May 14, 2011 Comments Off


On Thursday I had the pleasure of performing for an enthusiastic crowd at TEDx Grand Rapids. The organizers of the event had asked me to do a short talk about my music in addition to performing, which is something I’m always slightly apprehensive about because I worry that too much explanation and theoretical discussion can make the music seem like a demo instead of something that stands on its own. But I put those concerns aside and wrote a short talk that was as much about trends in music software and hardware as it was about Jazari, and I’m glad I did. At the reception after the conference, a couple people told me they would have been annoyed if I had walked off the stage after my last djembe solo. Apparently in 2011, giving the people what they want means robot drum ‘n bass plus futurist prognostications. That’s a giant leap from “Free Bird.”

Here’s the text of the talk that I prepared:

The title of my talk is Cyborg Musicianship; I am wearing a large controller made from springbok horns and arcade buttons; and I also surrounded by electro-mechanical machines that play instruments. Extrapolating from these facts, you might think that cyborg music is an eccentric kind of sci-fi genre made by nerds and shared on obscure internet forums. And you would be half right. But the other half of the story is that cyborg musicianship already dominates the production of pop music and permeates music-related video games and mobile device applications. The machines that you see on stage here are in a sense hardware manifestations of ideas that have spread throughout musical culture in software. Before I elaborate on that point, I’d like to lay out a tentative definition of cyborg musicianship. (more…)

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