An illustrated talk by the influential musician, writer and academic David Grubbs that considers Cage’s complex relationship to recorded sound.
John Cage fulminated against records. He wouldn’t have them in his home. Still, he continued to make them. ‘John Cage, Recording Artist’ considers the impact that Cage’s commercially-released albums had on a generation that began producing work in the 1960s. What role did records play in making John Cage the figure he was to become in the 1960s? How were his works disseminated in this period? What innovations resulted from his attempts to overcome the fixed medium of the record? What did Cage’s listeners get that his readers did not? ‘John Cage, Recording Artist’ describes the significance of three of his albums: The Twenty-Five Year Retrospective Concert of John Cage, Indeterminacy, and John Cage/Christian Wolff. While stylistically and strategically all over the map, these three albums have proved particularly influential—even as Cage expressed ambivalence towards the medium of recorded sound.
Illustrated with sound clips, this talk draws on David Grubbs’ research and writing for his new book Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording (Duke University Press, 2014).
David Grubbs is Associate Professor in the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, where he also teaches in the M.F.A. programs in Performance and Interactive Media Arts and Creative Writing. As a musician, he has released twelve solo albums and appeared on more than 150 commercially released recordings. Grubbs was a founding member of the groups Gastr del Sol, Bastro, and Squirrel Bait, and has appeared on recordings by the Red Krayola, Tony Conrad, Pauline Oliveros, Will Oldham, and Matmos, among other artists. He is known for cross-disciplinary collaborations with the writers Susan Howe and Rick Moody and the visual artists Anthony McCall, Angela Bulloch, and Stephen Prina. A grant recipient in music/sound from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Grubbs has written for The Wire, Bookforum, and the Süddeutsche Zeitung.