Lecture: Robert Fink (UCLA): Playlist Culture and the Art of Transition
The Arnold Shaw Popular Music Center presents a lecture by Robert Fink, musicologist at the Herb Alpert School of Music, UCLA. The event is free and open to the public.
The phrase “playlist culture” conjures up a musical world dominated by algorithms, one whose rise spells the death of the record album and the ecosystem of creativity it once enabled. But playlist culture, balanced between opposing aesthetics of mashup and flow, encourages us to explore new structures of feeling rooted in second-order music making. While genre-busting collages of heterogenous elements — mashups — get a lot of attention, it is equally suggestive to investigate the pragmatics of flow. What techniques are available for organizing a playlist of pre-existing musical elements so that they flow seamlessly into each other, creating a single, overwhelming experience? How can radically heterogenous elements be mixed into a homogenous flow?
In electronic dance music, the DJ set is an exceptionally sophisticated form of playlist culture dominated by a rigorous art of transition, developed by pioneering dance DJs like Paul Oakenfold. A close reading of Oakenfold’s 1994 “Goa” Mix — still the single most requested DJ set ever broadcast by the BBC — discloses (1) elaborate preparation and execution of key transitional moments and (2) their marshaling into a single large-scale structure of dramatic yet orderly flow.
Free and open to the public