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Topic: John Cage and 20th Century Avant Garde Music

"rattle the cage"

My book selections for this topic (shown left) include two milestone publications from John Cage himself, Silence: Lectures & Writing (50th Anniversary Edition) (1961/2011) and Musicage: Cage Muses on Words, Art, Music with Joan Retallack (posthumously published in 1996). Also included is the critically-acclaimed Orfeo: A Novel from Richard Powers (2014), a work that re-imagines the myth of Orpheus by taking readers on a road trip through twentieth-century music and includes an encounter between the protagonist and John Cage.

The "Dangerous Music" Interview with Richard Powers

Additional context:

Topic: Creative Rights

Creative rights are the motivation for Creative Commons licensing that, for over a decade now, have provided an alternative to traditional copyright law.

My book selections for this topic (shown left) are both by legal scholar professor Lawrence Lessig. His book Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology And The Law To Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity (2004), and his book Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive In The Hybrid Economy (2008) combine to provide an excellent discussion of the intersection of copyright law, technology, and creative work.

"creative rights"

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Topic: Discovering Sonic Environments

Recent recordings of music by composers John Luther Adams [Become Desert (2019)], Henry Brant [Ice Field (2019)] (see video below), Dark Morph [Dark Morph, (2019)], Lee Rosevere [Apollo 11, (2019)], Purl & protoU [Sub Life (2019)], and Caroline Shaw [Orange (2019)] each use sound and music to engage the listener with place, the space where a performance is occurring, or sometimes both and more. This invites us to consider the intersection of the practice of listening with environment.

Creating Soundscapes by Luigi Agostini invites the reader to consider sound as an important aspect of our environmental paradigm, to develop "a new ecologic conscience to correct compromised environments; by listening, and not just to music."

The act of listening has always also had a transportive tendency that lends the aural a particularly magical quality. In this sense a soundscape, be it musical or avant garde, is also a sound escape. This is true not only in the "program music" tradition with canonical works like the symphonic poem In The Steppes of Central Asia by Alexander Borodin, but also in jazz (Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis), in modernist music (The Dharma at Big Sur by John Adams), in popular music ("La Isla Bonita" by Madonna, "Africa" by Toto, etc.), and unquivocally in the soundtracks of John Williams who reliably delivers us to Amity Island (JAWS), Cairo (Raiders of the Lost Ark), or Tatooine (Star Wars).

Somewhere in between these two poles of listening possibilities lies a documentary tendency within music and sound. The capture of Robert Johnson's blues lightning in a bottle. The Smithsonian Folkways Recordings project. The Singing Revolution of Estonia. Sound maps. Oral history. The Qatsi Trilogy. Recent collaborative scholarship by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw, Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and The Music That Made A Nation.

So soundscapes are somewhat chimeric. We can command them to ground us in the here/hear and now, to take us away to places real or imagined, to time travel or just remember.

I welcome your thoughts on this and related books. I would love to learn about how your listening praxis entails environmental awareness.

"sound escapes"

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Cover of Music, National Identity and the Politics of Location Between the Global, and the Local. Edited by Vanessa Knights and Ian Biddle

Topic: The Discourse of Otherness

"no other"

  • Music, National Identity and the Politics of Location Between the Global and the Local. Edited by Vanessa Knights and Ian Biddle.
  • The Outsider by Stephen King (2018)

Additional context:

Cover of Then It Fell It Fell Apart by Moby

Topic: The Remix of Fame

"pathetically relevant"

  • Then It Fell Apart by Moby.
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