Review

John Cage

Early Electronics & Tape Music

Sub Rosa • 2014

If a composer can still polarise people today, then there must be something to their music. The fact that John Cage is still one of the most influential and most controversial avant-garde composers speaks in his favour. Many of his ideas, starting with his way of incorporating everyday sounds into music, have become standard. Some of his approaches to electronic music have also been taken up by other artists. His compilation »Early Electronic & Tape Music« is a good example of this. His classical piece »Imaginary Landscape No. 5«, for example, uses recordings of randomly selected records as a collage – here, among others, excerpts from Mozart’s »Eine kleine Nachtmusik«. An aleatoric variant of sampling if you will. And on »Cartridge Music« (1960), the music is created by manipulating the pickups of a record player – by now a common strategy used by turntablists. These are not recordings by John Cage himself, but reconstructions by the British Langham Research Centre project, which specialises in »authentic« recordings of classical electronic music – a kind of »historical performance practice« of 20th century music. To what extent John Cage’s approach can still open the ears of young listeners remains to be seen. The compositions are certainly interesting in terms of music history.