Artist-Musicians, Musician-Artists

3 Interlinking noises and performative elements

Busoni also initiated a radical new approach to musical material at the latest with his noted treatise Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst (Sletch of a New Esthetic in Music; 1907), in which he argued that the development of musical art also necessitated the development of new musical instruments that went beyond the model of the chromatic keyboard. Finally, the incorporation of noises into musical art, which above all is associated with the efforts of Busoni’s pupil Luigi Russolo (1885–1947), opened up the perspective in a particular way to the other artistic genres. The futurist painter and composer Russolo had theoretically justified ‘noise music’ in 1913 in his Manifesto dell’arte dei rumori (Manifesto on the Art of Noises) and in 1916 in his volume L’Arte dei rumori (The Art of Noise).[5] Together with the painter Ugo Piatti he constructed so-called intonarumori — noise generators that had the characteristics of sculptures. John Cage (1912–1992) also worked with technical media apparatus such as radios and record players, whose use transgressed the boundaries of traditional interpretation and highlighted the performative, situational character of concerts. An important aspect here was the unpredictability and/or indeterminability created by the use of media and of random processes in the practice of composition itself. In addition, Cage deliberately sought collaboration with artists from other disciplines for different projects, such as the painter Robert Rauschenberg and the dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, for example in the group Experiments in Art and Technology, whose performances (e.g., Nine Evenings; 1966) were perceived as breaking new ground in associations between technology, visual arts, and music.

These approaches were continued in concept art and the Fluxus movement, in which works were dematerialized and became increasingly independent of materials, techniques, media, and genres. As a result, forms of expression were developed that defied any specific categorization in the traditional genres and, for example, combined musical and visual elements in the performative act.[6]

Exemplary for this trend is Nam June Paik, who, proceeding from his musical background, worked in and with different media, experimenting, for example, with audiotape, television, and video. At the same time, he carried forward the actionist approach and also incorporated destructive elements into his compositions, for example in One for Violin Solo (1962), in which he smashed a violin on a table in a kind of ritualistic act.

His long-standing, almost symbiotic collaboration with Charlotte Moorman, who, following a traditional career as an instrumentalist for the American Symphony Orchestra increasingly turned to performance art in the 1960s, was also interdisciplinary.

Another media transgressor is Tony Conrad, who in the 1960s implemented minimalist concepts both in musical and visual form and at the same time explored the materiality of each respective media from its fringe.[7] He explored his interdisciplinary interest in mathematical, harmonious relationships initially as a member of the group Theatre of Eternal Music, to which John Cale and La Monte Young also belonged, and later in his radical film The Flicker (1966).[8]

In addition, Conrad is apparently responsible for the name of the legendary band The Velvet Underground.[9]

Andy Warhol’s interdisciplinary activities culminated in a sense in his collaboration with The Velvet Underground. In the Factory, Warhol, who had already made a name for himself in the 1950s as a commercial artist and then turned primarily to screen print and film in the 1960s, created a location that gradually became a meeting place for actors, musicians, painters, and dancers, and took over the occasional management of the band The Velvet Underground. In 1966, he staged a series of multimedia happenings entitled Exploding Plastic Inevitable that featured, in addition to the band, slide and film projections, and dancers. After he had engaged the German model Christa Päffgen as a singer, he produced, designed, and marketed her debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico, which was released in 1967.[10] Thus, Warhol not only became the personification of the link between pop culture and the art world but also a multiple-personality artist of the kind that would become typical in the decades that followed.