December 2000

Like the Moon . . . ( : ) . . .
(some post-colon-ial discourse)

After months of formulating and re-formulating, I decided not to colon-ize the album title this time. As much as I like the somewhat ironic, self-reflective, self-effacing message such a title conveys for me, and as far as I am--for better or worse--engaged in an academic mode of thinking much of the time, the simple elegance and richness of the phrase Like the Moon seems to be a better handle for the sounds presented here. Not to claim that these re-presentations (for nearly all sounds on this disc were formerly presented in some way) are either elegant or rich; such determinations are ultimately up to the listener. Still I’d like to share the original title in all its self-mocking, pretentious grandeur: Like the Moon: The Consumption/Production Dialectic; or, 'Traditions' and the 'Individual' 'Talent.' Mumbo Jumbo? In some ways. But these ideas do spring from thoughts I’ve had in the past year of understanding and making music. Perhaps then, by unpacking the full, original title of Like the Moon, I can illuminate my present thoughts about music in general, the music I make, and the music on this disc.

First, Like the Moon is, of course, an explicit pointer to the play on words of my recording moniker, Wayne&Wax (for further explication, see liner notes to Instrumental: Towards a Sound Science of Hybridity). This "elegant" and "rich" phrase is not just there for looks, though, it connects quite directly to the next part of the title. For the moon itself, through its regular waning and waxing, embodies what I am calling here a consumption/production dialectic. Such a dialectic also informs my music making (and, in my opinion, most electronically-based, mass-mediated musics, especially those with a vinyl culture). Every act of production contains an aspect of consumption and vice versa. Because this music is sample-based, my production of these tracks is necessarily predicated on consumption, both in the more vulgar sense of my purchasing these source materials as commodities and in the sense of my experiencing these records as sound. In these ways I consume as I produce. Conversely, as a listener, my (or your) consumption of these sounds--as in the sense of reacting to and reading them as sonic experience--also involves a kind of production, the production of meaning.

This dialectic between consumption and production--a relationship I see as central to hip hop (my overarching, informing aesthetic) from its earliest days of producing breakbeats from two identical funk records--not only holds for sample-based musics but for the creation of art in general. New art necessarily embodies the influence of its predecessors (though perhaps not always as directly as a James Brown sample in a hip hop song), and earlier art is recontextualized by these new creations. This relationship is one of the points T.S. Eliot makes in his essay, "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (1919). In addition to making this basic connection, however, I have also slightly altered and problematized elements of Eliot’s title in the making of my pre-de-colon-ized title.

"Tradition" becomes "Traditions" both because I am wary of upholding the stability and hegemony of an exnominated, "great" tradition and because my musical tastes have shifted (as usual) and as a result, the music on this album could not fit under any such single category. I maintain that hip hop remains my informing aesthetic, but I no longer feel compelled to restrict myself to the tempos, timbres, or forms that are "traditionally" associated with hip hop. And while I am far from proposing a monolithic, limiting idea of what hip hop can be (and could still make an argument of why this album is hip hop), there are tracks here that are undeniably more indebted to drum'n'bass and house (although even these tracks are "impure" by most insider standards). Next, I am problematizing "Individual" for the obvious reason that I cannot honestly pretend to be individually responsible for the sounds on this disc. While I have selected, manipulated, and organized other people's sounds in novel ways (some more radically than others), I could never pretend they were all mine, thus the equal--albeit anonymous--billing for my sources, my wax. Furthermore (and here I would dissent from Eliot's thoroughly modernist view), I’m not so interested in such an artist-centered idea of art. Because of my indebtedness to other artists--my unknowing though perhaps not unwilling collaborators--in making this music, I feel a strong acknowledgment of humility is in order. Also, more generally, I prescribe more to a receiver-based model of communication, thus shifting the production of meaning away from the province of the almighty artist. Finally, I put "Talent" into quotes as yet another attempt at humility (a gesture which I now suppose has become an obnoxiously un-humble one, having been called to your attention). So much for explication. Maybe I should follow my own stated philosophy and leave the meaning-making up to the reader/listener. Maybe I still am.

For all of my versioning, sampling, and problematizing of Eliot's words, however, I do think Eliot has a point when he describes the dialectic between the old and the new. I know that my musical style is heavily and schizophrenically (schizophonically?) indebted to thousands of others. In a quite direct manner, sample-based creations invoke their sources. Yet these sources come to be heard in a different manner after they have been sampled. Although I indicated in the liner notes to Instrumental that I was planning on changing my approach to sampling, essentially by chopping up and altering samples to make them unrecognizable (in the tradition of the copyright-evading crusaders of late 90s hip hop), I have not followed through with such a program here. Some of the tracks on this disc are indeed assembled this way. But for the majority of Like the Moon, I decided to work with longer samples. For one thing, I simply couldn’t resist looping, arranging, and layering some of these materials—making them new in the process. For another, I am producing this music for myself and my friends. It is a way for me to have fun, to be creative, and to continue my engagement with music in a direct and deeply satisfying manner. I may be infringing copyright laws in some sense, but I am not profiting from such an act. I am not interested in selling this music. I’m simply sharing these sounds in a more interactive and personal way than if I simply made a mix-tape for a friend, bought her a CD, or recommended my favorite artists to her.

Still, if you’d like to look deeper than my liner notes for political and other meanings, you need only to listen, feel, and think. I’ll leave the meaning-making to your own physical and imaginative engagement with the music. The only verbal hints I’ll give towards my own opinions are in the words you read here, the song titles, and the carefully-selected, thoughtfully-placed vocal samples on this disc. But enough high-falutin’ language. I hope you enjoy these sounds I’ve organized. And if you’d like to continue this dialogue in a way that more directly and dynamically engages me (for the act of listening to this music and producing your own readings and reactions constitutes a kind of dialogue, even if I can’t hear you), please drop me a line: wayne@wayneandwax.com.