Miles Runs The Tech Down

Jazz inspires the developers of the WordPress software  this blog uses. Since 2004 each major new version is named after a jazz musician, the first being Miles Davis. 10 years before he made the hip-hop/scratch pioneering Rock IT, Herbie Hancock was involved in another pioneering effort as one of the musicians who recorded On The Corner  with Miles .

 Both sides of the record were based around simple, repetitive drum and bass grooves (the track delineations on the original album were arbitrary), with the “melodic” parts snipped from hours of meandering jams. These techniques, refined via the use of computers and digital audio equipment, are now standard amongst producers of electronically-based music.

Even the album cover art spoke to a digital theme:

Miles_Davis_On_The_CornerOn the Corner back

In keeping with the sci-fi theme of African-American Music Month here on STEM Drum, On The Corner “sounded” like a soundtrack for a sci-fi movie. One writer wonders whether Miles actually invented the sci-fi/cyberpunk genre of William Gibson(inventor of the term cyberspace)

There’s also something cybernetic about that sound. The 1972 technology probably didn’t have many computers in the mix, but you can hear the hints toward sampling and digital editing. It is the street finding it’s own use for technology, but to a beat that William Gibson never imagined. It’s the shape of funk to come, pointing the way to rap, hip-hop, techno, the Afro-pop of King Sunny Ade and Fela Anikulapo Kuit.

Mondo Ernesto

Speaking of Gibson, I’m reminded of a picture I recently received from a friend which put a whole new meaning to “on the corner”


which makes me think of the locative art and augmented reality of Gibson’s Spook Country

Last but not least , Don Cheadle is using the tech-driven Indiegogo to help fund his Miles Ahead movie. Supporting these kinds of efforts will help keep more of the value of our innovation in the village.


Teleportation By Sound

Amiri Baraka(RIP) ends his brilliant sci-fi short story Rhythm Travel with a warning not to pick “a corny tune” but I guess the cat at the end of the Bar-Kay’s video didn’t get that memo 🙂 He probably needed to hear something more like The Staples Singers I’ll Take You There(hmmm more from Memphis) or Lakeside’s Fantasic Voyage or EWF’s Boogie Wonderland or Interstellar Space by Coltrane(perhaps this was a prototype for how some advanced form of teleportation will work).


Connecting The Dots With DJay, Kanye & STEAM

This should help the last post make more sense. In the movie Hustle & Flow, DJay is a pimp/hustler in Memphis who is fed up with “the life” and starts creating rap tracks in a makeshift home studio to try to get out.  His sound technician tells him they need a better microphone to get a good enough quality sound that can get radio play. DJay is frustrated because he has no idea how or why the equipment works, but the sound technician insists so he goes to the store to pick up a microphone but doesn’t have enough money for the really good one. Again, not knowing anything about STEM he says:

I just don’t understand why I gotta pay so much more money for that microphone right there when the one right next to it look just like it but cost half, man.

Caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, DJay falls back to his pimp resources to pay for the good mic.

It’s great that Kanye West doesn’t want to be constrained to the rap category and that he sees his future possibilities in the context of people like  Steve Jobs and Howard Hughes.Both of them had STEM backgrounds and surrounded themselves with great engineers. Their artistic successes drew heavily upon their STEM resources and successes. Perhaps Kanye will come to realize that STEAM could help him make an end run around the established fashion industry. He could catapult the emerging 3D printed fashion industry to mainstream recognition. To be clear, we need not wait for celebrities to embrace STEAM, we can identify and support artistically inclined STEM students and professionals who will create the next big successes in healthcare, climate change, education as well as entertainment.

Don’t Be Like D-Jay

… practical, everyday reasons to love STEM …

When you don’t love STEM, you can’t make or distribute your own products.
When you can’t make or distribute your own products you have less control.
When you have less control you make less money.
When you make less money, you get desparate.
When you get desparate, you resort to pimping.
When you start pimping, you end up like D-Jay.
Don’t end up like D-Jay.

Embrace STEM. End up like


James Edward Maceo West

Along withGerhard Sessler, West developed the foil electret microphone in 1962. Nearly 90 percent of the more than two billion microphones produced annually are based on the principles of the foil-electret and are used in everyday items such as telephones, camcorders, and audio recording devices among others.