Beyond the playlist, DJ makes his own sounds
Patrick Blinkhorn ’13 hosts a radio show in the College’s radio station, WMHB. He reviews electronic music serving as the station’s techno genre director.
If you walked through Pulver Pavilion last week, chances are you saw it as lively as it has ever been, with the Club Expo bustling and the sound of music pulsating through the crowds. If you took the time to search for the source of these great beats, you would find Patrick Blinkhorn ’13 at the info desk, computer and DJ-setup in hand. A member of Colby DJs and the Techno Director for Colby’s radio station WMHB, Blinkhorn brings a new perspective to what it means to appreciate and make music.
Growing up, Blinkhorn had a strong connection to music, playing the piano, guitar and singing frequently. He remembers how his sister “would play piano and before every lesson, I would try to be like her and play.”
He experienced a progression of musical tastes, beginning with the hip-hop/rap craze brought on by Eminem and moving through classic rock, indie rock and alternative. His favorites today, however, are trance, electro and house, which he discovered in the summer of 2010. Although he still appreciates the more traditional musical genres, he prefers what he works with now, saying, “I like the beat [and] the melodies a lot. I don’t think there’s any other genre where you get quite as much of a reaction from a crowd as you do with trance or house [music].”
When he first arrived on the Hill in 2009, Blinkhorn was more focused on the sciences, but soon realized that his connection to music was enough to change his academic outlooks. “I was a biology major until last semester...I wanted to be an ecological researcher going into college. I took intro to ecology and liked it, but it didn’t really get me as much as music did.”
Blinkhorn was first introduced to the DJ scene by Colby alum John DeAscentis ’11, another DJ and producer of the WMHB show Glow Radio, which Blinkhorn continued since DeAscentis graduated. Last year, his friend Nathan Katsiaficas ’12, the Vice President of WMHB let him know that there would be an opening for Techno Director and urged him to apply. In this role, Blinkhorn is charged with contacting labels for free music, charting songs and albums and keeping an eye on what’s popular.
Switching his major as a junior, Blinkhorn will have to take almost exclusively music-related classes for the rest of his time at Colby, but he does not seem to mind. This semester, he’s taking Music Theory II, “New York’s Avant-gardes from Bebop to Punk Rock,” guitar and piano lessons for credit and will be beginning an independent study in music composition with department chair Professor Jonathan Hallstrom. Outside of the classroom, he is working on a film score for senior Edwin Torres’s film “Higher Education” and is finalizing tracks he produced during his JanPlan trip to Ecuador.
For Blinkhorn, creating mixtapes and organizing material to use is like a scavenger hunt of sorts, with plenty of time spent and attention to detail paid. It is more than just finding what songs sound good—it’s a science. His background and interest in music composition helps when he makes mashups, a process that requires the use of a program that “reads the BPM [beats per minute] and I try to match those with other songs. It also shows the key of the song and I’ll either try to make a song that’s in the same key or is a fifth up from the key.”
Outside of Colby, Blinkhorn belongs to a group called “Mock Three” with DeAscentis and a friend from high school. Among his favorite self-produced tracks are “Loose Ends” and “I Sea You,” which includes a background track that simulates the sound of ocean waves. This past summer, he took music production classes at a local music school, Bach and Roll, near his home in Washington, D.C. He has maintained a strong relationship with his teacher from that class, who gives him advice on his tracks. He also attends many concerts and raves where his favorite DJs are performing, traveling to New York and other major cities. Being a DJ has also given Blinkhorn some unique memories, from getting advice and becoming friends with his favorite DJ, Eco, to DJing his sister’s wedding.
After his time at Colby, Blinkhorn’s plans include becoming either a secondary or lower middle school music teacher, and going on to graduate school to teach music composition at a university. In the meantime, he is focused on making more music and maybe even getting signed by a label. Whatever the result, he says, the passion will always be there: “There’s something about music that really gets through to people that other subjects and things don’t...there’s a way of music touching your emotions [and] there’s a pathos of music that art just doesn’t have, other things don’t have. It’s intangible, but it’s there.”