Sunday, July 09, 2006

Creativity and the spirit of invention

In 1982 the Roland corporation released an electronic bassline synth known as the TB-303. It was intended to be used as an accompaniment for guitar players (much like drum machine units are used). It didn't sell well, it didn't sound enough like a real bass and only 10,000 were manufactured over the next 18 moths. Shortly thereafter, they began to appear in pawnshops and selling for somewhere between $25 and $50. Kids in cities like Detroit and Chicago started to pick them up and the rest is history. They leveraged the unique sound of the devices and created Techno (Detroit) and House Music (Chicago), pioneering modern electronic music with equipment that no one else wanted. (They now are highly valued collector items selling for $1000.)

The TB-303 in action.


The invention of Turntablism (scratching records, beat juggling) is even more remarkable. Using an instrument that isn't even an instrument, young urban kids invented a new musical art form. (You're not even supposed to touch the record player while its on!) The movie Scratch is a documentary on the history of Turntablism. It is a must see, one of my favorite documentaries. This movie humbled me, had me on my knees. After seeing it I understood what it really is to be an artist, to truly create.

Click here to watch the trailer and clips from Scratch.

The charismatic, irrepressible DJ Qbert.


More recently, the David LaChapelle film Rize documents the street dance phenomenon known as Krumping. NPR covered the film and has some great video clips on their site. (There is quite a bit on YouTube but the quality is better on NPR. Do not overlook the clip titled: "The Crowd Goes Wild During a Heated Dance-Off")

In general, the young people who participated in the creation of the forms I mentioned in this post had far fewer resources than the snotty brats taking Suzuki Method Violin but demonstrate a level of creativity and a spirit of invention that you just can't roll against. I guess this post is my nod to all those kids out there that are just doing it, just making it up as they go along. Praise you.

Like Detroit musician Juan Atkins (inventor of Techno) expresses in "No UFOs", there are no UFOs coming to save us, you have to create and dream your way out.

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