DJane WiseWoman

My ears are still ringing, and I had earplugs on, industrial ones. But I had a good time!

Back in the summer I got an email asking me if I would participate in Professorennacht, a special disco night where professors DJ with their favorite songs. Since I normally just get asked to speak on one topic and one topic only, I thought this would be nice to try out. And I've never been a DJ before.

I sent in a selection of songs, which the DJ pared down to just 4 on account of them being so long. We only had 15 minutes, and that included 3 minutes for the introduction. I had a number of very strange songs, so I submitted a few more.

I was picked up in a nice black rental car with more buttons and dials than the cockpit of a 747 at 8.30 pm and driven to the club, Fritz Club at the Postbahnhof. We were let onto the grounds and went in a side entrance. We were greeted by the first group of journalists right then, they were out in droves. It was fascinating seeing how all sorts of press reported on this in advance - the B.Z. chose me to portrait, the other local newspapers chose different professors.

We were shown around the backstage area and given passes and T-shirts. Then we were given a crash course in how to DJ. There were two DJs there, as there were two rooms being played. They had a smaller one for the first "fight" - two professors playing back to back and the cheering being registered on a decibel meter. The last three were in the larger room while the smaller one was played by a regular DJ.  DJ Caniggia was my teacher, a fun guy who had done this in Tübingen many times before and had exact ideas about how he wanted the show to go.

They have turntables and you pretend to be using vinyl records - but they are only speed and direction input devices, the music is played digitally from a Mac. Apparently, previous professors have been a bit afraid of these things with all the dials and knobs. I kind of like pressing buttons, and I can do a drag & drop on a Mac, so there was really no problem.

Then we just sort of hung out until the party started, which was not to be until about 23.00! We had a backstage "lounge" with some grotty couches and two tiny tables with some cups and a well stocked refrigerator. The journalists and quite a number of random people who did not seem to have any job to perform other than making out on the sofas quite enjoyed the chips and peanuts and drinks.

The first group of professors chatted a bit and the journalists poked us to come up with cool sayings or to explain why we chose the songs we did. The opponent for the colleague from my school was a mathematician, and he knew the first song I was playing, we actually sang the refrain together for the cameras.

Our set, the second one, was finally on just before 1 am (my normal bedtime). I started off with Lobachevsky, a song Tom Lehrer wrote about plagiarism. I was planning on killing this one off and going right to my second song if people didn't find it funny (and they didn't) by stopping and saying something into the mike - but I couldn't find the mike and couldn't get the DJ to find it, he liked the song. Finally I just cut over to Pink with Get the party started, and they liked that much better.

It was very funny, seeing all those people out there moving to the music I chose. I couldn't make out any faces beyond the first row, but I could see them dancing. I started dancing a bit myself, and then Caniggia joined in, that was really funny. Third up was Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A. This is actually a political song about the Vietnam War, but people just enjoy the refrain.

I closed with Shakira's Waka Waka, and the DJ and I really bounced around to that one! I only got 106 dB, however, and the computer scientist from the TU Berlin I was up against seemed to have brought his entire Intro to Computing course (400 people), so they ran up 112 dB. So all he got was a trophy, I got a nice bottle of Rotkäppchen Sekt. I much prefer that ;)

There were more interviews after that, we had to do one down in the crowd, I honestly did not understand the questions the interviewer was screaming into my ear. The place was crammed - they must have done okay at the box office. I walked around a bit, there were people standing outside, still waiting to come in, although it was full!

I went back stage again to see the rest of the acts. I was very glad there were bouncers there when the professor for sports was up - a bunch of his students rushed the stage. The bouncers appeared from nowhere and got everyone back down on the dance floor. A Swedish professor at the Charité had the DJ play his music, which started with Abba. He pulled out a Swedish T-Shirt and Viking horns, and danced up on a little stage. Then he threw the T-Shirt into the group, they thought this was wild. He pulled up two women to dance with him, everyone was screaming with laughter at that. But he lost to the sports guys, although I thought they had the worst music. They were just the loudest.

Shortly after 3 am they asked if I wanted to leave, as one of the professors who lives near me wanted to go. I said sure, gathered my stuff, and was whisked off through the empty Berlin streets getting home just before 4 am. I'm sure glad I don't have to teach at 8 am today!

I look forward to reading what the press has to say - I enjoyed myself, but I don't think I want to take this up as a second profession.

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