From Human Jukebox to DJ Artist:
Everything evolves or dies. Some art forms, such as painting, are minimally influenced by the advance of technology. Others, such as the production of home theater experiences, are dependent on technological advances. Some technological advances allow art forms to acquire entirely new dimensions, which are independent variables.
DJ mixing is a relatively new field, but has quickly matured with advances in mixer and player technology, and with music tempo stability resulting from electronic drums. Some DJs are content to remain human jukeboxes or personality jocks, who entertain with their wit, instead of becoming performance artists who can entertain without saying a word. While there will always be a market for personality jocks, the future holds the greatest opportunities for the DJ Artist who can spin new musical tapestries through harmonic mixing.
DJs will not be considered "artists" until they start performing artistically. As long as we continue to mix tunes together randomly, with no concern for the sour overlays and dissonance created by random mixing, we have no more claim to "artistry" than would a blind painter.
Art is about form, texture, movement and composition. A DJ mixing harmonically controls these elements to produce a cohesive whole, much as a composer may write a duet: both parts must be harmonically related as well as rhythmically synchronized. To do otherwise, to be concerned only with rhythm, is pseudo-artistry at best.
The world's top DJs recognize the importance of mixing in key:
• Shep Pettibone, in his January 1993 interview in DJ Times (page 28), states "Well there's more than just BPMs. There's the way you put songs together musically. The music should fit. Some people call themselves good club DJs and I listen to them and hear clashing music or an A-Flat going into a C. I don't get it. It doesn't go musically."
• Junior Vasquez, in his January 1997 interview in DJ Times (page 62), states "Another important thing about becoming a good DJ is knowing the keys of songs. I learned that over a period of time."
Since harmonic mixing is as easy as telling time, the only thing preventing most technically competent jocks from becoming mix artists is their desire for excellence.