Christian Marclay
Guy Lochhead, 27/12/10
American experimental musician best-known for his work manipulating turntables and records. Marclay has his roots in punk rock, and his first turntable experiements came from substituting a drummer in his punk band for the rhythmic skipping of an LP. He studied art and was particularly interested in Joseph Bueys and Fluxus performances – influences that can be seen in the tangibility and humour of his work. As well as cutting up and gluing together records and using turntables in unexpected ways, he performs live improvisations and exhibits visual art in galleries. Marclay’s work with the turntable is often grouped with the hip hop “turntablism” that was also being pioneered at around the same time. The problem with this pairing is that they occur in different contexts and backgrounds, with very different intentions. Marclay’s approach is rooted in his art education. Hip hop made people dance (simplistic but essentially, originally, true). A lot of Marclay’s pieces wind up as “art jokes”, with a few exalting reference points. This doesn’t mean they’re bad – a lot of his pieces look and sound funny, and they’re as aurally interesting as any other analogue noise music, but, for me, it’s strange that he hasn’t “moved on” from vinyl to make pieces playing on the transcience and fragility of contemporary music in the way he originally, excitingly did with records. He’s said it’s harder to manipulate CDs, but Markus Popp and other glitchers seem to have managed. The plunderphonic aspects of his work don’t have the same cohesion and literacy as John Oswald, People Like Us or even early Cassetteboy. He’s stuck with the avant-old-guard (see what I did there?!), doing extended free impro. jams with Thurston Moore and John Zorn. Since staying with his old approach, he’s got a bit.. dated. The fucked up records still look cool, and they do still teach us some things about valuing music/recordings but I don’t see why that stuff should be tied to this particular exponent of it, who was neither the first nor the best. Having written all this, I think Marclay’s fucked up records have a huge potential appeal to children, because they look great, must be great fun to make, let you hear the results of your interference immediately, and gently introduce you to a different way of appreciating music/noise. For this reason, I want to involve a similar approach to that sort noise collage-making in lessons I will hopefully take as a primary schoolteacher. What great lessons they will be! ….So I suppose I should include him actually… But only for that. Damn.

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