms of counterculture (merge) together," the new norm. In other words, internet kids are taking canonization to the new medium. Hipsterdom is what it looks like when a group luxuriates in its significance, when a group
becomes its canon.

A cultural critique is relevant if it finds immoralities in a group's behavior, if it highlights the inhumane, but correctable. Hipsterdom is a minor mash-up of innocuous self-definition. That's it. This guy's critique is not only ugly, but unhelpful: it implies that some cultures are more creative, more original, and essentially, more
important than others (We don't want to be ethnocentric, but we're human and humans, though sometimes inhumane, are still human. The real deal lies in the limits of cooperation--can we teach lions to think like gazelles? It can't hurt to try.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I don't know much about the Jerk Dance other than that its bowlegged swagger looks fun and feasible. The rest of these dances, as you'll see, are stylized to the point of being not only impossible, but just plain weird.

The Melbourne Shuffle--popularized in Australia in the early '90s with the advent of hardstlye trance--is effective in that it's deceptive; the dancers' heel-toe magic and aggressive moonwalking create an illusion:

Turfin', a style that originated in Oakland alongside Hyphy (the style of the video's song) is similar to the Shuffle in its sleight of hand--or foot?! The dancer's footwork at :37 is particularly interesting if you aren't looking at his feet. This discrepancy--peripherally viewing footwork gives the illusion of sliding, while directly viewing it doesn't-- led me to the next video, but first some Durkle Turf':

Ok, so a possible explanation has to do with the hollow face below in which a concave face appears to be convex when viewed from a certain distance. The fact that we override certain depth cues and shading patterns in the concave face in exchange for a convex illusion supports the argument that what we are seeing has more to do with knowledge--meaning our practical knowledge of faces in general--than perception. This makes sense; we're surrounded by convex faces and have evolved to track, read, and respond to them with our survival depending on our speed and efficiency in doing so. Our minds are biased to see convex faces and only if the concave cues are pronounced--by getting close to the mask or darkening the concave shading--can the perception (reality) override the bias.

So, why do many of these popular dances capitalize on the mind's tendency to construct a useful version of the world and why did they come about? To me, the most striking dance moves are those that cause a misapplication of knowledge on the part of the viewer--the moonwalk or the Brookfield do this. Watching the moonwalk can be thrilling because, if done well, an illusion is created in which the dancer appears to be walking forward, but is actually moving backward. This particular misapplication of knowledge seems to be the result of a bias associated with tracking the movements of people, specifically those walking about.

A dance emerges from the distillation of similar illusions linked in a balanced or provocative way. This guy, demonstrating a version of the Liquid Dance popular in rave culture, shows how various illusions, when concentrated and linked, create a distinct, recognizable whole:

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's been over a year since I've looked at this blog--let alone update it--so this post, being my hibernation buster, is going to be totally great. It was a surprise to find that demo from late '07, proudly quirky with its FruityLoop drums and sketchy sequencing, sitting at the top of the page. I'd forgotten how much I was into Italo disco and LCD Soundsystem at the time and now that I think of it, recording in general. Listening to the songs now, the quirks I was so proud of--the wildly oscillating synths and soaring melodies in the second and third songs--seem pretty clumsy, but also sort of cute in their boldness.

To tell the truth, I've almost given up recording for reading, working, listening, exercising, and occasionally dancing on my new Iranian rug. I'm not too regretful because creating something, no matter how bad it is, is only
sometimes better than creating nothing, the reason being that if I'm not comfortable or satisfied with what I've created, then I've wasted valuable time I could have spent elsewhere. I would say that this is the natural pattern most people live by, the exception being those who kill themselves for virtuosity or some other admirable, but ridiculously costly endeavor.

I was never one to sit around and jam things out or noodle away on the guitar or keyboard--I actually used to fall asleep playing guitar--so recording, with its easy editing and collage-like setup, was more fun. I felt like I was in control of the sound. Naturally, after spending so much time fiddling with effects and samples, compressors and EQs, my recording skills surpassed my musical abilities; I was better at recording guitar than actually playing it. After realizing this about a year ago, I lost my drive to create new music. Just thinking about correcting the balance was exhausting so I just gave up. It's been a relief.

Since quitting I've been able to listen to music less seriously, with less ego invested. I still get jealous when I hear a striking melody or mystery effect, but it's a distant ache and sort of feels good, like watching my niece and nephews open presents on Christmas. So, to finish off this lengthy ramble, I'd like to hypocritically present a song--however goofy oh well--I made over the weekend: "Spacers"

Spacers.mp3 - Dylan P Conlin