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Baker's Dozen

Maximum Drama: Lee Ranaldo's 13 Favourite Albums
Nick Hutchings , November 8th, 2017 10:01

From the peak of CBGB new wave to the group he calls 'the defining band of the 90s', former Sonic Youth man Lee Ranaldo takes Nick Hutchings through the thirteen albums that shaped his life


John Cage - The 25-Year Retrospective Concert of the Music of John Cage

This record was 1958 and it was already a 25-year retrospective so that means it spans from 1932/3 to 1958! It came to me at the same time as all this new wave stuff and I was really interested in all the stuff Cage was doing with prepared piano, and there’s a bunch of prepared piano on my new record.

Between those pieces and orchestral works for multiple players where Cage was using people banging on metal break drums and stuff, it was really sounding like the gamelan music I was listening to at the same time and I just found it to be super inventive.

John Cage was defining a new way of thinking about music in the 20th century and in a way his definition included all of noise and all of ambient sound and all of these things that became movements for us in the 20th century, like Eno’s whole discreet music and ambient thing; or noise music from extreme harsh Japanese noise to whatever we called Neubaten or what Sonic Youth were doing, if you called that noise music; or the Boredoms or Merzbow which is more extreme, there’s no singing, there’s no guitars, it’s just harsh noise – this music opened the door for all that stuff.

It’s amazing music in it’s own right, and yet some of it also explores really low volume like super quiet aspects of music where background sounds and people coughing – well that’s part of what you’re hearing in the experience too.

So I felt like that record is so important that it defined a gargantuan giant of the 20th Century, which is John Cage, but it defined all these different bits of music that even if people later didn’t realise their music stemmed from that, in some way it did. Everything from 60s onwards, no matter what you were doing outside of rock & roll there was some kind of influence from Cage there.