Playlist: Almost nothing

Cover of Shortwave Nights by Hiss Tracts (Constellation Records, 2014)
The impossibility of immediacy in the music of Cage, Ferrari and López.

The first (and as yet only) time I saw John Cage’s 4’33” “performed” I couldn’t shake a sense of doubt clawing the edges of my consciousness: I’d probably be listening harder if I wasn’t trying so hard to listen so hard. Of course, really, really, really wanting to concentrate – to immerse, to forget oneself – is pretty much the one sure-fire way to ensure you do none of those things. And so if Cage’s aesthetic was above all a pursuit of experiential immanence – of radical openness to, and intimate connection with, all sounds – then it only hinders itself by making its lofty goal explicit. And it sounds like Luc Ferrari arrived at a similar conclusion: the (near) vérité field recordings of his Cagean Presque rien (or “Almost nothing”) series seem all but disavowed in the evocative memory- and dream-scapes of his late-period Les Anecdotiques. The idea of unfettered immediacy, after all, sounds a bit idealistic: surely Les Anecdotiques’ warped approximations of reality resonate more closely with subjective experience, which frames, distorts, romanticises even as it claims merely to sense.

[Edit, 9th August 2015: Since the time of writing, the Francisco López recording included in this playlist has been removed from Spotify. The piece can currently be heard on YouTube here.]

1. Presque rien avec filles, Luc Ferrari (1989)
2-4. 4’33”, John Cage (1952)
5-8. Qal’at Abd’al-Salam (Parts 1-4), Francisco López (1995)
9-12. Les Anecdotiques (Parts 1-4), Luc Ferrari (2004)

Image: Cover of Shortwave Nights by Hiss Tracts (Constellation Records, 2014)

  • Chris L

    This will probably be my last comment for a
    while (I’m suffering somewhat from Spotify-induced new-music overload!), but I
    just wanted to thank you for introducing me to the work of Ferrari and López. I’m assuming you guys
    are already familiar with the work of Annea Lockwood, whose work has a similar
    tendency to exploit “found sounds” to compelling effect (rather
    crudely compelling, one might say, in the case of a once-notorious passage in “Tiger Balm”!).

    BTW, I notice that you’ve recently put together another Spotify playlist entitled “Held tones”, which includes two of my all-time favourite pieces in that vein, Lear and Partiels. Will you be writing a post in relation to this playlist?

    • Tom

      Hey Chris- glad we could introduce you to their music! The Lopez compilation on the Kairos label (which includes the piece excerpted in the playlist) is a great place to start with him. I’m not aware of Lockwood- will have a listen, thanks for the recommendation. And yes, I’ve been playing around with a playlist of drone-based/spectral music- hoping to write a post on it soon!