Liberating Beats

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. (650 words)

Before I open my laptop I can hear it. Every beat, every base drop comes to life faster than my hands can sort it into sound. Melodies weave together and I can tell the stuffed animals on my shelf are in for a show. Now in the headspace to create, I finally open my laptop and wait for the black screen to wake so I can come alive.

Yes or no, true or false, black or white.

I always seemed to gravitate towards a systematic way of thinking. In nearly all of my pursuits, I cling to calculations in order to make sense of the world around me and to establish predictability. Whether it be in school or soccer, I have rarely been one to stray from instructions. I developed a sense of security in thinking in “if …then” statements. If I measure half a cup of pancake mix into the batter each morning the pancakes will never come out too thin; if I say “have a good one” to each customer that leaves the restaurant I work in, I won’t come off as a pre-recording nor overly casual.

Around junior year something changed. I’m not really sure what happened. Maybe it was restlessness or a realization of how tiresome and boring this safety net was becoming. In retrospect, I now see that the non-linear part of me did not want to fear the next creative project in school or starting a conversation with customers about their shawarma chicken sandwiches. I wished for a space to express this part of myself, and after attending a Felly concert last November, I decided to try DJing.

Days later I found myself experimenting with DJ Player 8, the modern day starting line for beginner level DJ’s. Initially, I was frustrated by what seemed to be a million unnamed buttons, all of which had different purposes. Whenever I felt this frustration, I flashed back to Felly’s ability to read and control the energy of the crowd. Motivated to feel the power in creating something entirely original, entirely mine, I continued watching hours of YouTube tutorials in dreams of acquiring this level of mastery.

Lighty sweating from the oppressive late-July humidity, I can feel the pulse of my heart down through my wrist and out into my fingers. On the floor of my room, I transport to a place where Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Post Malone’s “Over Now” can coexist in harmony. By then, my country dubstep experimentation phase had ended and now I wanted to explore the genre of classical music. Performing and perfecting quality was the least of my worries. At this point, I just let myself roam unrestrained through the world of DJing, not confining myself to the traditional techniques of fade transitions and overlays. If I was in the mood to use wordplay to crossfade one song into another, or thought K-Pop and reggae would be an iconic twist, then I would feed that emotional intuition without hesitation.

Falling in love with DJing was in part me craving liberation. I felt suffocated by the series of solvable equations into which I tried to model my life. I discovered ambiguity in mixing and beat making and clung to it because there are no correct solutions. There are no solutions at all. There is only my energy that day and how it translates into a beat. There are no rules aside from my own.

All people are in a mad search for meaning. Some find it in books, in art, or other people. The rhythm of my heart and eardrums pounding in unison as I scratch together the melodies of my favorite songs is where I find mine. The beat that continues long after I close my laptop and into every part of my life exhilarates me in a way I’ve never experienced.

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