I’m currently reading this book, and really relishing it. I’m fan enough of Cage to have read a great deal about him, including apocrypha. This book is not only well-written but full of ideas. It shines a spotlight not only on Cage, but also on many people that had adversarial or friendly relationships with him and his thoughts. Already Henry Flynt and Luc Ferrari stand out as people whose work i should spend more time with.
The central thesis of the book also seems to connect to my own thoughts about digital transmission and its relationship to the non-digital. Grubbs starts by pointing out that while Cage allowed and sometimes even encouraged recording of his work, he did not like records. He didn’t have any in his home and preferred the sound of traffic outside his window. Cage’s objections are complex and nuanced, but in brief he seemed to dislike how recordings fixed sound and didn’t allow for chance or freedom.
Grubbs then writes about how experimental music in Cage’s time had very little distribution because of the overhead costs of recording and distribution. If companies printed records they wanted to press a great deal of them….while experimental recordings had smaller audiences and the pressings of records were smaller, making them harder to find. A rather systemic problem. Then in the 80s/90s when CD technology made pressing music cheaper and less risky to distribute many obscure small pressings of records were re-issued, expanding the audience in some ways. As MP3s and online distribution happened that trend not only continued in degree but opened differences in kind.
Now this music isn’t so difficult to find, but the context (if one is even suggested) is completely different than in earlier decades. One no longer had to be in the know and obsessively hunt for these obscure materials. That changes ones attitude to the materials and also how you see or hear them. It’s not just a matter of being more indie or refusing to sell out….it’s a matter of how we interact with information and transform it into knowledge.
I could go on at length about this book. It’s my favorite reading experience in a long while. Highly recommended.
I’m rediscovering Susan Howe:
"Then she paused and thought. It was a long pause. She gave her listeners time to reflect on the many things that could be understood by this curious formulation: “Every mark on paper is an acoustic signal.” What does it mean? What does it mean to Susan? Does it mean that every mark is capable of being translated into sound? Does it mean that every mark waits to be translated into its unique, determinate sound? Should the emphasis in this particular quotation—“every mark on paper is an acoustic signal”—be the suggestion that encoded within visual imagery is the experience of duration?"
- David Grubbs on collaboration with Susan Howe
A link to the Australian Broadcasting Co “New Music Up Late” show with an interview re “Records Ruin the Landscape”
Today is the release date for Noël Akchoté’s “Gesualdo: Madrigals for Five Guitars” on Blue Chopsticks.
In recent years, Akchoté has immersed himself in the study of medieval and Renaissance music, resulting in a mind-bogglingly prolific series of digital releases of the complete works of Carlo Gesualdo and Guillaume de Machaut, as well as arrangements for guitar of works by Monteverdi, Palestrina, and Orlando di Lasso. By all means, lend an ear to Noël’s strange and marvelously obsessive project—these hours and hours of home recordings of overdubbed guitars playing polyphonic music.
"Gesualdo: Madrigals for Five Guitars" shows what happens when Akchoté puts together a band of five guitarists to tackle this music in a live setting.
Gesualdo’s madrigals are scored for five voices, and Akchoté was intrigued to discover that the pitch range of the Fifth Book of Madrigals exactly matches the range of the Renaissance lute—an instrument that Gesualdo himself played. Under Akchoté’s direction, the five equal voices of these madrigals are transformed into five equal electric guitars in an ensemble featuring Noël with Julien Desprez, Adam Levy, Doug Wamble, and myself.
"Gesualdo: Madrigals for Five Guitars" is suffused with the extraordinary ambience of the library at the 13th-century Abbaye de Royaumont, where these spontaneous, resolutely alive performances of selections from Gesualdo’s Fifth Book were documented.
Coming soon: Belfi / Grubbs / Pilia, “The Wired Salutation 3 of 3” one-sided LP (AB CD LP)
Before Louisville was associated with Palace, though after, I suppose, Hunter S. Thompson chronicled its seedy decadence during the Derby,..
Borrowing its title from a guitar technique by which the instrument is tuned with “open,” that is unfretted, strings, this exhibition will present three consecutive, changing installations in sound. Each project takes its point of departure from a performance in the exhibition space, which is followed by the display of audio or video recordings or objects used in the live event. For the first presentation, musicians David Grubbs and Eli Keszler will collaborate on a spoken word and percussion performance including a number of text drawings on the wall.
Link for Jan St. Werner’s “The somewhere that is also moving” radio piece feat. Clark Coolidge, myself, and others
And it just happens to be them opening for US punk icons in 1985.