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Kelvin Sholar: Artistic Crossroads

By Published: April 27, 2009

Generation Change

AAJ: It's almost impossible, two days after the Obama election, not to hear a little bit of a parallel to what just happened in the world of politics. We've seen a campaign based on change. Look at who he is, what he represents. And having been here for the election, this was not something that just Americans were paying attention to. It may be a left field question, but what has just changed in the world?

KS: There is a paradigm shift from isolating yourself from your enemies that you have war against to integrating yourself with friends that may help you get further where they have different strengths than you might have. You take away your weaknesses by working together. You minimize them by working together. So many world leaders in the last few days have stepped forward and said, "I want to work with Obama" Whereas before people were like, "I don't want Bush in my country."

Kelvin SholarThe day my son was born, Obama was here and I had to reroute my trip to the hospital to birth my son because he was so popular they had to block off so many streets because people were here to celebrate his victory before he even won. It shows a paradigm shift for the world. People are not willing to be isolated ... look at the Internet. Everybody wants to interface. (He) let the people have a voice again. That, to me, is the strongest aspect of Obama's campaign.

AAJ: You've used the word interface several times. Obviously this is an important term for you. The link between the Internet and giving people a voice, allowing a much more global perspective. Here you are, for example, a much different American abroad than the "lost generation."

KS: It's not lost anymore. It's not generation X—it's more of a Y. If you compare it to mathematics, X being the general term for any unknown thing, where Y tends to express a finite or definitive element. It's changed the way we view ourselves. When I looked on the Internet and saw Obama being elected, this is Harlem celebrating. But it didn't show just Harlem and the black community. It showed everybody else. It's all young people. Different colors, different races, willing to celebrate the future. It's not X anymore. We're not lost. We no longer don't know what we stand for.

We know exactly what we stand for: the ability to have our own say in how things change. Standing for what we believe is important, not just being passive recipients of what we inherited from our parents. It is our turn to shape the world. We say. That includes our friends in Europe, in Asia, in the Americas. We are not just isolated in our 50 states. We are part of a global thing that is new. My father is going to come visit my son next month and people in his generation didn't get outside of those 50 states. My mother has never been outside America. The paradigm is shifting. Man, it's nothing to see friends now all over, interfacing with other cultures.

So to get in to that word. This may be silly, but in 1999 The Matrix came out and I really liked the film because it showed something about the digital consciousness and the analog consciousness. How you could be trapped inside some kind of digital world, but still have relevance, a basis, in the analog world. The way, it went back to Plato's cave and other similar allegories.

I say interface a lot because I am interested in electronic music and the only way to import my feeling, my thoughts, and my musical abilities into the digital world is through some kind of interface. Something I can plug my piano into, my microphone into, my keyboard, anything analog, into and translate it into some kind of digital language. And then allow that to be used inside a strictly digital format.

These days I see the rise of interfaces with what is actually happening in the world and how that is represented in a digital format—like All About Jazz—you are actually microphones for what's going on, that computers can't tell, that someone just reading can't know. You are the interface—you are out there in an analog world soaking up all this information, translating it through the keys, putting out this digital medium and anyone can then see what is happening in the world.

All the records are being digitized. All the books are being digitized. That is also a paradigm shift. The world is moving away from an analog representation of itself to where we can manipulate images and information in a digital context.

Kelvin Sholar

AAJ: Many people fear that. See that as a loss or a dilution. You are representing that translation not as a flattening of the analog world, but as something different.

KS: An enriching. To get really, really technical, we write music in two dimensions; we represent three or four dimensions in a two dimensional medium, when we write on a flat piece of paper. When you start doing music with electronic instruments you have infinite dimensions, not only can you have the traditional harmony, melody, rhythm, duration, you also get touch sensitivity, transposition, all these extra things. Once you go into the digital medium you can manipulate what you conceived in an analog world to an infinite degree.

Everything is a tool of the human mind. The mind is always going to be based on an analog brain, you don't lose anything from the real world, you just find new ways to manipulate how you think and feel. How you symbolize. The digital medium is just another way to symbolize how we think and feel.

I welcome it. That is what is allowing us to talk to each other. I send a letter to a friend of mine in China and he sends it back. It takes a month. I can send an e-mail in a second. That is a big change in global consciousness—through a digital medium.

Selected Discography

Carl Craig and Moritz von Oswald, Recomposed—New mixes by Ricardo Villalobos and Carl Craig (Deutsche Grammophon, 2008)

Bujo Kevin Jones and Tenth World, Tenth World Live (Motema Music, 2008)

Carl Craig and Moritz von Oswald, Recomposed No. 3 (Deutsche Grammophon, 2008)

Francesco Tristano, A Taste of the Last Supper (inFine Records, 2008)

Carl Craig, Sessions (!k7 Records, 2008)

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