For/Not For John Cage
LINE_058 | CD + Digital | Edition of 500 (sold out/out of print) | September 2012
(all orders of this release from the LINE shop include 15 min digital bonus, see below)
LINE is pleased to announce the upcoming release of a elegant new sound work by Australian artist Lawrence English, inspired by John Cage:
In 2011, anticipating John Cage’s centenary, I began thinking about how to approach a work that might act as a homage to the aspects of his life and work that have inspired me over the past two decades (ironically, those in which he has been physical absent, but philosophically more present than ever). John Cage, with that beaming smile and trademarked casualness with which he operated his revelatory genius, has consistently acted as a touch stone for me; his life’s interests underscoring the way in which music, space, humour and philosophy connect (and also break apart).
I wanted to find a work that offered an openness (particularly in a sonic sense), something that might invite a new perspective of exploration into Cage’s ideas and interests. It was during this search that I found myself drawn to one of Cage’s less celebrated works—his film for solo light performer One11. Joining with video artist Scott Morrison we “restaged” the film, developing a new score for single light source devised from a range of Cagian approaches. The resulting piece was called One11 (refocused).
Part way through the process of composing music for One11 (refocused), it became clear that a body of sound work was forming (beyond the music created for the One11 (refocused) soundtrack) that drew heavily on some of Cage’s passions—specifically his interests in Zen Buddhism (and the space for contemplation this philosophy opens) and also that of chance operations.
Each of the pieces presented in this edition bare John Cage’s influence —some direct, others less so. The title of the edition reflects the sources from which the music was created—specifically from the One11 (refocused) project (For John Cage) and other pieces, created entirely by chance during one recording session (Not For John Cage).
For me, this edition is a humble tip of the hat to a mind that has sought to sow many a seed amongst us all. It’s now for us to water those seeds and tend the soil in which they sit. This is but one drop of that water. —Lawrence English
VIDEO: “Entoloma abortivum” Lawrence English & Scott Morrison collaboration, re-staging John Cage’s film One11.
Jansia borneensis (05:09)
Otidea onotica (04:12)
Hygrophorus russula (05:35)
Naematoloma sublateritium (03:08)
Coprinus comatus (04:40)
Amanita inaurata (04:51)
Entoloma abortivum (06:14)
+ exclusive digital track available only from LINE shop:
Chance Operation #6 (Superimposed) (15:00)
Recorded and Produced by Lawrence English at 158, September 2011-January 2012.
All music by Lawrence English, ©2012. Cover image by Lawrence English.
This project received financial assistance from the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.
Heartfelt thanks to Rebecca, Frances, Nacht, Scott, Brian, Erik, Matthew and Richard.
Lawrence English is a composer, media artist and curator based in Australia. Working across an eclectic array of aesthetic investigations, English’s work prompts questions of field, perception and memory. English utilises a variety of approaches including live performance and installation to create works that ponder subtle transformations of space and ask audiences to become aware of that which exists at the edge of perception.
Over the past decade, English’s sonic investigations have traversed a divergent path through which musical languages and environmental sources are granted equal focus. His work calls into question the established relationships of sound and structure. English’s sound work is evocative and invites the listener to explore their own narratives and impressions informed by personal histories and experiences. Published widely on respected imprints including Touch, 12K and Winds Measure, English’s work is sculpted and overwhelmingly intricate. The Wire noted his ‘use of space and silence is remarkable’, and U.S. sound journal Signal To Noise described the Ghost Towns work as ‘extraordinarily gorgeous modern music concréte’.
Outside of his recording and art commissions, Lawrence English curates a number of ongoing sound and media programs including Mono at the Institute Of Modern Art and Syncretism at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. He produces the annual Room40 festival Open Frame (in Australia and London) and co-produces a number of other festivals including Sound Polaroids and Liquid Architecture. English’s imprint and multi-arts organisation ::ROOM40:: maintains a steady release schedule from an eclectic array of Australian and international artists.
Mushroom, chance operations, and Zen Buddhism. Those are the articles, strategies, and philosophies through which the ambient composer Lawrence English drafts this homage to John Cage. Yet, English recognizes that outside of these three arenas, he certainly does not share an aesthetic connection to Cage, who had very specific aesthetics that he strongly privileged, despite all of the open-ended declarations of musical possibility and the radical forms of compositional deconstruction. Hence, this is both for and not for Mr. Cage; and that seems like an apt qualifier to this album which was composed around the same time as English's highly acclaimed album The Peregrine - another homage of sorts. His smeared synth drones, foggy field recordings, and streams of watery ambience are all layered in triggering sequences that slowly bring these suspended forms in and out of existence from each other. The organic folds, slow-motion circadian breathiness, and shifting sands from these elegant passages equate with English's application of Cage's ideas of Zen meditation crossed with the chance operation. Less bombastic and more hypnotic than English's latter day compositions, this is nonetheless a marvelous recording of liquid nirvana.
A blurry mushroom lingers ghost-like on the cover of For/Not For John Cage. Here, the centenarian composer manifests through the hazy lens of English’s sound: outlines and textures smudged together, colours bleeding outward via thick applications of reverberation, with shapes retained but definition lost to the soft mercurial flow. The album derives itself from a body of English’s work that bares John Cage’s distinctive presence: either through the influence of his processes and interests (chance operation, Zen Buddhism), or in the form of English’s re-imagined soundtrack for Cage’s film One11, which he put together alongside video artist Scott Morrison. English chooses not to specify how each track relates to Cage’s methods for the most part – besides, Cage’s ultimate artistic emphasis rested with the sound itself rather than the process behind it – and thus the presence of Cage preoccupies the work in a more mysterious and fluid manner, haunting English’s creations and even English himself (perhaps in the form of a ghostly mushroom).
Those who enjoyed The Peregrine from last year will find a much sparser and more meditative work in For/Not For John Cage. Interestingly, while the former immersed the listener from each side, collapsing inwards in waves of drone and harmony, the latter sits quietly at the centre of the stereo mix, surging gently outward and back in again as an eternally revolving ball of soft electronic tone. The links to Zen Buddhism often feel like the most prominent – many of these pieces appear to rise and fall gently like the human breath at resting pace, luring listener focus further and further inward into the hypnotic cycle of activity. Meanwhile, what appears to be chance operation ends up tugging tonality into dissonance and then back into accidental harmonic alignment, eternally shifting between gloopy shapes via English’s trademark watery movement – for “Jansia Borneensis” it tilts and drifts between pitches like a buoy nudged across a calm sea, whereas “Naematoloma Sublateritium” quivers across microtones like a thin sheet of metal wobbling in slow motion. The fact that For/Not For John Cage progresses with such an organic imminence is testament to influence of the man himself; taking almost any other artist as a basis for inspiration would have involved restricting one’s composition methods to accommodate the techniques for which the artist is synonymous, whereas utilising John Cage only helps to facilitate a quest for musical liberation.
Cage’s use of chance, and his interest in Zen Buddhism are among the more often occurring themes and influences on these eight pieces, which are deliberate and meditative, but retain a loose, improvisational feeling at times. The ghostly wisps and sustained lower-frequency moments of "Otidea Onotica" possess a certain peaceful quality, though that is contrasted by the quickly rising and falling tonal outbursts around them.
"Gymnosporangium" and "Amanita Inaurata" also have this apparition-like sparseness, with the former especially employing the varying tones and pitches of "Otidea Onotica". "Hygrophorous Russula" takes a different path, sounding like a slow-motion fall accompanied with higher register textural passages.
The back to back pieces "Naematoloma Sublateritium" and "Coprinus Comatus" make for an especially overt contrast, with the former relying on almost foghorn like dark sounds that go to a distinctly creepy, dark place, while the latter has a warmer, inviting character to it, even if they follow similar structures compositionally.
Closer "Entoloma Aborivum" stands out as perhaps the most drastically different piece on this album, given its harsher, more commanding tone. Even though it moves at a glacial pace, the heavily reverberated textures, at times resembling elongated guitar noise, are harsher and more commanding than what preceded it. The closing moments also have a shrill, feedback like quality that adds a bit of welcome abrasion to an otherwise gentle work.
For/Not For John Cage may show differing levels of inspiration courtesy of the legendary composer, but English's work also stands on its own as the work of a powerful, established artist in his own right. At times ascetically sparse, other times boisterous and dominating, there is a significant amount of variation within these eight pieces, but they all sit nicely beside one another as a coherent work.
Apparently this has been primarily influenced by rescoring Cage’s piece for solo light source ‘One11’, resulting in what to my ears sounds like the usual unrecognisably blurred swirl of gentle sound, throbbing and wibbling and pulsing gently away to itself with celestial poise, filling the atmosphere with sonorous peace vibes as it subtly morphs and develops.
As he was creating the new score he English found a new body of sound art forming which while not part of the score itself, still drew heavily from Cage’s passions, “specifically his interest in Zen Buddhism”, so his influence on some of these pieces is more direct than others, hence the “For/Not For” aspect of the title. In the press release English rather sweetly writes: “John Cage, with that beaming smile and trademarked casualness with which he operated his revelatory genius, has consistently acted as a touch stone for me; his life’s interests underscoring the way in which music, space, humour and philosophy connect (and also break apart)”, so his affection and understanding of Cage’s work certainly isn’t in doubt, and this is certainly a humble and heartfelt tribute to the great man. Also this proves educational to me as I had no idea Cage had trademarked his casualness.
Ultimately what we’re left with here is an indistinct, dream-like mush of distilled sound, stripped of context and form and purposefully smeared across the ether. I’m finding it very relaxing even if the more cerebral aspects of the concept might be going over my head a little.
(Norman Records, UK)
... These eight tracks conform to a woozy Ambient mode, a music of shimmering implication that recognisably carries English’s signature. But it’s difficult to discern the relevance of Cage, whose One11, portraying changes of light in an empty room, was composed with painstaking clarity, down to each change in luminosity, each camera angle and shot length, each edit. Cage’s shadows are themselves and definite. Zen shadows. The shadows in English’s music are hazily suggestive; figures of present vagueness. Fans of fuzzy Ambient will love this...
(The Wire, UK)
The blurry mushroom on the cover of the album is a good indication of what to expect. Each title (with one exception) has the scientific name of a specific type of mushroom. Any hallucinogenic associations that go along with mushrooms (regardless of whether these listed species are themselves hallucinogenic) may affect one’s perception of the music, which, much like the blurred photo, never quite comes into focus. These are nebulous forms that give an impression and exhibit qualities of light, shade, filter and refraction without directly referencing any specific shape. Each evokes a slightly different mood; the disorienting swirl of “Naematoloma Sublateritium” is quite different from the dark haze of “Entoloma Abortivum,” and yet they sound very much pieces of the same whole. He saves the best for last, though: “Chance Operation #6 (Superimposed)” is by far the longest piece, clocking in over 15 minutes, and it’s a dreamy series of slow drones and an obvious nod to Cage’s approach to composition. The seductive haze of these pieces has kept me coming back to them again and again, even as I struggle to articulate why I find the album so compelling. Perhaps that elusiveness is what makes Mr. English so good at what he does.
Australian sound artist Lawrence English gives a "humble tip of the hat" to John Cage in his centenary year with an elegant eight part suite of resonant ambient drone informed by the master's compositional strategies and wide-reaching practice. The results hew close to English's celebrated catalogue on labels such as his own Room40, Immune, 12k, Touch, but definitely stray into a stranger, dare we say mystical interzone, with particular highlights in the warped, ghoulish movements of 'Naematoloma Sublateritium' and the decayed figure of 'Coprinus Comatus', or the the gauzy, spectral hallucinations of 'Amanita Inaurata'... Keenly recommended to fans of Pinkcourtesyphone, Indignant Senility, Kevin Drumm, The Caretaker.
If I had ignored the source of inspiration for this album was Cage's centenary, I would have surmised the appreciated Australian composer Lawrence English came under the spell of mycology or mushroom picking after reading the list of scientific names of various fungi or experienced some poisoning after eating them, even if I would have praised his work. The focus on fungi could be imaginatively explained by their distinctive features and particularly their nutrition, which lead to the distinction between saprophytes, symbiont or parasite, so that it seems that the mind behind Room40 collected a series of sonic organisms which sucked some lymph from the huge tree of knowledge, watered by John Cage, which fed them even with his dead leaves. This record is closely related to the soundtrack English revisited with Scott Morrison for Cage's One11, an abstract movie with no plot, completely based on a set of guidelines for takes and lighting, whose original OST, the orchestral work 103, echoes to many moments of this electronic abstract oevre as well as in the feeling of slow and sumptuous movement, a sort of quivering of ghastly and elusive entities. Notwithstanding the close connection between English's slow drones and some intuitions by Cage, the nine tracks on "For/Not For John Cage" evoke trance-like states between sleeping and waking while discolsing very catchy compositional processes by oscillating between the daydreaming soothing of "Otidea Onotica", the laudanum-like amniotic flotation of "Hygrophorus russula", the somewhat disquieting apnea of "Naematoloma sublateritium" and the ancestral mists of "Entoloma abortivum".
Decir algo sobre John Cage es como pasar por encima de todas las flores de un jardín hermoso destruyéndolas. ¿Qué podría uno hablarle a un maestro del silencio? ¿Qué palabras utilizar ante quien le ha enseñado al artista a callar y liberarse ante el cambio de la naturaleza misma? ¿Qué palabras usar, qué sonidos crear, cuando al hacer esto estamos siempre sonando, interrumpiendo una pieza (4’33) de este inigualable artista y pensador?
La mejor forma de hacerlo es con sonidos, puros y tranquilos, inspirados y sencillos. Automáticos y de inmediata planeación, liberados ante la contemplación máxima de la escucha, donde nos permitamos simplemente sentir el silencio de nuestro ser, donde nos hagamos una minúscula pero infinita parte del inagotable cambio del universo. Eso es lo que ha hecho Lawrence English con For/Not For John Cage, una fantástica reunión de ocho piezas tituladas con nombres científicos de hongos, aludiendo a la apasionada labor que tuvo Cage con dichas plantas.
Se encuentra una gran variedad de sonidos, barridos espectrales, formas extendidas y drones cambiantes entre pista y pista. Desde momentos de tranquilidad y simplicidad sonora, hasta frenéticos movimientos que aunque delicados son, causan ante la percepción una experiencia bastante peculiar, que se mantiene en un aspecto atmosférico y penetrante, sin perder en ningún momento cierto juego de frecuencias que permite al álbum entero sentirse borroso, como oculto y misterioso.
Aunque el disco está creado como una composición para la recreación de la obra visual One11, es sin duda una joya para ser escuchada de ojos cerrados, donde ente la alucinación, la calma y diversos paisajes tenues, se genera una capa de sonidos más que fascinante, más que introspectiva. Bellas composiciones logradas con algo más profundo que el concepto sonido… silencio. 4/5 stars
Una tra le opere meno One11, è il punto di partenza dell’omaggio che Lawrence English ha voluto tributare al grande compositore americano, che oggi avrebbe compiuto cent’anni. L’ambient soffusa di English avvolge le otto tracce in scaletta rievocando solo in parte le musiche per l’incredibile apparentemente senza soggetto, che Cage volle realizzare nell’anno della For/Not For John Cage il musicista australiano cerca quella connessione tra che è diventata nel tempo il più grande insegnamento asciato da Cage. E lo fa con UN DISCO INCANTEVOLE.
Les oreilles plus « conventionnelles » préféreront peut-être la nouvelle œuvre d’un autre grand de l’ambient, Lawrence English. Sauf que cette fois, Lawrence English se mesure à feu John Cage, du moins dans l’inspiration de son œuvre, pour composer ce For/Not For John Cage. Un récital drone/ambient poli et bien ordonné, peut-être trop quand on connait la force de composition de l’Australien. Il n’empêche que du Lawrence English, même moyen, demeure deux crans au dessus de la mêlée ambient proutisante que vous entendrez à tous les coins de rue.
The ambivalence of the title For/Not For John Cage and the reference to the master (whose birthday saw its hundredth anniversary last year) is suggestive of a versatile, multi-sided and chaotic treatment. While partially the case the record also features pleasantly iterated and ambient frequencies . Lawrence English unravels his textures in elegantly breezy and evocative passages, whispering and rarefied. Here we have a “refurbishment” and reinterpretation of one of Cage’s last works, One11 With 103, from 1991/2, a delicate piece organized for a black and white film without script that is evocative of dilated and ethereal time. The perception of absence, of emptiness as opposed to presence, and the casual quality of the unfolding is exploited by English, here joined by video-artist Scott Morrison who takes on the role of original director of photography Theodore Carlson. Throughout this process of “drawing from the real”, the intimate participation in Cage’s vision has produced additional materials: the section called “Not For John Cage”, which is drenched in a moving and philosophical atmosphere, permeated with uncertain and emotionally vague elements. Near the end a sophisticated quote is included, wherein a mushroom peeps out during a fade, referencing Cage’s curious appearance on an Italian tv quiz show “Lascia o Raddoppia” in the fifties in the guise of a mycologist.
A quick fly-through of For/Not For John Cage: This album is atmospheric and will be treated like the atmosphere that it is, so step inside the vessel. Our lift-off begins with "Jansia Borneensis" , out the window of the cabin you will see that we are entering a spectral and swelling, ambient place. The sky's backdrop is an ever shitting wash of bluish pink calling us forward into the zen'd out cosmic waiting room of "Otidea Onotica". As the title suggest the work in consideration is a tribute to Cage, but the atmosphere in which we have been enveloped for the moment is more reminiscent of certain regions of the sky once explored by Eno. As we drift in the sector of "Hygrophorus Russula" we encounter slowly shifting tone clouds. From the background wooden pieces fall from the sky like a broken piano splintered into a million pieces yet so dispersed that we feel only a few. It is a less relaxing location than the others but has a stagnant consistency which grounds it while remaining in the sky. Then as we are thrown into "Naematoloma Sublateritium" and the nauseating swirl jitters begin. Your air sickness bags are located in the back of the seat if needed. Is this a swarm we are in the midst of, or are helicopters surrounding us? The tension in this place continues to grow reminding one of the explorations in the PTV / Z'ev collaboration "Direction of Travel". From here we are drawn further upward to "Corprinus Comatus" with the pretty tidal swells of the sky being slurped up by warbling LFOs, it takes one back to the days of Louis and Bebe Barron when space sounded like space. The soaring feeling of this construction is accurate as it sweeps through most of the human emotions lifting one into the "Amanita Inaurata". Here the desolate quiet takes over rising into distorted bumps, a vision of wind running through a clothesline is broken by the sheets freezing in place with the permanent winter of the sky. This quietude is broken as "Gymnosporangium" glows like melting metal soon to become mercuric bubble gum which rolls down the newly formed mountain of frost and as we feel we will reach the bottom… The stellar explosion of "Entoloma Abortivum", then calm floating through interstellar space, following the curve of space-time, bending slowly with the ever distant random super-nova along the way.