John Cage – Lollipops – El Records

Where does John Cage exist? Begin and end? The answer to that question lies somewhere.

“If my work is accepted, I must move on to the point where it is not.”
John Cage
“Without John Cage, much of what happens in modern music and art would not be possible.” Frank Zappa

When you think about the way a lot of music conforms to strict guidelines, following rules, seeking approval it perhaps says a lot that you have to go backwards to find an artists of John Cage’s stature.

The edges are folded into popular culture, adopted, softened and made more palatable.

Finely tuned disturbance.

This compilation includes the 25-Year Retrospective Concert performed at the New York Town Hall on May 15, 1958 and was recorded live. Indeterminacy: New Aspect of Form in Instrumental and Electronic Music alongside long-time musical collaborator, David Tudor, along with the original tape realisation of the Fontana Mix sound collage, assembled by the composer in Italy. Plus, Double Music which explores the percussive qualities of metal; and Cartridge Music, a manipulation of phonograph cartridges, where, Cage warns, “all sounds, even those ordinarily thought to be undesirable, are accepted.” If that sounds dangerous. It is.

The idea of combining electronics with the human voice is now commonplace but back in the 50’s, and before, it was much more revolutionary, certainly defying convention. The idea of purely electronic waves of unstructured sounds still reverberates across its own unique time and space. Cartridge Music (1960) is a radical, challenging testament to commitment. I suppose you could describe listening to these pieces as an experience. Certainly one you will not forget in a hurry. Lollipops is an important document about the exploration of sound, its innate qualities, the reaction of emotion: ‘the purpose of this purposeless music would be achieved if people learned to listen, that when they listened that they might discover they preferred the sounds of everyday life….’

Strange times.

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I’d Love To Turn You On – Classical and Avant-Garde Music That Inspired The Counter-Culture – él Records

A beautifully realised collection music that sees worlds collude in the interplay between sound, revolution and flying colours. Sometime in the 1960’s artists such as The Beatles took note of what was happening in the counter-cultural stream of consciousness populated by the Avant Garde. They, of course, had been tinkering at the edges of what music could be for some time but the influence provided helped shape the next generation of popular albums by expanding what the simple structure of song could be evolving from the basic refrain of I love You, plus by taking the accompanying scale of rock n roll chords to new heights.

Quite naturally Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage are ever present, as is Bernard Herrmann whose score for Hitchcock’s Pyscho remains a keynote moment in cinematic history, alongside the unmistakable Ravi Shankar and Jacques Brel. Jazz giants Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and the Bill Evans Trio, who neatly supply Autumn Leaves, also appear as do a wealth of classical composers from the wonderful Claude Debussy through to Bach. But in many ways it’s the sheer thrill of hearing pieces like Luciano Berio’s Thema (Omaggio A Joyce) with its rugged deconstruction of sound and voice that proves to be the most exciting, certainly dangerous, in ways Rhythm and Blues never was. Followed by Cage’s brutal Williams Mix which sees the clash of quarter-inch magnetic tapes create their own universe this is just about as provocative as it gets. Three CD’s span the concept, each delving into different arenas, each worth their weight in gold. From radical fire to the more traditional, there is quite literally something for everyone to treasure here.

Release: February 21

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JOE MEEK – I Hear A New World: The Pioneers Of Electronic Music, An Outer Space Music Fantasy – él records

Joe Meek was a troubled genius who helped define the use of electronics in popular music. Not the most avant-garde as the likes of John Cage, Henri Pousseur, Luciano Berio and György Ligeti ripped up the music sheet of conventional thinking in ways beyond what anyone else at the time was doing, but none the less a self-defining, pioneering producer in his own right. What’s particularly brilliant about this three CD collection is that it files in context the contrasting styles and techniques of all those musical creators alongside England’s own Daphne Oram and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, plus the many other schools of thought dotted throughout Europe such as Radiotelevisione in Milan and musique concrète in Paris. Their experiments in electronic sound and magnetic tape alongside a radical new use of musical construction offers a rare glimpse into the unknown, yet feels strangely re-assuring like the return of a long lost friend who disappeared somewhere in the analogue of grainy, black and white television. And remember this was all happening in and around the turn of 1960 proposing radical, revolutionary theories only unfettered sound could denote.

But back to Joe Meek whose unreleased concept album: I Hear A New World from that year provides an insight into the opening world of possibilities as you will hear music washed and reverb and echo redefining what Pop could be. Not surprisingly it is a strange, otherworldly exploration which uses atmospheres as much as does treated melodies alongside an illuminating twist on the twang of Rock n Roll. Also included is the celebrated RPM restoration version from 1991 as well as an invaluable booklet detailing more about his life. And, on the story of the development and those involved in electronic music from that period now lost to time. Although not if you listen closely…

Luciano Berio: Momenti, per nastro magnetico (1960)
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