Dave Tompkins

Dave Tompkins’ vocoder book, How To Wreck A Nice Beach, was named entertainment book of the year by Amazon in 2010. His writing has appeared in Oxford American, Grantland, The Believer, Village Voice and The Wire.



"The Beat Who Cheated Death"

“The Beat Who Cheated Death” is a cultural, geological, and political history of Miami, propagating from a species of environmental architecture known as the Bass Bin, or speaker cabinet. A technical alias for Bass assigned by recording engineers, “Sustained Decay” is a distortion of terms and technology that prolonged the lifespan of the beat. This “misuse” of studio equipment—the Japanese-designed Roland 808 Drum Composer—was denounced as sonic blasphemy outside of hip-hop. But in the Reagan Era, Sustained Decay would be a mandate for Miami producers, who redefined Bass as Boom.

The Boom evolved into a way of life, with modifications as extreme as the city of Miami itself, spread by pirate radio, outdoor speaker wars, and independent record labels. This is a sub-history of Miami’s geologic foundation and development, both cultural and ecological: from microscopic invertebrate fossils (which compose the base of South Florida as well as cheap building materials) to man-made beaches, from failures of city planning to real estate scams, from riots and roller rinks to cocaine and coral reefs. “The Beat Who Cheated Death” takes Miami for all its worth, from boom to bust, in all its iterations, challenging assumptions of decay and decadence by examining semiotic coincidences and contradictions in a landscape shaped by Bass. Though criminalized as noise pollution—a “crime against nature”—Bass can be reconceived as a biomorphic life form. This is how eco-system begat echo-system.

My Speakers Sessions

Friday, March 23

11:15am EDT