For the past few years, I have been interested in purchasing 20th-century experimental/classical music on vinyl. The medium of vinyl is important to me because I listen to music differently on vinyl than say through my computer. For me, I like to jump into the aural landscape without being interrupted by words, things, or anything else around me. So, yesterday I purchased an album that I have wanted to hear for awhile now. "Goodbye 20th Century" (a great title by the way, especially since this album was recorded in 1999) is Sonic Youth performing avant-garde classical music by legendary composers. Christian Wolff, Pauline Oliveros, James Tenney, John Cage, Takehisa Kosugi, Yoko Ono, Nicolas Slonimsky, Cornelius Cardew (a composer I want to be more familiar with), George Maciunas, and Steve Reich.
I have the John Cage/Christian Wolff album, which I love. I think that specific album was recorded in the early 1960s, and it's an amazing document. Wolff actually worked with Sonic Youth in the studio for his two recordings on this album. Of all the composers I find him to be the most Cage-like, but that is my take on the sound of his work. I never read an essay on or by him, so I'm very much an amateur listener at this point. "Burdocks" for me is great. Having Christian Marclay on turntables on this track really adds an intensity to the piece. But beyond that, I don't find any weaknesses on this album. The other composer who is on this album, and covered by Sonic Youth is Takehisa Kosugi. It's very much a collaborative work. Besides the fab four, there is Jim O'Rourke (before he officially joined the band), and William Winant among others.
What impresses me is that this is very much of a Sonic Youth album. With guest stars of course. It's interesting to hear a rock band (in theory) covering the territory of the avant-garde. They do so with a large respect for the material but also don't give up the core sound of Sonic Youth. When Kim Gordon gives a vocal, it immediately reminds me of Ennio Morricone's film scores -especially when he scored horror/sexy films from the 1970s. Come to think of it, Morricone would fit like a hand in a glove on this album. An excellent album.