I’m not saying I’m going to be the next Deadmau5, but the Library of Congress’ new “Citizen DJ” web app is pretty awesome to play around with—even if you don’t think you’ll use any of the sick beats it can create.
It’s not very often one gets to say “Library of Congress” and “sick beats” in the same sentence, but there you go. Here’s how it works. You start by selecting one of six collections that you want to peruse:
If you have no idea what you’re looking for, or what these collections even contain, your best bet is to simply “explore” them by clicking on that link. When you do, you’ll jump to a screen that looks like this:
The usefulness of this screen is a bit hit-or-miss, but it allows you to preview super-tiny snippets of sounds in that collection. If you want to hear a larger sample, click on a chunk of sound and click the “Play in context” button. You’ll get a little bit more, but these aren’t full recordings of the sound in question, just short snippets. As for why, that’ll become apparent when you click the “Remix this” button, which pulls up this screen:
Yes, that’s a full-on sequencer. Here’s how it works. The overall sound snippet you selected will appear in the “Choose an item” listing, which you can change to anything you want. It’ll be split up on the sequencer alongside a pre-populated beat pattern that, again, you can change to a bunch of different defaults. Go with the default drum machine or pick a new one from one of eight (!) total options, and then see what your “remix” sounds like.
If you’re not happy with the results, you can mute instruments or portions of your sample. And, as always, you can click the various squares to rearrange your beat. Kick the loop’s tempo up and down using the BPM slider, or go completely random and use the “shuffle” buttons to let fate determine your loop.
The weirdest thing about this—aside from its overall concept—is that the loops automatically generated by the Library of Congress’ little app aren’t that bad. At least, I only encountered a handful of duds in all the randomised ones I checked out. That’s not bad at all. While I might not make these the focal point of my next club banger, the Library of Congress’ random beats are a great way to get that creativity going. Or, heck, throw a quarantine dance party; the opportunities, like the remixes, are endless.
Oh, and the best thing? Everything is free. Download your beats. Download your samples. Combine them in ways the Library of Congress has never even considered.