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Max Neuhaus, John Cage

Fontana Mix-Feed

Label: Alga Marghen

Format: LP

Genre: Sound Art

Out of stock

Rare and now long out of print LP, originally released on Mass Art, performed and realized by Max Neuhaus.  Technically, this LP consists of four realizations of John Cage’s 1958 Fontana Mix, an indeterminate graphic score originally intended to be used for a tape piece, with or without additional instruments. To say that, though, is not really to capture the unique nature of this music, or the unique nature of percussionist and electronic music pioneer Max Neuhaus’ take on Cage’s material. In the mid-’60s, Neuhaus approached Fontana Mix with an interpretation so radical that it became a new piece altogether, a combination of Cage’s ideas with Neuhaus’ own. Fontana Mix-Feed, the resulting composite, wasn’t just a reworking of Cage, but a revolutionary step forward in electronic music that remains an exciting listen even though Neuhaus’ innovations have long since entered the musical lexicon as common elements.

Neuhaus’ idea was to use Cage’s open score as a vehicle to explore controlled, shaped feedback, generated by placing contact mics on percussive instruments and hooking the mics up to loudspeakers positioned directly opposite the instruments. The result was a feedback loop in which the harsh sounds were modulated and often softened by the bodies of the drums and other instruments, creating complex, constantly shifting layers of noise. At the height of an era when many sounds previously considered unmusical noise were being reconsidered as musical elements, the introduction of feedback into that fold was one more vital challenge to tradition. Like the contemporaneous electronic work of David Tudor (another Cage collaborator/performer), Neuhaus’ music is no mere novelty, and if it doesn’t shock today the way it might’ve in 1966, it’s still extremely inspiring.

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"Harsh noise in the concert hall; one can only imagine the impact of Max Neuhaus' realization of John Cage's open score "Fontana Mix" back in 1965-1966. An overtaking slab of not-quite-controlled feedback, his piece (subtitled "Feed") consisted of a set of parameters determined through the chance operations prescribed by Cage's score. He chose to use contact microphones resting on top of tympanis. The instruments are placed in front of loudspeakers. The ambient sound of the room triggers the first reactions; sonic entropy does the rest. Neuhaus sits at a mixing desk, controlling the potentiometers of four channels of feedback, changing them according to his realization of the score. The piece ends when he gets up and switches off the amplifier: The feedback loops disintegrate. In each live performance the piece takes a different form, as the feedback loops are influenced by many factors (the size of the room being the most drastic) that are not all controllable. Sometimes the piece remains quiet, humming gently (although still forcefully -- the feedback engulfs the whole room, coming from all directions at once, and its multi-layered nature gives birth to a number of subcurrents of sounds). In other situations it roars, one wave of feedback crashing over the other in an assault that must have left audience members breathless -- and temporarily deaf! The original LP, released in the last days of 1966, presented four versions of the piece, recorded live between April 1965 and December 1966. This LP was reissued as is by the Italian label Alga Marghen in 2002." AllMusicGuide

Details
Cat. number: N 18NMN.044
Year: 2002
Notes:
Re-release of Mass Art LP M-133.

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