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)