DJ Spooky

Letter to Myself

I didn’t know what to do, so I just started writing like I’m DJ Spooky. Feel free to rate my forgery in class.


Dear Me,

Who is myself? Is it the convergence and culmination of a thousand brightly colored, pre-packaged mixed media vectors distilled in open-source sanitariums swirling through the digital soundscape and sneaking into my subconscious only to bubble up and boil over into my frontal lobes? What is the wetness of water? The aboutness of an object? Is my unconquerable soul brought to you by Xerox in 4 parts without commercial interruption?

These are the lyrics of a man you can’t merely understand, because a dream deferred solidifies in the hand of James Joyce as he hurls it at Proust’s looking glass, leaving as many shards as their are torrents on the Pirate Bay. Mental graffiti. Turntabling the shoulders of giants in a reaffirmation of the self using Ezra Pound as a color palette.

This is a letter from a Birmingham jail written by a free man in Pennsylvania. Rhythm science. Only the idiot stays tied in Plato’s cave assimilating binary code like a broken record set to record. Rhythm science is not a re-cord, but a re-write.

Every master is a remastering. A rematerializing along the imaginative plane manifest in the freestyle fencing matches of comment sections. Post and riposte. Rhythm Science the digital postmaster without being post modern, post menstrual, or post mortum. Remix is a fertile multi-celled organism constantly dividing, mutating, and risking absurdity in the mitosis of expression.

Torrent Science. Media vectors deferred assimilated into giant turntables. The lyrics of my frontal lobes distilled by a multi-celled looking glass. What is the aboutness of water? The wetness of my Xerox soul? 4 parts of commercial interruption swirling through the digital sanitarium converge and culminate in my brightly colored dream graffiti.


My Experience of Composing Digital Media in a Nutshell

            Ahhh… Composing Digital Media. I took this course simply to fulfill a writing intensive credit. I have a talent for art that wasn’t being put into use in the medical field so now I had the opportunity to relinquish my pent up creativity onto new mediums. I figured I wouldn’t have to do as much writing as a more literature based writing course, so it would be a breeze. Ha! I remember walking in the first day and hearing the syllabus. We were told about the numerous projects and how we were going to have to spend countless hours outside of the classroom learning skills and doing most of our work on the projects. This is the point where I started to question what the heck I was doing here, but something was telling me I signed up for this class for a reason. I thought maybe she was joking and just trying to scare us away, but now as I’m sitting here trying to remix my last video project on the last week of class, I know this was no joke. I can honestly say after taking many difficult classes thus far a Pitt I have yet to put as much time into a single class as this.

While daunting, you get out of this class what you put into. The amount skills we have accomplished in this class in astounding in the short time we had together. I’ve heard of whole courses dedicated to single, simple programs such as Word and Excel, but we managed to utilize numerous. While I have had some previous experience in Photoshop, this class was a much needed refresher and only broadened my comfort with the program. I had always wanted to learn how to code websites but have never pursued it, because I deemed it too intimidating and complex to learn on my own. Through this course though I was able to rapidly learn and create my own website in less than a week. After learning multiple programs I feel a lot more confident in myself handling all sorts of media.

            Ultimately, I am glad I had chosen to tough it out in this class. Although I may not need all these abilities in my line of work, I feel accomplished to have diversified myself and picked up this vast skillset that may come in handy at some point or another. Beyond just the skills, I learned I could accomplish anything I put my mind too. Like I said earlier although I am proficient in art, which didn’t so much correlate as much as I had originally planned, this was a whole new realm for me out of my science based knowledge background. I feel that the readings from DJ Spooky and deep thought discussions of archiving methods, definitions, and how much our lives are immersed in the archive, I have become better rounded and I am grateful for it. I was opened up to perspectives I have never heard before and offered my own. As tedious as it was at times, Composing Digital Media was a very rewarding class.

Spooky reps for the new school

“Rhythm science isn’t just about sound, of course.  Imagery, whether presented on canvas or seen as a series of repeated photographic, cinematic, televisual, or digitized stills has a way of evoking a “kinedramatic” imaginal response. Sometimes the images carve out a blank space that memory later gives meaning to.  At other moments, they have an immediate, visceral effect.  Angles of incidence leave paths of thought unresolved, a high-resolution photo from-capture, still life, nature-morte.  The technologies of rhythm science are an extension of what had long been going on.  Computer interfaces reify earlier formal and structural orientations.  Think about how John Cage used to just stare at the piano in his silence pieces.  The instrument was a jumping off point – an interface that had so many routes available.  Cage wanted to highlight that meditational aspect of the creative act.  The technologies of rhythm science are conduits for the same impulses.  The simultaneity of such a variety of source materials and media distinguishes digital composition from its analog predecessors, not to mention the actual physical “dematerialization.” In other words, rhythm scientists don’t need orchestras; they can simulate them just fine, thanks.  It’s not so much that the technology changes the compositional process, as extends it into new realms.”

I think this paragraph is important because it introduces a side of archiving which we have not yet discussed: the actual creative process, beyond inspiration.  Up until this point both Spooky and our class discussions have viewed the process of archiving as a science.  One must simply take what was once in the past and reconfigure it to create anew.  As true as this may be, there is still a step within that process that involves personal creativity.

Spooky speaks of imagery evoking an imaginal response.  Regardless of how one interacts with it, the purpose of rhythm science is to produce a feeling for the audience to grasp.  “Sometimes the images carve out a blank space that memory later gives meaning to.  At other moments, they have an immediate, visceral effect.”  As scientific as the process may appear at times, it could be argued that art is still what is being created, and that art will always resonate different to any given audience.

The second piece to this paragraph is the topic of technology and its benefits to rhythm science.  It could be argued that Spooky is simply trying to say that digitized composition only leads to efficiency.  However, the final sentence of the paragraph proves that technology is actually broadening the horizons of composition: “It’s not so much that the technology changes the compositional process, as extends it into new realms.”  This last sentence certainly represents the argument held by the average young creative/artist today.  In being one myself, I think the more complex existing technologies, and that does not only mean the internet, provide a multitude of platforms and tools that now exist in a genre unknown to the world 20 years in the past.


Question:  With greater ease of creation, comes greater competition to make a living doing so.  For a specific type of person (creatives) who commonly dislikes the idea of corporations having unnecessary control, how might they feel about selling advertising space being the only way for them to make money doing what they enjoy?

The Emergence of Technology

“So as we flow across the page in the here and now, as you process the words as you read them, remember this: They process you as well. Roam the interstices of globalization as a ghost in the machine as we fast-forward past the middle passage and into the hyperlinks of a database culture whose archives routed and dissolved into almost every format of memory we’ve thought about, and think about how to describe the experience. Is it as simple as flipping open a laptop and joining a wireless network? Is it as automatic as dialing a phone number on a mobile phone in an unfamiliar city? Home is where your cell phone is. An absurd reductionist logic? Plastic, fluid memories run into circuitry and focus our attention on a world where we download ourselves daily. This is a word game of the nonconscious. This is what the idiot tells us, and this is what we reply.”

Interstices: a space that intervenes between things, a gap or break in something generally continuous, a short space of time between events (c/o Merriam-Webster dictionary)

I like this paragraph of Rhythm Science because it is extremely applicable to every-day life. We do not realize how obsessed, addicted, and dependent we have become as a whole on technology. We also do not realize how it changes our view of culture and the world and how we act towards them. I especially like “Home is where your cell phone is” because that is truly how people feel–they feel like they have lost a part of their body (ex. a limb, their brain) if they left the house without their cell phone.

I think it’s important to note that DJ Spooky pulls up the thought that archiving has changed with the emergence of technology. Rather than recounting information and thoughts from memory, we rely on technology to do that for us. He says that “This is what the idiot tells us” because we are gradually becoming dumber and dumber about basic instincts like thinking and memorizing because we are so reliant on technology. Though technology helps us spread information, collect data, etc., it also hurts skills our ancestors succeeded in and perfected. As a result, citizen archives are becoming less and less personalized–regarding memories, thoughts, achievements, etc.–and are slowly becoming generalized, to a point where, eventually, all individual archives will look the same.

Question: Is technology promoting individualism or is it preventing it?

DJ Spooky and Judith Halberstam: A Conversation

Though they focus on different topics (DJ Spooky: sound and remixing vs Judith Halberstam: queer studies), DJ Spooky and Judith Halberstam agree on some ideas, specifically how oblivious the average human being can be regarding archiving.

DJ Spooky uses the idea of “the idiot” (page 9 of Rhythm Science) to describe an audience who provides no interaction with a topic. He proclaims a person who just enjoys the topic and doesn’t think about the background of it also an idiot. As a scholar (for that is who is most likely to read his book), to read that you are perhaps, legitimately, an idiot is somewhat insulting, but DJ Spooky offers the chance to redeem yourself by interacting and researching about whatever topic.

Similarly, Judith Halberstam offers the idea of “silly archiving,” but introduces it to open discussion with a lesser-educated person (or, possibly more correct, someone who knows little to nothing about a topic). She explains the ideas behind her Spongebob, Mumble from Happy Feet, and Dude, Where’s My Car? references as introductions to higher-qualified and scholarly examples.

Judith Halberstam’s “silly archive” is basically an introduction to a topic for DJ Spooky’s “idiot.” Ironically, I believe DJ Spooky is a great example of “silly archiving;” rather than using his own name, Paul Miller, DJ Spooky creates a pop-culture pseudonym to create a wider audience for himself. There is a greater chance for someone to pay more attention to someone named DJ Spooky than Paul Miller, simply because most humans are interested in media, pop-culture, and entertainment. Though they may expect music from DJ Spooky (which they get), he also offers scholarly research and information to his audiences. He is the “silly archive” to an “idiot” audience.

Discussion question: Is there a definitive line between “the idiot” and the scholarly?

Sampling and Remixing

“Sampling is a new way of doing something that’s been with us for a long time: creating with found objects.  The rotation gets thick. The constraints get thin.  The mix breaks free of the old associations.  New contexts form from the old.  The script gets flipped.  The languages evolve and learn to speak in new forms, new thoughts. The sound of thought becomes legible again at the edge of the new meanings.  After all, you have to learn a new language.  Take the idea and fold it in on itself.  Think of it as laptop jazz, cybernectic jazz, nu-bop, ILLbient – a nameless, formless, shapeless concept given structure by the rhythms.  And that’s a good start.” (p 25)

I was drawn to this paragraph because it talks about remixing and sampling.  When you sample, the limits decrease.  You break down barriers put up by the government, corporations etc.  “The mix breaks free of the old associations.  New contexts form from the old.”  In this particular sentence, DJ Spooky is explaining that when you remix something, whether it is a song or a particular item in an archive, you can make something new out of it.  It may not be an original thought, but you can put a spin on it and make it into something else.  As evidenced in RIP: A Remix Manifesto, the future builds upon the past.  You accumulate bits of information and ideas throughout your life and compile them into your own personal citizen archive.  You read this information from there, or heard this song from here.  All the little pieces make up who you are today and although you heard them elsewhere, they still combine to make something new and ‘original’ to you in regards to your life.  “Take the idea and fold it in on itself.”  This sentence reminded me of an article I read about hyperspace.  “…take a piece of hyperspace and fold it onto itself like a pocket and use it as a hiding place (anything inside the pocket is apparently almost invisible to sensors and the naked eye).” (Wikipedia)   Although this may not have been exactly what DJ Spooky was trying to explain, it helped me identify more with this paragraph. I believe he was trying to say to take a common thought and almost invert it.  Turn it upside down and tear it apart.  Do this so you can build upon it.  I looked online to see what “ILLbient” meant.  It is a mix “of the hip hop slang term ‘ill’ (a positive expression: bad meaning good) and ‘ambient’” (Wikipedia).    I also researched nu-bop.  It was created by Matthew Shipp. “”Nu Bop” resists categories… Shipp lets all the old walls crumble. There are pieces and fragments of an old world. There are broken bones and lingering chromosomes. Shipp emerges from the end of a century as a wrecker and a creator. His music screams: “No walls!”” (  This excerpt really does encompass what DJ Spooky was trying to say.  In order to be free, the walls need to be broken down first.  Use the past to create and build the future.

Archiving Of The DJ World

“The best DJs are griots, and whether their stores are conscious or unconscious narratives are implicit in the sampling idea.  Every story leads to another story to another story to another story.  But at the same time, they might be called “music before the impact of language,” or pre-linguistic stories.  Core myths from the binary opposition at the center of the human mind.  In the twenty-first century, stories disappear and evaporate as soon as they’re heard, a sonic and cultural entropy.  Mass counterbalances rhythm science’s entropic drift, though, as the physical density of information becomes a new field open for interpretation. “

After reading the next section in DJ Spooky’s text many different paragraphs caught my eye.  However, the one mentioned above really stood out to me for many different reasons.  From reading DJ Spooky’s work thus far, the main sections and paragraphs that I have really enjoyed are the ones that make me go back and re-read.  This paragraph was one of those.  Within this paragraph I believe he pulls out some of the biggest topics that we have been discussing in class.

To begin, the first sentence relates to our discussion on “citizen archives”.  In this sentence I immediately was confused with the word griot.  Is griot a popular word and I’m the only one that doesn’t know what it means?  Well anyways, I looked up that word first and foremost and found this definition: “a storytelling in western Africa who perpetuates the oral tradition and history of a village or family,” (Webster’s free dictionary).  What I took from our discussion yesterday in class—is that a “citizen archive” is an archive wrote by someone who is not trained or employed to do so.  Although we came up with many different definitions for this broad term—this seemed to be the one that I most agreed with.   This sentence relates to that idea because it is showing how DJ’s can be “storytellers” or “archivers” of their own lives; thus being the citizen archiver.

The next sentence in this paragraph also applies to that idea.  “Every story leads to another story to another story to another story.”  I believe that this is why archives are important.  They are a constant flow of stories that help us recount our personal lives as well as the lives of many others.  Therefore, each separate archive can lead to another story or another archive.   So maybe we can even say that a DJ’s song combining many different songs can be a set of archives?  They may be taking it too far, but it is defiantly something to keep in mind.

The next part of this paragraph that really intrigues me is the last sentence “Mass counterbalances…..”  What I take from his title “Rhythm Science” is that it is the creation of art from a flow of ideas and patterns.  Therefore, in this sentence I believe the flow of ideas, patterns, and creation of new ideas becomes a new subject open for interpretation from the society.

DJ Spooky’s novel as a whole is a very intriguing piece of work.  This paragraph stands out to me for a variety of different reasons—especially how it connects to our class discussion.

Question:  Are the ways that DJ combine songs copying other music or archiving it and producing a new story?  Could we consider DJs archivers of the music world?