John Cage – Cartridge Music (CD Another Timbre)

A magnetic cartridge is a transducer used for the playback of gramophone records on a turntable or phonograph. It converts mechanical vibrational energy from a stylus riding in a record groove into an electrical signal that is subsequently amplified and then converted back to sound by a loudspeaker system. Cartridge Music is a homage to Cage’s pristine explorations and groundbreaking blundering with a needle and a record, dating from around 1960, and it definitely deserves recognition as it is a landmark recording of sonic discoveries turned into beauty.   

Although Cage realized that using chance one also realizes that things start to happen that do not always align with aesthetic preferences of that moment. Now if chance is the essence of Cage’s music, then this release is somehow in conflict with its own intentions, yet at the same time everything keeps sounding Cageian during the performance. Here the cartridge encloses silence, and silence wraps around noises coming into existence. Cartridge music draws lines, circles, stripes and rectangles to create a score that celebrates everyday nothingness that goes by unnoticed, using amplification and electronics. Cartridge Music forces the listener to become very aware of its surroundings, almost claustrophobic, as if a cold reality slowly merges with a booby-trapped excursion through an imaginary wasteland. Sounds as incidents, mixed by chance dosed randomly and with the arrogant patience of a god, almost. The recurring vibrant moments of stillness impose emphasis on the sometimes harsh sounds yielded by tiny collisions between the different surfaces, both mechanical and electrical in nature.  

Hermetically, sounding like a one-man exercise, although it is an army of avantgardists realizing Cartridge music ; Stephen Cornford, Rob Curgenven, Ferran Fages, Alfredo Costa Monteiro, Patrick Farmer, Daniel Jones and Lee Patterson taking turns for short blocks of time. The listener is taken through wormholes, unaware of the journey that drifts along the outer limits and beyond, where things aren’t mapped and the fringes of the universe get explored, all triggered by chance. Funded by the Sonic Art Research Unit, Cartridge Music is recorded by Simon Reynell on 29th February 2012 at a the Audiograft Festival in Oxford. PvdG.