Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording
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About the Author
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.
"The premise of [Grubbs's] understandably authoritative first book is that experimental music's flowering in the 1960s . . . was incompatible with the limitations of orthodox recording formats. . . . With an engaging frankness . . . Grubbs contrasts this tendency with his own fan-by appetite for records and the documentary efficacy of the contemporary digital realm, concluding positively that the latter potentially offers unmediated, universal access to the panoply of esoteric music--something unthinkable in the 1960s."--David Sheppard "Mojo"
"For compositions whose whole raison d'être is to generate a drastically different realization with every performance . . . no recording of any one performance could be said to 'be' the piece. . . . David Grubbs's exhaustively researched Records Ruin the Landscape explores this dilemma specifically as it affected the generation of avant-garde composers who hit their stride in the sixties, John Cage being the most prominent and outspoken among them."--Dave Mandl "Los Angeles Review of Books" (3/24/2014 12:00:00 AM)
"The risk writers run, of course, with the big questions approach, is universalising their personal narrative in order to present the big answer. Grubbs is too skilled and self-aware to run into this problem. His breadth of research in musicology and aesthetic theory is balanced in this short and engaging book with candid writing about his own experiences of recordings of experimental music. . . . It is testament to Grubbs's sensitivity as a writer that a sympathetic picture emerges of these musicians, who seem often to be railing against hierarchies they can't quite help being part of."--Frances Morgan "The Wire" (6/1/2014 12:00:00 AM)
"One of the chief joys of this book is that [it] seeks to rediscover the avant-gardes of the 1960s in all their spontaneity, in their present-ness, as if unfolding these mavericks from their own perspectives, without benefit of current hindsight. We learn, reading this book, what the future looked like to the past. Records Ruin the Landscape seeks to prestidigitate the landscape of the 1960s back to life. For this, one should be thankful--including for the recordings that allow David Grubbs' act of imagination and scholarship to have taken place."--Daniel Herwitz "Critical Inquiry"