DJ Spooky, media-manipulating turntablist that he is, likes to mix things up. So, if you want to hear the three MP3s he’s posted of parts of his Rebirth of a Nation project, you head over to the “art” page on his website, not the “sounds” one (at djspooky.com). Why? Likely because Rebirth is an ambitious large-scale art piece, not an intimate nightclub mix; it involves him performing a live video mix of D.W. Griffith’s unapologetically rascist film Birth of a Nation (1915), about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, complete with orchestral accompaniment. Spooky has Rebirth performances scheduled in the near future in Italy, Croatia, London and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The three tracks on his site include one of straight orchestral playing (MP3), with a fairly rudimentary melodic structure but a pleasing bluesy edge (reminiscent of John Lurie’s score for Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise), plus two (MP3, MP3) that lay that playing atop and amid Spooky’s characteristically murky beats. There’s also a video excerpt and an essay, in which Spooky praises Griffith’s “hyper dense technically prescient intercuts” as a precursor to DJing, explaining “it?s all about how you play with the variables that creates the artpiece.”
Zeitgeist alert: Griffith references are especially frequent right now among pop-minded African-American public commentators. Rebirth of a Nation is reportedly the title of a forthcoming album by classic hip-hop act Public Enemy, due out in August. And Birth of a Nation was the adopted title of a recent graphic novel drawn by Kyle Baker (Why I Hate Saturn, Plastic Man) and written by Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks) and Reginald Hudlin (House Party).