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Baker's Dozen

No Music: A Baker’s Dozen with Alva Noto
Ollie Zhang , February 21st, 2018 10:30

From Laurie Anderson’s United States Live to Meredith Monk’s Dolmen Music, Carsten Nicolai tells Mollie Zhang about 13 records that shaped his musical backbone. Photo by Andrey Bold


John Cale - Music For A New Society
I love this record and I don’t understand why it’s not available anymore. Maybe the most important thing about it isn’t the experimental tracks, but also the title. Music For A New Society - of course back then, I lived in East Germany, so the idea of a ‘new society’ was very vivid. We were all looking for a new society, so to make a record with this title was very bold! In the end, I took this very seriously, “okay, these aren’t ‘just’ songs. This is a vision of what Cale imagines to be a new society.” I found this interesting and inspiring.

What was your interpretation of that new society?

I wasn’t necessarily trying to interpret it; when I grew up in East Germany, everything was always interpreted in one way or other and funneled into propaganda. I didn’t want to translate the record into a slogan or something like that. I was more interested in the atmosphere of the record, and what it left as a trace in me after I’d listen to it. For me, it left a lot of questions.

I listened to it loads - in the beginning, I didn’t like it. After listening to it over and over again (maybe I did this because I felt like I couldn’t really understand what he was trying to say with this record) it became something else. Back then, we had so much time, so we could listen to something over and over again while trying to understand it. This was my first John Cale record, and for me he was very connected to it. When I later discovered his more song-oriented writing, I was shocked that he was such a brilliant songwriter, because this record wasn’t about that, for me.