November 11 - Notions of 'Noise Pollution' - Muzak & Street Sounds

November 11 – Notions of ‘Noise Pollution’ – Muzak & Street Sounds

Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. – John Cage

1. Kmart Muzak from the 80’s & 90’s
attention kmart shoppers

Kmart October 1989

OK, I have to admit this this is a strange collection. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, I worked for Kmart behind the service desk and the store played specific pre-recorded cassettes issued by corporate. This was background music, or perhaps you could call it elevator music. Anyways, I saved these tapes from the trash during this period and this video shows you my extensive, odd collection. 
– Mark Davis (ex Kmart employee/tape collector)


2. Hildegard Westerkamp, ‘COOL DROOL’ (1983), Performance Piece for Spoken Voice and Tape

Cool Drool is not a very original piece. Everything in it is stolen from other pieces of music. In fact, it goes as far as playing entire pieces of music, which were composed by others, back to the listener. It is worse than any of Westerkamp’s other compositions, where she takes existing sounds from the environment and uses them as soundmaterial. In Cool Drool she simply takes existing music and uses it for her own purposes.

On top of it, the piece is definitely dated. For example, the sounds of the cash register as they appear in Cool Drool have completely disappeared from today’s commercial environments. They alone betray the piece’s age and place it squarely prior to the mid-80s.

Muzak divorces all music from its original context. Cool Drool uses Muzak to connect music again with a social reality.
– H. Westerkamp


3. Aki Onda, ‘A Day of Pilgrimage’, Cassette Memories Vol 3: South of the Border 


4. Tony Schwartz, ‘Street Musicians’, Music in the Streets 

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 9.31.38 AM

(this is another excerpt from Schwartz’ archives – feat. moondog – that we did not get to play, but one that deserves mention)


5. Christina Kubisch, ‘Homage with Minimal Disinformation’, Invisible/Inaudible: 5 Electrical Walks

The sounds are much more musical than one could expect. There are complex layers of high and low frequencies, loops of rhythmic sequences, groups of tiny signals, long drones and many things which change constantly and are hard to describe… The perception of everyday reality changes when one listens to the electromagnetic fields; what is accustomed appears in a different context. Nothing looks the way it sounds. And nothing sounds the way it looks.

– C. Kubisch