"About a week before our scheduled date for this interview, Avalon Emerson seemed over it. "I'm not a vibeman," she told me, contrasting her technical acumen with the unlearnable, abstract magic other DJs apparently possess. She was concerned that this feature would break down her workflow into digestible info nuggets that most people could and have figured out and that anyone can replicate. As a result she'd come off too clinical, her talents less impressive than those of the DJs she calls "vibemen."
But never in my life have I met someone who vibes more intensely than Avalon Emerson. Her vibes have the capacity to exalt and to destroy. How did she not realize that she is a total vibewoman?
Sure, some have probably discovered any given facet of her organizational methodology. Others use many of the same rekordbox and CDJ functions. But they didn't create the mind palace that is Emerson's approach to DJing. I visualize her way of obtaining, organizing, editing, playing, mixing and archiving music as a Fordist factory designed like a panopticon. Although the individual tasks are simple, their integration into a logical whole is remarkable. It's a less romantic vision of what makes her a great DJ, but it's no less impressive.
Emerson's approach to hacking DJ technology's underused possibilities seems like an application of her knowledge of computer programming. It's probably her nerdiness—visual, intellectual and musical—that distinguishes her most obviously from the vibemen of DJ world. Vibemen preside over ecstatic dance floors, sweating and grimacing while they blend the old-fashioned way. Emerson leans in close to the screen with her fingers on the dial and squints through Navigator glasses, piloting the CDJ with the practiced ease of someone who types very quickly.
The whole tech whiz thing is ultimately a tool that allows her to devote most of her CPU to determining what to play and when, enchanting a crowd, making people dance—in short, delivering the kind of ecstatic communal experience that elevates playing songs to the art of DJing. Her entire process of organising and playing music is engineered to help her find and transition to the next song as quickly possible, which is key for someone who jumps between genres and tempos as often as Emerson does. Any given set might include shades of hi-NRG and New Beat, booming breakbeats or aquatic house rollers, but they always bear her pop sensibility. Many of the edits she plays occasionally appear as free downloads on her personal website under the banner of Cybernedits.
Emerson has taught me a lot of things about DJing and production. One of her most salient lessons was one she demonstrates more often than she articulates: a technological and rational approach doesn't eliminate an artist's creative juju—one can enhance the other. Anyone can learn Emerson's tricks, but the rest is up to you. "
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