I found myself thinking about the distance between the 60s and today through certain moments. Like the Henry Flynt interview with Ubuweb founder Kenny Goldsmith, where he talks about how he was scarred by how proud John Cage was to be ignorant of popular music. Goldsmith says, "Nobody thinks twice nowadays about listening to everything!" Something that had seemed so uniquely, radically syncretistic in Flynt's day seems much more commonplace now.— David Grubbs
The most provocative David Grubbs quotes that will activate your inner potential
The word "archive" seems so reassuring, but I'm not sure about these things that are now being called archives. Is anything lost by the fact that the word has come to mean so many more things.
What a strange thing - that musicians grant permission to places like Ubuweb, and then because it's free, it'll probably be listened to more often than something that is still wrestling with this idea of making a profit.
The instrumental pieces are compositions, certainly, although that's not the language that I instinctively use. They're not scored, and arrangements are often arrived at collaboratively. I always choose to play with people whose input I desire.
There's part of me that is a strict materialist.
For me, it's good to have those dissimilar modes of songwriting sit side-by-side on a record, because they yield such different results.
I recall improvisational drummer and composer Michael Evans telling me a story of someone who had the opportunity to meet Cage and give him a record, and John Cage just smiled and said, "You know I have nothing to play this on?"
I don't write poetry for the page because my inclination in that area is satisfied by songwriting. "Ornamental Hermit" was a comparatively effortless song to write, which is rare for me.
The question of art songs always came up with Gastr del Sol.
I think Jim O'Rourke had it right in being clear that there's a tradition of art song - Ives being the touchstone for the two of us - and what we do doesn't belong to it. It wasn't important to advance those kinds of distinctions, but clearly he thought it was fanciful for anyone to speak of what we were doing as being in that tradition.
My experience that undergirds that observation comes from punk, where people might have scraped together the money to be in the studio for an afternoon to make a record. Punk isn't a music that you think of as chance-based, but exigency has a lot to do with it.
As there are more online archives of improvised music, it becomes more like the daily practice of playing it. It lessens the idea of there being masterpieces of improvised music through benchmark recordings.
If the records that I make have one thing in common, it's that there is little recapitulation, and the idea is that it should end in a place very different from where it began, and that you've heard musicians undergo a change or be irreversibly transformed.
In eighteenth-century England, there was a practice of hiring a picturesque hermit who would inhabit the beautiful ruin on your estate. To me it rhymes with certain kinds of pop-music entertainers and eccentrics - both touted and tolerated.
There's a book of interviews with John Cage by Joan Retallack called Musicage that was finished the summer that he died, in 1992. And in one of the last interviews, he was very excited to talk about nanotechnology. There's real technophilia from him, a kind of utopian embrace of the idea that nanotechnology will free people up to do what they really want to do.
Kenny Goldsmith from Ubuweb describes himself as an amateur archivist, and people can download files from Ubuweb - it's not a streaming service. But it's a miracle that it's still online and they're able to make it work through the donations of server space and volunteer efforts.
The word 'archive' seems so reassuring, but I have a lot ofconcern over the longevity of documentary materials.
When I read John Cage's book Silence, I was growing up in Louisville, Kentucky.
For me, records were a mode of time travel and geographic travel, interfacing with a much larger world. So it seemed antiquated and backwards that Cage would be so down on them.
The danger of these collaborations across disciplines is in having too strict of a division of labor - in my case, of getting stuck doing the music. When I make an album, I write music, I write lyrics, I come up with the visual design, etc. I get to do all of that stuff.
Records have always been the most extraordinary form of time travel for me, and that's why it matters to know when something was circulated, and if it had an audience of five or 50,000.
Otherwise the history just gets completely flattened out, and people imagine that everything was always available and accessible. One of the things that struck me was the way in which the landscape of experimental music seemed different at different points in time, on the basis of where one was situated geographically, if one had access to live performances, and what was released at a particular time.