by Kate Magoc
There's a convergence in DJ-land where rocking a party melds into cultural theory. On Saturday, July 2 at Brillobox, amid the chaotic partying of the holiday weekend, DJ Ripley (Larisa Mann) spoke at Dorkbot, a free-form lecture series featuring "people doing strange things with electricity," and then proceeded to rock the Garden of Earthly Delights party immediately afterwards. From academia to booty shaking, Mann brought the house down with her elucidation of copyright law and metadata and her expert mixing of street bass and dancehall tunes.
Her lecture was a microcosm of her dissertation work, an interesting bridge between the simple metadata components that are fields in a media player (artist, track title, beats per minute, etc.) and deeper ones like cultural rhythmic origins, or riddims, that can make a crowd go nuts if played in the right club.
Mann is an expert in Jamaican dancehall music and the surrounding culture as well as copyright law. She drew upon the concept of the riddim -- Jamaican Patois for "rhythm," or rather, everything in the song minus the vocals -- to demonstrate an area of metadata that is useful to a DJ in her efforts to get people dancing. Certain riddims, she explained, will send a crowd into a frenzy based purely on the fact that they are recognizable. The questions that arose were: How then do we consider these samples within the realm of copyright law? How does a sample that is so culturally ingrained become the property of one person?
Her talk left the room with more questions than answers, a successful pre-party discussion that gave the audience some intellectual stimulation to apply to the set she was about to drop as DJ Ripley.
Her set was chock-full of moombahton, juke and electro-pop remixes with heavy bass, all booty shaking and a lot of world influences. DJ Ripley’s mixing tendencies worked seamlessly with the local support of the evening, DJ (Adam) Cucitroa (who has a similar propensity for bouncy, juke-flavored tracks, and an equally keen ear for blending well) and Garden of Earthly Delights party host DJ James Gyre (with his recent moombah compulsion and deep knowledge of bass music from far and wide).
An evening of party-rocking and cultural theory, Garden of Earthly Delights was a whiplash lesson in copyright law, DJing methods, and dancehall culture. The dance party was more than a dance party -- it was an illustration of the lesson, which was a blend of anthropology, musicology, and law elucidated through the setlists of the DJ's and on the dancefloor at Brillobox. Now if only she could take her dance floor classroom to the Cathedral of Learning. For more information on Larisa Mann's work as a student, teacher and DJ, check out her blog at djripley.blogspot.com/