Jack Goldstein, who you will probably all know from Fixers, is the man behind an evening of performances and compositions written and inspired by the post-war avant-garde chance composer, John Cage. The event takes place on January 12th at The Port Mahon in Oxford. We asked Jack to talk about his love for experimental music and tell us his top 6 individual pieces.
Jack: “It seems that whilst many people know of John Cage, they don’t really know much about his ideas or his music. I’m no expert, I simply like the idea of practical assignments; they make you remember things. I’d love for anyone else interested in John Cage or experimental music to get in touch and be involved with the project.
Below are some great pieces by experimental and avant-garde composers/artists which you should check out:”
1. Julius Eastman – Evil Nigger/Crazy Nigger/Gay Guerilla
Julius Eastman was one of the first post-minamilist composers to introduce pop tonal progressions and free improvisation into the context of classical music. He named it ‘Organic Music’ and used intentionally provocative tiles to deconstruct the negative distinctions affiliated with the minorities, contorting them into a positive light. The three pieces here are written for four pianos, played simultaneously; I saw the piece being performed at The Palais De Tokyo in Paris last year. Completely fucking awesome.
2. Henry Cowell – The Banshee
Henry Cowell wrote The Banshee in 1925. The entire piece is played within the piano, the player moves fingers and hands over the strings both horizontally and vertically. His students included George Gershwin, Lou Harrison and John Cage.
3. Steve Beresford – The Bath Of Suprise
Steve Beresford is a British musician who is most commonly associated with free improvisation. He used to play in Derek Bailey’s Company Events, co-produced a record, with David Toop, for the fantastic experimental performance art trio Frank Chickens in 1984 and played hammond organ on Trevor Wishart’s 1973 record, Journey Into Space. Being fortunate enough to actually see Steve Beresford performing Indeterminacy was the inspiration behind the whole Cage evening. It is a rarely performed piece and it was at Cafe Oto in Dalston, which made it all the more intense. The Bat Of Surprise has this insane autonomy to it, like when something new and exciting is born out of Xeroxing loads of influences without precision.
4. Iannis Xanakis – Mycenae-Alpha
Iannis Xanakis was a greek composer and architect engineer, integrating the two by designing spaces for music and vice versa. In 1977, He completed work on a computer system called UPIC (Unité Polyagogique Informatique CEMAMu) which would act as a computerised musical and visual compositional tool. Mycenae-Alpha was one the first pieces Iannis composed using the program, the score being defined by a series of waveforms and volume envelopes.
5. Jack Goldstein – The Planets; A Suite Of Six 10-Inch Records
Described as ‘Recollections of half-forgotten sci-fi soundtracks, they hover between the known and the unknown’, this acts as rather poetic allegory for Jack Goldstein himself. He was considered one of the most important figures in the mid-eighties Californian art scene. Not particularly known for his musical compositions, Jack Goldstein began as a performance and conceptual artist, before becoming popular as a painter. I remember reading an interview with John Baldessari where he talked about seeing Jack Goldstein bury himself in the ground, his heartbeat measured by a stethoscope connected to his chest and amplified. I couldn’t find a link to a video/audio of these recordings, but if you head over to ubuweb, you can download them all for free.
6. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath,1972
Tim Hecker’s Ravedeath, 1972 is actually from 2011; the cover shows Massachusetts Institute of Technology students throwing a piano from the rooftop of their campus building in 1972. Evocative of William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops in its aesthetic, Tim Hecker claims to be inspired by “digital garbage – like when the Kazakhstan government cracks down on piracy and there’s pictures of 10 million DVDs and CDRs being pushed by bulldozers” – This is one of the best drone records I have ever heard.
Tickets cost £3 and can be purchased at WeGotTickets