vendredi, avril 27, 2007

Spinning and post-partying

Well, I ended up not going out last night (Thursday), since I hadn't seen anything that caught my eye. I had given a moment's thought to Le Pulp, but since they had been threatening to close since February, I just presumed nothing was going on. As I found out today, both Miss Kitten and Scratch Massive were playing that night and apparently the place was rammed with people. Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

Anyway, I had been invited to go over to F.'s place (a guy I met and hung out with last Friday), so sent him a text message this morning to see what he was up to. As it turns out, he had gone out the night before to Le Pulp (after ditching Le Rex, because it was apparently not very good), and was currently hosting a little after-party at his place. It was already 11h00 when he called me to tell me this, so clearly they had been going strong since last night.

I got myself together and headed over to his place, which was a bit far away (on the other side of the city and actually outside the city proper), so I got there at almost 14h00. Most of the other party-goers had gone home, except for one of F.'s co-workers, who was sort of half-crashing, half-chilling on his couch. F. had apparently been spinning on his decks since they got back from the club, and he was eager to have me join him. It was actually really nice to get to spin again. I left my turntables and vinyl back in Chicago, so I haven't really been able to do much of any of that here in Paris.

F. was using Serato Scratch Live, which is a cheaper clone of the very popular DJ software Final Scratch. What both of these programs do is allow you to work with your digital music through vinyl. Effectively, you get two vinyl records that transmit timecodes instead of sound. Then you connect the output of these records to your computer (through a firewire box specially made for the program), which takes these time codes and sends back out the corresponding audio for a digital track that you have on your laptop. If you change the speed of your turntables, stop or rewind your records, the digital recording will do the same. For DJ's who are used to vinyl, this allows them to access all of their digital tracks and actually mix them with their vinyl recordings as well. What's particularly great about it is how a DJ can still use the very intuitive and tactile interface of the vinyl record, but get access to digital recordings at the same time. One final advantage of all of this is that you can travel with one pair of records and your laptop, rather than many pounds of records.

When I first started spinning tracks with F., my mixes were really rough and a bit late. This was partially because the headphones were dodgy and the Cue levels were post-EQ, but mostly because I haven't touched a turntable since last summer. A while later, I noticed that F. was looking at the computer screen a lot while beatmatching, and I realized that Serato Scratch comes with a whole bunch of visual aids that I had not been using. There's this really convenient "tempo" display up top that shows how the two tracks do (or don't) line up, using automatic beat-detection to represent the tempo in colour-coded spikes. All you have to do is slowly shift the pitch on your turntables until the two tempos line up. Once they're at the same tempo, there's another field in between the two tracks that shows the main beats of both tracks as they're happening. You can use this representation to bring the two tracks into sync. It's amazing how much this visual aid helped me spin. (You can see what I'm talking about by downloading the Demo video called "Visual Aids" here.)

That much being said, I'm still a bit embarrassed that I couldn't do it all by ear.

I hung out with F. (and his girlfriend / my co-worker, G.) until about 17h00, and then headed home. It was really fun to hang out with the two of them, and I'm looking forward to hanging out with them again soon. When I got home, I took care of a bit of blogging, a lot of emails and reading, and then thought about going out. For some reason, I just wasn't feeling up to it--not sick, just tired--so I hit the hay and promised myself that I'd go out Saturday night. On the other hand, what I did do that night was book tickets to spend the weekend in Berlin next week. YAY!! I can't wait.

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