Monday, 3 October 2016

Max Neuhaus ‎– Fontana Mix-Feed (Six Realizations Of John Cage) (2003 compi of '65-'68 recordings)

Regular visitors here will know by now that I like sharp contrasts - and every warm ambient masterpiece deserves a teeth-grating, bracing, cold shower like this as a follow-up.  Fontana Mix-Feed, originally released as a four-track LP in 1966, gave avant-garde percussionist Max Neuhaus the prime credit as 'Fontana Mix' wasn't a set score composed by Cage, but merely an abstract set of patterns that could be subject to any desired alignment and then followed as a unique set of directions for any instrument(s) the performer wished.

In this case, Neuhaus used contact microphones set atop various percussion instruments, placed in front of loudspeakers to create something much more than simple screeching feedback - shimmering, oscillating waves of tightly controlled noise.  As captured on the CD cover photograph above, Neuhaus sat on stage orchestrating this racket on a mixing desk, like Stockhausen jumping forward a decade in a time machine, listening to Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music and then trying to recreate it on his return.
 original LP cover, 1966
So yep, this album is very noisy indeed, and wonderfully overpowering at high volume; but the joy is in noticing the subtle differences between each of the four live recordings (and on CD, a studio recording and a WDR radio recording) as the performance was affected each time by the physical space of the venue, the exact instruments used, their proximity to each other and to the mikes/speakers, and so on ad infinitum.  I'd love to have been present at one of these performances in the mid-60s, to be overwhelmed by the sheer sonic assault and see the audience's reactions.  A New York Times review from the performance at which track 4 was taped gives a tantalising indication - "This piece was not the kind of electronic music that emanates distantly from the speakers. It felt as though one's own head were part of the feedback circuit."

Fontana Mix-Feed

1 comment:

  1. This!! faboo. thanks.....honestly it's quite a bit more vicious than metal m. m......