Turntablism's History and Roots in Culture

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Turntablism is the art of sound manipulation expressed on a turntable. It’s known for its popular “baby scratch” technique for moving the disc back and forth to create a mixed synth noise. Although very popular with various techniques created, turntables are fairly new instruments introduced into the last two decades. The knowledge of modification to the turntables along with hip-hop culture is necessary to understand the subculture of turntablism.

The turntables are originally derived from the invention of the phonograph in 1877 and has been improvised since its announcement. Thomas Edison, a famous scientist, created the phonograph, an innovation which could essentially play sounds. Edison’s motive was to simplify relaying messages and daily activities. Although another invention had been concepted in France, Edison’s invention was entirely original. In 1881 Emile Berliner, a German scientist, created the gramophone which had better quality than the phonograph and played rubber discs. This replaced the use of cylinders and was optimized for multiple plays unlike the phonograph. The discs were mass produced and easier to create, and its popularity (which hadn’t sprouted until the 1950’s) spread like wildfire. Their inventions made record playback possible and Emile made it easier by simplifying the usage of records. The simplification of distribution made innovation and creation easier to culturally progress; this gave more people in the future access to such technology.

Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Kool DJ Herc, Herbie Hancock, and John Cage are a few of the most influential people of hip-hop culture. Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa are one of the first artists to make music in relation to hip-hop culture. Afrika Bambaataa is one of the first to introduce hip-hop culture by music by making one of his famous songs: “Planet Rock”; his song is a representation of the beginning of hip-hop culture. Grandmaster Flash is also one of the first by being in a hip-hop group called the Furious Five. Grandmaster Flash made many famous hip-hop songs and titles like “The Message” and The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel. John Cage, Herbie Hancock and Kool DJ Herc are the musical founders of turntablism because their contributions to music and turntablism. John Cage made “Imaginary Landscapes No. 1”, a record which played synthesized sounds; this is heavily used for turntablism because turntablism it is an art which is used to manipulate sounds. Herbie Hancock introduced turntablism by his song “Rock It” which gave a new potential to hip-hop music. Kool DJ Herc made a widely used technique called the break-beat, which was used by playing two records at the same time while doing baby scratches on both creating a rhythmic beat. Without the contributions of these people, hip-hop and turntablist culture would be entirely different

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