Damon Krukowski

  • Damon Krukowski


    1 Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, Oblique Strategies Eno and Schmidt’s set of instructional cards for solving creative problems—originally printed in 1975—is now available as an iPhone application. Instead of checking messages, you can draw one of its “worthwhile dilemmas” to direct your next move, such as: “Fill every beat with something.”

    2 1970’s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground (Sublime Frequencies) In the pre-synthesizer days of rai music explored by this album, every beat was filled with driving hand percussion, passionate call-and-response vocals, and (surprisingly)

  • Victrola Favorites and Sublime Frequencies

    MP3S CAN PROVOKE a metaphysical crisis in a record collector. If you don’t have to pack them when you move, do they exist? To my analog brain, when music is “ripped” from a disc, it enters a mysteriously disembodied space. For once digital files have shuffled off this mortal coil, they lose not only the plastic and lacquer that once housed them, but the context those materials provided. From the beginning of commercially recorded sound, packaging—the 78 label, the LP sleeve, the CD jewel case—has been a container for everything that tethers music to this world. In fact, the first copyright

  • Kenneth Goldsmith and UbuWeb

    UBUWEB (www.ubu.com) started out in 1996 much like an online fanzine devoted to concrete poetry, but it has grown to incorporate the functions of a virtual publishing house (via PDF), record company (via MP3), and, most recently, film distributor (via Flash). In its archival breadth, UbuWeb is now something like a library or museum. And since it doesn’t require a building and has nearly no overhead, its usefulness to the avant-garde seems certain to continue, uncompromised and unabated, at least as long as its creator, Kenneth Goldsmith, devotes his energy to it.

    Goldsmith credits himself as “

  • Composers Inside Electronics performing David Tudor’s Rainforest IV (1973), The Kitchen, New York, 2007. Photo: Stephen Vitiello.

    David Tudor’s Rainforest IV

    FOR ITS TWO PERFORMANCES of postwar avant-gardist David Tudor’s Rainforest IV last fall at The Kitchen in New York, the group Composers Inside Electronics suspended a single wire object in the passageway between lobby and theater. Passing under this birdcagelike construction, entrants heard a burst of electronic noise—a jolt announcing entrance into a space where ears, rather than eyes, would better guide one’s path.

    Indeed, Rainforest IV is an exercise in audio wandering—navigating a thicket of objects, each of which, on closer examination, reveals itself to be resonating with sound. A sheet of

  • Damon Krukowski


    1 Robert Wyatt, Comicopera (Domino) Written in the melancholy, self-reflective mode of Rock Bottom (1974), Comicopera includes one of Wyatt’s loveliest pop melodies, the bittersweet “Just as You Are.” A lyrical account of life in one’s sixties, to file alongside Wyatt’s indelible work from the 1960s.

    2 Caetano Veloso, (Nonesuch) In his own document of middle age, Veloso subjects his songs to plastic surgery by enlisting twenty- and thirty-something musicians as a backing band. Their wiry energy and Caetano’s coruscatingly honest lyrics make this a red convertible of a record.


  • Teiji Ito

    TEIJI ITO IS INVARIABLY LINKED to Maya Deren, since their professional and romantic relationship spanned the last decade of her career, 1952–61, and the first of his. Deren’s account of their initial encounter is as steeped in self-mythology as any of the images in her films:

    “Teiji, I have the feeling that if ever you were approached by an inquiring reporter and asked for one or two of the most important or critical moments in your life—you certainly would have to mention that one where I ran into you in front of the five and dime store.”

    “When you asked me to do the score for your film.”

    Ito was

  • Cornelius Cardew

    SOME GESTURES are so large, they cast the rest of a career into shadow. Such is the case with English composer Cornelius Cardew, whose rather spectacular conversion to a Maoist-influenced branch of Marxism in the early 1970s led him to denounce both his avant-garde mentors and his own previous compositions. The explosive title of his 1974 essay, “Stockhausen Serves Imperialism,” has reached further than the text itself and, sadly, further than Cardew’s music.

    What has been eclipsed is Cardew’s restless experimentation with serialism, Cagean chance, graphic notation, and various forms of improvisation.

  • Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour

    BOB DYLAN KNOWS a lot of songs. His own extensive—and wordy—catalogue aside, the covers he performed live between 1988 and 2000 alone take up nine CDs. This is nothing new—Dylan has been absorbing everyone else’s repertoire since before his 1962 debut album, Bob Dylan, which combined songs and arrangements he had learned from Eric von Schmidt, Dave Van Ronk, and others. In the oral history of the folk revival Baby, Let Me Follow You Down, von Schmidt describes a typical visit from Dylan back in the day: “He wasn’t much interested in playing; he wanted to listen. So I played. . . . It was something,

  • Giacinto Scelsi

    IN THE RIGHT light, any composed music might for a moment look like Conceptual art—the composer’s idea, separate from each particular incarnation of it, reigns supreme in the platonic world of written scores. Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi (1905–1988) spun the thread between idea and performed music even finer, in quest of an act of creation he eventually refused to call composing at all, preferring the model of a spiritual medium, or “receiver.” Perhaps, at a certain point in his quest, that thread snapped—which would explain some of the confusions and controversies surrounding Scelsi’s work

  • Electronic Music

    THE TRADITIONAL SCENARIO might be described like this: People onstage make music, and, in response, people in the audience make noise.

    And if the people onstage make noise?

    Sonic Youth’s contribution to the two-CD Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music 1921–2001, the first of eight planned releases on the theme, takes this situation to its logical conclusion: “Audience” is six minutes of applause taped at the end of a 1983 Sonic Youth performance in Berlin, subjected in the studio to the same sorts of manipulations that the band applies to sounds generated by their instruments. The result is

  • Der rote Blick (The red gaze), 1910.

    Arnold Schönberg

    When the New York Times cautioned its readers in 1913 about SCHOENBERG, MUSICAL ANARCHIST, WHO HAS UPSET EUROPE, it didn’t neglect to mention that the composer “also paints gray-green landscapes and sickly visions, the latter dug up from the abysmal depths of his subconsciousness.”

    When the New York Times cautioned its readers in 1913 about SCHOENBERG, MUSICAL ANARCHIST, WHO HAS UPSET EUROPE, it didn’t neglect to mention that the composer “also paints gray-green landscapes and sickly visions, the latter dug up from the abysmal depths of his subconsciousness.” One era’s warning is another’s hype. Today, Schönberg’s paintings—seen here in a show of around 150 canvases, more than half his entire output—are valued precisely because these psychologically unedited works look more like outsider art than like correlatives of the notoriously abstruse “second Viennese school” of

  • Nam June Paik

    NAM JUNE PAIK IS OFTEN PICTURED with an instrument: banging his head on a piano; dragging a violin along the ground; stretching a string across his back, to be bowed by cellist Charlotte Moorman. What these images share with many of Paik’s multimedia works is the sense of a dreamed art-they represent a music that isn’t heard, necessarily, but whose effect might be even greater than music that is. With television, the distance between Nam June Paik’s dreams and reality seems starker: Works such as Zen for T. V., 1963, Moon Is the Oldest T.V., 1965, T.V. Buddha, 1974, and Candle T.V., 1975,