PGR BY DRAEGER G. GUNN
UNSOUND (US): I see mentioned on 'The Flickering of Sowing Time' the term 'extraction' ... This sounds like a term I once heard used in a linguistics class, is there a connection?
KIM CASCONE (KC): Yes, but the connection originated purely on an intuitive level at first, as I wasn't familiar with any of the terminology or concepts of semiotics at the time. it started as a way of working visually where I would draw on tracing paper over coloring books in such a way as to obliterate the original image. I discovered that the drawings for the most part bore no resemblance to the original material and the concept of tracing became very important in my work.
I then started applying it to music where I would take Muzak, slow it down and trace out certain melodies with various instruments. These experiments were interesting but failed to generate any solid material, so I shelved the idea till about two years ago. I had been in the studio messing around with patching delays and things together when all of a sudden these incredibly intricate sound were coming out of the speakers. I checked the signal source only to find it was a dense structure on one track and that I had been pulling these sounds out of it with the set-up.
I found this directly related to my tracing pieces and set out to develop this idea further. I created one solid piece from it called, "In the Shadow of the Lions Cage,' which is on the second album. The connection with semiotics is that both the signal source and the extracted signal have connotative meaning which are determined by the coding of the person listening. It's sort of like an aural Rorschach test.
US: Do you have a audio or visual (or both) background.
KC: I am trained as a musician. I came through a few years at the Berklee College of Music without too many scratches. I hung out at SVA and Parson's in NYC and picked up a lot of information concerning film and painting... hung out at the New School's electronic music studio with Dan McCurdy ... took a few lessons with the guitar player in Ornette Coleman's band ... worked on an installation with Max Neuhaus ... I've been around and have tried to learn about art from people I looked up to.
US: As an artist how do you deal with the aspect of having to package yourself in order to give people a handle with talking about PGR or Thessalonians?
KC: The way media works unfortunately tends to automatically place people in categories such as 'industrial' or 'experimental' or whatever. I mean when this article comes out people expect to see something that fits into the format of this magazine. If this were an article about country and western music it might confuse a lot of readers so I'm 'packaged,' as you call it, just by association I guess.
On the business level I suppose it is the way of the West that everything becomes commodified because we are dealing with a consumer mentality, art is really no exception. There will always be someone exploiting a new style of painting or music because they can capitalize on it. When the artist falls into self-exploitation is when his or her work becomes mediated by outside influences and alienation from the working process sets in, this is what is commonly refered to as 'selling out,' you see it all the time.
There is a state of schizophrenia that an artist must adopt in order to co-exist with the business world, it resembles the idea of a craftsman who would work on his wares and once a month bring them to sell in the village square. The business and creative processes have to be kept separate in order to be efficient as an artist.
US: Aren't there people in the noise scene who exploit the artists, who try to capitalize by running a record company and collect a profit from the record sales? Do you feel that because of your position of being an organizer and businessman that your political ideals take a back seat once in a while?
KC: There are people in the noise scene who carry the same disease as the people involved in rock and roll, but the noise underground contains the element of networking where mainstream music doesn't. This is a core activity which is evidenced in many of the magazines, and keeps a political hierarchy from forming. people want to make contact by sending their music around and getting feedback on it or seeing what others are up to.
In this pool there is an occasional shark or two but that stems from a few people offering services that others need and don't have access to on any other level. As long as we don't have free access to equipment or funding for people who aren't accomplished grant writers by trade we are dealing with a situation of limited access. Socialism isn't going to happen in this country for quite awhile, so until it does I have to learn how to acquire the funds to support culturally 'subversive' activities. In that way I don't feel as if I'm exploiting the artists although you're right in making the connection between the 'commodity' signifying a mediation of the artists work, such as exploitation.
Its a difficult issue in that I sincerely want to let people hear music-sound-noise that I feel is of high quality, but I'm also aware of the connotations of creating a product to be consumed. How does one approach this problem of getting art to the masses? I wrestle with these issues quite a bit.
US: It seems to me that a great parallel exists between your application of semiotics in your musical extractions and your attempts to balance being a socialist and a businessman.
KC: A certain amount of integration is necessary to keep me from being too scattered. I think the interconnectedness of subliminal levels and being in touch with the communications between them is what being an artist who isn't alienated is all about.
US: Is the act of noise music a way for bands to discharge the tension that results from alienation? And does 'noise as catharsis' seem to be a mode noise bands are settled in?
KC: Any art activity serves as a way of channeling or releasing energy ... it serves as a safety valve. But it can also be used as a tool for introspection, by only using it as a means to express catharsis seems to be a very limited application. The mastery of a large vocabulary gives you more tools with which to express a wide range of ideas and feeling. That is a problem with some noise bands, they are limited in their vocabulary and what they have to say becomes monotonous after awhile, or they try to express difficult ideas and don't have the 'chops' to get it across. The action of constantly mirroring the negative aspects of society shouldn't be confused with approaching the problem in a constructive manner.
US: On a more mundane level, what are some of your influences as an artist and describe some of the other projects you are working on presently?
KC: Some projects are Silent Records which just got underway with The Haters Lp being the first and the second is the Architects Office soundtrack piece for Jan Brakhage's play, 'Caswallon the Headhunter', and future projects are a shared Lp by Organum and Eddie Prevost (member of Amm), and a Kings House Lp.
A major influence on my both personally and artistically has been the filmmaker Stan Brakhage, our correspondence has been a source of strength for ... some other influences have been electronic music composers like John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, Cornelius Cardew, and Brian Eno has been a great model for me as an artist. I admire people who do both music and visual art and run a continuity through them both. I've seen some drawings by Glenn Branca that were very beautiful.
Recently I've been playing the guitar again and I've been listening to a lot of Sonny Sharrock, Mayo Thompson, John McLaughlin, Pete Cosey... musicians who mix noise and jazz which is an area I think I'm heading into... we shall see.
Contact: Kim Cascone c/o Silent Records 540 Alabama, Suite 310 San Francisco, CA 94107
PGR Releases: "Time/Amnesia," K-7 w/booklet
'Eight Heads of Cats Forming an Octave,' K-7 live recording from a concert with Hunting Lodge at the Grafitti in San Francisco. 10/18/84
'Revolution of Everyday Life,' K-7 live recording from the 16th Note, 12/18/84. Readings from the book of the same title by Raoul Vaneigem, over an electronic music sound score
'Silence,' Lp, independent release licensed to Silent Records, designed to evoke mental imagery
'Mirage De America,' 10 min. piece on God Bless America, a 3 Lp boxset compilation on RRRecords. A prototype of the later experiments using the process of 'accidental imbrication'
'The Flickering of Sowing Time,' Lp, RRRecords. Further explorations into soundtrack music and 'extractions.' Banned by Rough Trade because of front cover.
'Remembrance,' K-7 compilation The Dog Who Wouldn't Die, CIA Records.
'Gordon Matta Clark,' K-7 compilation The Real Poison, X-Kurzhen
"Organe Accumulatus", K-7, Inner-X label. Written for imbricated cello and electronics.
'Untitled', K-7, group improvisations created on homemade and abused instruments in the style of AMM.
'Denver/Boulder, '86', K-7, recorded live in various venues in Colorado
'The Concentration of Light Prior to Combustion,' K-7, Banned Productions. Shared with PGR, extractions on one side and 'accidental imbrications' on the other.
typed by Cheryl Vega 6-29-95