John Cage/Langham Research Centre John Cage: Early Electronic and Tape Music CD
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Description & Features+
Recording information: 2013.
Photographers: James Klosty; Stephen Montague.
This collection of John Cage's electronic work from the early 1950s through 1962 was realized via methods of reconstruction by a deliberately non-digital, retro quartet of engineer-composer-performers, called the Langham Research Centre (no such place exists). They utilized many of the same elements and methods available to the composer at the time. That said, the recordings don't resemble Cage's in that these are pristine-sounding and detail-oriented in aural presentation -- though perhaps we have the mixing engineer to thank for that. The group's applications use many of the now obsolete technologies that the composer made staples. This is especially true in "Cartridge Music," written for "small amplified instruments." Here, the pickups from old iron phonograph cartridges are tinkered with to amplify objects inserted between the knurled screw that holds the needle in place and the pickup -- wire, paperclips, pipe cleaners, etc. "Fontana Mix with Aria" has a twist. The original composition never used the last two words. Here, LRC use Cage's original layers of mono tape played back on open-reel tape recorders, atop of which a singer -- not Cathy Berberian -- delivers in a '70s-era avant-garde style. Cage is wonderfully democratic in conception: ""0.00" (No. 2) is designed to be played in a situation provided with maximum amplification (no feedback) to perform a disciplined action." It uses the inner space on vinyl recordings where no music remains, just scratchy noise; its timbre and pitch controlled completely by manual means. The subtitle of the classic "Variations I," is "for any number of players & any sound producing means." Here, it's the sound of whispered voices, a donkey braying, analog, ambient drone sounds, and numerous others. The end result is a kind of period instrument recording, one that explores noise as music, and refracts the 21st century's digital technologies in the mirror of sonic musical creation to de-center their meaning, underscoring it with the notion that there is still plenty of room for sound experimentation outside the definition of a preset on a keyboard. ~ Thom Jurek
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