VARIATIONS #1 Transition
Curated by Jon Leidecker
The idea of a completely original piece of music is fairly recent. Music was passed on through sound, through generations, even for centuries after the invention of written music.
Only in the 14th century did it become standard practice for a composer to sign his name to a piece of music and claim it entirely as his own, giving rise to the cult of the individual composer. But as recording supplanted sheet music in the 20th century, the presence of communal influence became unavoidably obvious once again as composers began to use recordings to make new recordings. We can now hear the presence of more than one voice. And there is a reason why people don't say they listen to a record – they say that they play a record. From the beginning, recordings have been instruments.
The first episode of this overview of appropriative collage in music covers the years 1909 through 1961, beginning with Charles Ives, who composed in a cut and paste style with sheet music in a way that anticipated what later composers would do with multi-track tapes and mixers. We skip through decades to arrive at "Twisting the Dials", the Happiness Boys' 1928 tribute to late night radio surfing, before moving to John Cage's proto-sampling pieces for radio and tape, "Credo in US" and the "Imaginary Landscapes". We witness the million-selling cut-in records of Buchanan and Goodman and the resulting lawsuits, Richard Maxfield's tape cut-ups of a sermonizing preacher, and conclude with James Tenney's dedicated dissection of a single recording of Elvis: "Collage No. 1", the first 'remix'.