Marvin Lin on the Proliferation of Electrical Currents

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Marvin Lin is the editor-in-chief of Tiny Mix Tapes, a webzine dedicated to new music and film. His book on Radiohead's "Kid A" was published as part of the 33 1/3 book series in which writers and musicians take a deep dive into a classic album. His Mixtape tours the history of electronic music, from Duchamp to Matmos.

Lin writes the following of his Mixtape:

With the exception of Marcel Duchamp's 1.3 voices, a landmark piece based on chance operations from 1912-1915 (pre-dating John Cage's indeterminacy by over 35 years), this mix of "contemporary classical" music could also simply be called a mix of "electronic music." To me, the story of music in the 20th and 21st centuries is also a story about the flow and proliferation of electrical currents, and it was expressed with great passion and meticulous trial and error in the classical tradition, where oscillations, filters, sweeps, loops, samples, and manipulated tape overshadowed bowing, blowing, plucking, and strumming.

Several of the artists here, working alongside an otherwise postwar modernist tradition, are early practitioners of electronic music: towering figures like Pierre Henry and Xenakis, and slightly lesser-knowns like Japanese composer Toshiro Mayuzumi and Egyptian composer/electronic music godfather Halim El-Dabh. Then, of course, there is the United States' John Cage and his Imaginary Landscapes series, whose early appropriation techniques surely influenced the compositions I chose from Terry Riley and Steve Reich, both of whom were conducting not orchestras, but wild tape experiments that resonate on a much deeper level with today's avant-garde than, say, In C and Drumming.

Other artists on the mix continue, exaggerate, and expand upon these techniques, such as Christian Marclay's proto-Plunderphonic turntable experiments (I picked "Johann Strauss," but he also has a great track called "Frederic Chopin") and John Oswald's post-CD "Mad Mod-Jelly Bellafonte" monstrosity (who also has great Plunderphonic [per]versions of Stravinsky and Beethoven compositions). The rest of the artists are newer, with Graham Lambkin invading public-domain classical works from the radio, Chuck Person (a.k.a. Daniel Lopatin) "eccojamming" YouTube pop songs, and electronic duo Matmos giving French Baroque composer François Couperin the old Wendy Carlos treatment.


Graham Lambkin - Intro
Christian Marclay - Johann Strauss
Halim El-Dabh - Wire Recorder Piece
Terry Riley - The Gift (part 1)
Toshiro Mayuzumi - Y
Chuck Person - B4
Steve Reich - Come Out
John Oswald - Mad Mod-Jelly Bellafonte
Pierre Henry - Divinites irritees
John Cage - Imaginary Landscapes No. 4
Marcel Duchamp - 1.3 voices
Iannis Xenakis - Diamorphoses
Matmos - Les Folies Francaises