The Right Metaphor for DJs

Bank of Sand, Sand of Bank at the Vancouver Art GalleryI had the good fortune this morning to participate in a sort of cultural think tank for a national retailer. They assembled an architect, a DJ, a gallery curator, some interior designers and me (the resident geek who speaks Human) to talk about trends in culture, technology and fashion.

In the past, I’ve been somewhat frustrated when DJs have enjoyed the status awarded to artists in our society. If they’re not composers then, in my mind, they’re not artists.

Sitting between the gallery curator and the DJ, it occured to me that that’s what the latter really is: a musical curator. They decide which music goes side by side in an auditory gallery, and help present it to the listener.

This certainly isn’t a new idea, but I’m just catching up. Regardless, it was a pretty fascinating discussion.

The event was at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and afterwards, on somebody’s recommendation, I snuck in to have a quick look at Bank of Sand, Sand of Bank, a super-cool installation by Huang Yong Ping. It’s a room-sized sculpture of the former British HSBC bank building, and made of out of sand. Over time, because of gravity and the tremors generated by the feet of gallery visitors, the enormous sand castle starts to crumble. When I saw it, large chunks of the facade had already fallen off.

I snapped a lousy photo of the sculpture with my crappy, old camera phone.


  1. I regard DJs as designers of sound. While they’re not exactly creating anything from scratch (pun intended), their remixing of popular music and auditory ideas is, I think, akin to what fashion designers do. Pants and suits have already been invented, but fashion designers are always redefining what they are.

  2. I noticed at the January NAMM Show (the big monster huge musical equipment trade show in Anaheim) that I attended, that the DJ gear and other music technology are moving closer together. Software like GarageBand and Ableton live lets people who were previously “players” (guitarists, keyboardists, even tuba players if they’re so inclined) chop up, remix, repurpose, and generally mess with their compositions. That’s how I make most of my songs, for instance.

    Conversely, a lot of the DJ gear is starting to become more compositional, letting DJs add their own original sounds into their mixes. That said, I still love “Nobody Cares That You’re a DJ.”

  3. I would agree 90% on DJ’s not being artists.

    However, i’ve always found the very best dj’s are also producer and make a lot of their own tracks.

    Also, a lot of guitar bands these days are just rehashing the last 30/40 years worth of music – it’s rare we get a ‘new’ sound.

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