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)