Under the assumption that it’s never too late to pick up a new skill to impress friends and family, and perhaps graduate to an entirely different, lucrative career, I attended DJ school recently.
It was held at Foxgrove, an electronic music and DJ academy on West 29th Street.
My daughters had offered anecdotal reporters of high school friends, whose genius had heretofore been disguised, becoming rich and famous spinning records.
So why not me?
And I like to think I impressed Foxgrove’s co-founders, David Mauriceand Natalie Lam, with my passion by being the only one among us old enough to identify the symbol on the Serato Numark controller they use to teach their classes.
“A logo?” somebody guessed.
The design was that of a 45-rmp record adapter, a small piece of plastic that one inserts in the middle of a 45-rpm record, allowing it to be played on LP turntables.
It appeared on the platter, the part of the controller that simulates a turntable and allows a DJ to show off his or her scratching technique, among other skills.
When I think of DJing, and how the world in general has left me behind, scratching, where DJs move a vinyl record back and forth on a turntable and call it music, seems as good a place to start as any.
Except that there’s no vinyl involved these days. The platter probably isn’t even necessary. The magic is accomplished using software displayed on large monitors at Foxgrove’s 12 learning stations. To my ignorant eye, all the blinking colors and wave patterns signifying instruments and sounds appeared approximately as comprehensible as the cockpit of a 747 if the pilot told me to land the plane on my own.
Mr. Maurice used a piece of electronic dance music to show me how to program voices and instruments and remix songs on the controller.
The problem, at least one of them, is that I don’t like electronic dance music.
“It’s an exact tempo,” he explained with saintly patience, “128 beats per minute.”
He was referring to why we would be remixing that genre rather than something more familiar, or even something that I recognized as a song with a beginning, middle and an end.
Why not the Rolling Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow,” for example?
I trace my declining interest in music and dancing to the day in the late 1970s that disco displaced rock ‘n’ roll as the dominant party soundtrack. Electronic dance music seems but one more milestone on that slippery downward slope.
“You’re able to revisit a lot of records from the past,” Mr. Maurice explained cheerfully, trying to pique my interest. “You can dive back into your old library and do new things with it.”
That’s precisely the problem: I don’t want to do new things with my old records, which I suppose limits how far I can take this DJ fantasy. I love them just the way they are.
I’m not quite conceited enough to believe I can improve the Beatles’ “A Day In the Life” or Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done.”
Mr. Maurice’s and Ms. Lam’s larger hope is that their students will become, if not the next Grandmaster Flash, players in the creative process, if only after leaving their corporate jobs for the night.
“A hundred years ago, before recording technology existed, music was 98% in the amateur space,” Mr. Maurice said.
People sang and learned how to play musical instruments and entertained themselves and each other at home. “As soon as you could record music, people became spectators rather than creators,” he went on.
If anything, the problem has gotten worse with music having essentially become free. People aren’t “interacting with music other than just listening to Spotify,” Mr. Maurice added.
Foxgrove’s goal is to do for music what Instagram has done for photography. Releasing everybody’s inner Ansel Adams. “Music is the last frontier to go into the amateur space,” Ms. Lam said.
I applaud them. But I’ll be seeking my bliss elsewhere.