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Cultural Notes from DJ Spooky at Roktowa

Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky

On Friday evening Roktowa hosted Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky with an evening that blended a light lyme with discussion on art and culture. Miller delivered an interesting presentation dubbed Rhythm Science: Notes for a Shattered Culture. In keeping with his stage moniker, his presentation style was akin to a DJ on the wheels of steel as he hopped across different slides, re-wound, pulled up and sampled.

Miller was introduced by DJ Afifa Aza. “He has created something more than art, more than film,” Aza said, explaining that what Miller’s work reveals is a process.  “It allows us to see the DJ as artist; the artist as teacher,” she said.

DJ Spooky began his discussion by showing his own connection with Jamaica, which came through his mother who was friends with the Right Honourable Alexander Bustamante as well as worked in Jamaica as a cultural critic.

An author of several books, including The Book of Ice and Sound Unbound, and the executive editor of ORIGIN Magazine, Miller is a composer and multimedia artist and is the first artist-in-residence of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

DJ Spooky presented an interesting dialogue about art and its role in cultural transformation as he touched on issues such as colonization and global warming. He described his work as a process of sampling the world, and art as a response to one’s environment, using his journey to Antarctica and infusion of breaking ice in his music as an example.

While Miller explained that technology and collage are central elements of his work, and highlighted that his DJ Mixer iPad app has received more than 12 million downloads, he argues that he is not merely bound by technology, it is a tool. According to Miller, when used to create music, technology should be transparent and not be used to compensate for creativity.

 “Software has pretty much democratized the process of making music,” DJ Spooky said. “Computers are just a tool. I don't over value that tool, they're just one of many.”

Miller also noted that for many of today’s artists, one of the major challenges is how to monetise their work without mainstream support. He advised that much of this lay in learning the value of giving away some of your work.

“It’s not about certain kinds of money, but the value you generate by giving away certain things,” he advised. To illustrate he gave away two CDs and also pointed out which of his books were available for free download from his website.

In speaking about music and spirituality, DJ Spooky noted that music should not be about escaping from reality, but getting more deeply immersed into it. "Its about getting music to ask questions, not saying its the answer," he said.

Roktowa is located on Pechon Street, Downtown Kingston. The discussion took place on Friday, January 4, at 6:00 pm.