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Artist Interview Series: Galen Allan

Updated: Jul 9, 2021

Galan Allan sees art as something to be experienced, a relationship between individual and creation. For him, sound not only provides this understanding, it is also one he chooses to share with others.

In his installation, Tempo Adjust, Allan invites his audience to become a part of the art itself, to gain the ability to manipulate sound in an elementary fashion and to learn one of the basics of DJing.

Galen Allan's Tempo Adjust

“There’s a conversation in this installation about how DJing used to be at its very rudimentary stages to what it is now,” he says. “It’s called Tempo Adjust even though these are pitch faders.”

This interaction lets people experience what is known as beat matching. While Allan says it is not an essential skill of DJing, it is one element that is easily recognizable in many genres of music.

The installation is simple. Two large boxes function as the pitch faders, or what many people refer to as the tempo adjust. This is a similar function to what can be found on old vinyl players and even many CD players.

But this is only one aspect of DJing, a technical one. Allan says the other is curatorial—the understanding of how to select different music and sound and work them together.

Galen Allan and Nathan Durec

He says both take time and practice to become proficient, just like any other art form. But while the technical aspect can be learned practically, the curatorial aspect, or the creative side, is constantly evolving.

Allan traces this history of DJing and how it has changed.

“Disco died and House started somewhere in the beginning of the 80s, specifically in Chicago,” he says. “They say disco died in Chicago, the night where they burned all the disco records. I think it was at Kaminsky Field where the [Chicago White] Sox play. But that was also the time when some of the famous New York DJs, the disco DJs, had been hired to come out to Chicago and make disco happen there. This was at the time there were these drum machines. They were supposed to be used as machines where you could rehearse without a band being there.”

These rhythm machines, when used by these early DJs, were used to create loops and beats, which were then placed under disco vocals, leading to an entirely new sound and an explosion of new musical genres, heavily influenced by technology.

“I don’t think people had ever heard these sounds before.”

And this is partly the goal of Tempo Adjust, to get people to make new sounds for themselves, to get them to experience sound in a way that evokes an emotional response.

“Can you put people in a room and get them to listen to something that evokes the carnal sense of … where some emotion just takes over your body,” Allan says. “It might be very ephemeral and momentary, but can you create that moment where they ask, ‘What am I experiencing?’”

By Nathan Durec


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