This past weekend, I was part of two music events. The first, was a five hour concert I helped organize celebrating 100 years since the birth of John Cage — probably the most influential composer of the 20th century. The second found me at the Long Center in the audience of a Sunday evening performance by the amazing Country Music hall-of-famer Glen Campbell. He is on his final world tour at the age of 76. I was the only one on my row who didn’t qualify for the senior discount at Furr’s Cafeteria.
Both sides of this spectrum can be found represented in an online playlist I was asked to compile by the UT Visual Arts Center. It released to the public today.
This is not a playlist of ironic detachment. I honestly love all this music. One half, I first heard when I was a kid; played over the car stereo on family vacations, grocery stores, dentist offices, and yes… elevators. Streaming from heavily automated middle-of-the-road FM radio stations all over the country, this is music nearly every American was exposed to. The other half, I painstakingly unearthed as a young adult in the stacks of fine arts libraries and obscure sections of small record stores. Demanding of your ears and difficult to commodify, this is music you rarely hear about. In a whiplash inducing alternation, one selection was chosen from each half, for every year over two decades. We begin in 1959, a the dawn of a very active decade for American Experimentalism; and end in 1979 when Billboard Magazine re-branded it’s “Easy Listening” chart as “Adult Contemporary” — soft rock was ascendant. Seemingly a million genre-miles apart, yet somehow, in a strange conversation with each other here. Despite the fact that several of the longer Avant Garde pieces are excerpts, this playlist is almost as long as “Lawrence of Arabia” and not for the impatient!
Glen Campbell & John Cage