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Monday, December 27, 2010

Petition To Stop Rave Ban Questions Meaning of 'Prerecorded' Music

Posted By on Mon, Dec 27, 2010 at 3:22 PM

But what does it mean to "rave"?
  • But what does it mean to "rave"?

Well, that didn't take long: Only days after we reported (last week) that S.F. Assemblywoman Fiona Ma has introduced a bill to ban raves in California, a petition has popped up online to head her off at the, uh, DJ booth. 


As of this writing, the effort on Change.org has 4,611 signatures. But perhaps most interesting for music fans is how this petition calls out a prejudice against so-called "prerecorded music" in the bill's initial language:

AB 74 fails to account for the fact that even with so-called 'DJ music' the DJ is in fact a live performer using existing sonic timbres, layering them and altering them live to the point of creating new music for performance. So, AB 74 introduces an uncomfortable, if not unconstitutional element of arbitrary judgment for enforcement: which 'live' acts are actually prerecorded? Which DJ sets are 'live music'? What element of performance exactly constitutes a 'live' performance?

These are good questions, and ones which seem (in our admittedly casual and deeply skeptical reading of the bill) to cause a big problem for Ma's effort, at least in its current form. Even if it is deemed acceptable to outlaw extended public performances of a single kind of music -- which seems a very, very dubious proposition to begin with -- how would we would define "prerecorded" music? Is it "prerecorded" when a DJ creatively meshes records or plays CDs over each other? (And don't we now agree that there's as much artistry in doing that as in playing three major chords on a guitar?) Is it "prerecorded" when an artist performs to a laptop or iPod accompaniment? Is it "prerecorded" when Atlas Sound or Zoe Keating plays a phrase on a live instrument, then loops it with an electronic device and adds to that with a live instrument onstage?


Given that you'd have trouble getting a roomful of music critics to agree on these issues, the idea that you'd get a body of lawmakers to find common ground seems even more unlikely. And that's just one of several big problems we see with this effort.

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Ian S. Port

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