July 15, 2009
It’s the first of the six-part “DJ 101” course. DJ Dirty Digits, who taught the freebie class that we attended, will not be teaching this course, but he’s around and we greet each other. We’re introduced to Noumenon, our instructor, and to several teaching assistants who will guide us on our journey. More importantly, sitting in with us is Grandwizard Theodore, who is credited as the inventor of the “scratch.”
Each DJ and assistant tell a brief story of their move into DJ’ing. Most fascinating to me is the story of the Grandwizard, who is arguably one of the “hall of famers” in the field. Turns out that he was doing his thing with DJ’ing while in high school, was invited by his high school principal to create a music set to play during lunch, was messing around with the turntable at home and, well, the rest is history. I wonder whether the principal knows that his offer not only helped to move a young man into the music business, but also led to an innovation that impacts on music internationally. This is profound for me as an educator: We don’t always know the impact that we have made on individuals and society from even the little things that we do on the job. Powerful.
The Grandwizard is an enigma. Most everyone that I have seen in any aspect of music has aged beyond their years. Yet he (and he’s got to be close to my age) is youthful and energetic. He can easily pass for 30′ish. He’s obviously living well.
Noumenon asks for us to introduce ourselves. Who are we? Are we doing this as a career track or just a hobby? Clearly a hobby. Surprisingly, to me at least, the class, all of whom are decades younger than me, are quite accepting. Even more surprisingly, I master a few scratches even before some of the young folk in the room.
Then Noumenon asks the style/s of music that we’re into. Old School Hip Hop and Classic Rock, I respond. Only partially true. I’ve hidden the fact that I also plan to bring old Israeli music into the mix, and that it’s not really “Old School Hip Hop” that I like, but rappers like Notorious B.I.G and his generation. It’ll all come out, since we’re invited to bring our own vinyl with us when we come to practice between lessons.
The ambidextrous thing, which I thought would be a challenge, is turning out to not be so bad. And listening to two different tracks at the same time, while also working two turntables, a mixer and some equalizers simultaneously is proving to be a great way of exercising and even re-programming parts of my brain.
This whole DJ learning thing may turn out not only to put me in touch with the music lover part of me, but to have added benefits in terms of learning about things like how innovation takes place, the ways in which rhythms [of music, of life] impact on us, and new ways of understanding how we can integrate not only two phonograph records, but other music that plays in our lives.