John Cage’s disdain for records was legendary. He repeatedly spoke of the ways in which recorded music was antithetical to his work. In this presentation from his book Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording, Grubbs argues that, following Cage, new genres in experimental and avant-garde music in the 1960s (indeterminate music, long-duration minimalism, text scores, happenings, live electronic music, free jazz, and free improvisation) were particularly ill-suited to be represented in the form of a recording. Despite this, present-day listeners are coming to know that era’s experimental music through the recorded artefacts of composers and musicians who largely disavowed recordings.
David Grubbs is associate professor in the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College, CUNY, a contributing editor in music for BOMB Magazine, directs the Blue Chopsticks record label, and serves as a member of ISSUE Project Room’s Board of Directors. His musical career encompasses twelve solo albums, membership of the groups Gastr del Sol, Bastro, and Squirrel Bait, performances with Red Krayola, Will Oldham, Tony Conrad, Pauline Oliveros, and Loren Connors, and cross-disciplinary collaborations with writers Susan Howe and Rick Moody, visual artists Anthony McCall, Angela Bulloch, and Stephen Prina, and choreographer Jonah Bokaer.