Abstract for Music as Masquerade: Poseurs, Playas, and Beyond
The 2005 Experience Music Project Pop Conference, Seattle, WA April 14-17, 2005

Found Sound and Crate Digging: The DJ as Archaeologist
by Adam Fish

The DJ is a metamedia archaeologist. Both DJ and archaeologist labor with layers, artifacts, mixed palimpsests, and social morphology, one of sound another of culture. Both are obsessed with time and the rhythms of Life. Fascinated with unearthing, appropriating, and reinscribing the rare and archival, archaeologists/turntablists crate dig for children's records at garage sells; rummage through thrift store bins for funk breaks; and surf the 'net for chunky basslines. They are transhuman bricoleurs, conflating urban aural fragments into deep maps.

As if...

The DJ is a poseur, a raconteur.

The metaphor best apt to describe the DJ schtick is the archaeological. Both archaeology and turtablism aim at rhythmic, reverential, and future-focused historiographies but end up with forgery, appropriation, mimicry, incorporations, dialogisms, irony, heterotopia, and milieux of impossible events.

From Daft Punk's "Discovery" LP to Del's rave, "We are high tech archaeologists searching for knick-knacks," archaeology/turntablism is a blurred genre of recontextualizations for moments of ecstasy (trance), sentimentality (disco/house), and b-boying (hip-hop/jungle).

In the club, the DJ/archaeologist performs juxtapositions, staged gaps, katachresis, cuts, quotations, scratches, narrative emplotment, and coups and cues. Club-goers are in a third space where fantasy rules, thresholds are pushed, and timelessness is achieved. Turntable tactics are the vehicles for clubland posturing.

Archaeologists/turntablists re-master phenomenologies of sentimentality and authenticity. They engineer time, space, body technologies, and subcultural revivals. The result is not droppin' science but irreverent scrambles of location, temporality, and identity. 

And like a perfect crime, the DJ leaves nothing behind.

[This presentation will include brief filmic and audio samples.]


By day, Adam Fish is an archaeologist for Native Americans tribes. By night, he is a Seattle DJ under a number of false and pretentious monikers. He is the author of over 30 articles, a microfilm, and a few CDs; each blurring the most unlikely genres. He is the Executive Director of the Center for Landscape & Artefact (www.landarte.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to merging new media and anthropology. He prays for an impossible post-textual utopia where NSF grants force biochemists to translate their findings into digital dance anthems. [He will be a PhD student somewhere by the presentation, he just does not know where as of November 20, 2004.] Please see his personal website for the biased, truncated, and scorching story: /cla_adam.htm.