“ … to consider the Song Books as a work of art is nearly impossible. Who would dare? It resembles a brothel, doesn’t it?”  – John Cage.

Volume 3 in the Perihel series on Karlrecords is dedicated to one of the most iconic composers of 20th century: John Cage. All 92 pieces of the “Song Books” are stunning interpretations by Reinhold Friedl, recorded at Rashad Becker’s Clunk Studio who also contributed live electronics.

John Cage (1912-1992) is one of the most important composers in modern music: with more than 250 compositions, many of which are considered key works of New Music, and theoretical essays on composition he significantly changed the way we think about and perceive music today.

kr029_frontBut CAGE not only left a major impact in the academic world, he is also cited as an important inspiration by a wide range of diverse musicians from a younger generation, be it electronic producers or experimental and noise artists.

Cage’s “Song Books”, published 1970 in three volumes, is a collection of open works that contains not only songs but a strange hybrid collection of compositions, graphic scores, meditation rules, experimental settings, absurd musical instructions, performance settings, musical references, and Fluxus-inspired actions such as eating fruits or drinking cognac (apparently, Cage loved whiskey and cognac).

Fluxus was a loosely organized group of artists that spanned the globe, but had an especially strong presence in New York City. “In Fluxus there has never been any attempt to agree on aims or methods; individuals with something unnameable in common have simply naturally coalesced to publish and perform their work. Perhaps this common thing is a feeling that the bounds of art are much wider than they have conventionally seemed, or that art and certain long established bounds are no longer very useful.” – George Brecht

So, like the Futurists and Dadaists before them, Fluxus artists did not agree with the authority of museums to determine the value of art, nor did they believe that one must be educated to view and understand a piece of art. Fluxus not only wanted art to be available to the masses, they also wanted everyone to produce art all the time. It is often difficult to define Fluxus, as many Fluxus artists claim that the act of defining the movement is, in fact, too limiting and reductive.

I believe that “Complete Song Books” is not a work of art – it is the work of an artistic movement.

There is no beauty in the scores of this work – yet – I love this beautiful recording.

When Reinhold Friedl (director of the ensemble Zeitkratzer) entered the Clunk Studio to record the whole cycle with Rashad Becker (who handled the feedback cabinet and live electronics), the idea was quite simple: to approach each single piece in an informal way but to do all 92 pieces in the right order.

What came out in the end is a kaleidoscopic lecture and interpretation of the compositions with the help of a strange mixture of ancient and modern tools: new electronics, old and special microphones, self-built instruments, arbitrary garbage sounds, sophisticated live-electronics devices, quotes … “Complete Song Books” turns out to be an early hymn for sonic freedom, a sonic promenade full of beautiful references. “Complete Song Books” is like falling in love with a prostitute.

You can read more about his record at www.karlrecords.net – due out on November 18th 2016.


All music composed by John Cage

Constructed by Reinhold Friedl

Performed by

  • Reinhold Friedl: voice, toys, wooden games, metal objects, complex objects, microphones, garbage, …
  • Rashad Becker: feedback cabinet, live electronics

Mastered & cut at D&M, Berlin

Artwork by Lillevan