Outstanding Contemporary Composers of Texas

Outstanding Contemporary Composers of Texas: A Sampler & Comprehensive Study 2LP
(International Contemporary Music Exchange, 1984)

Every now and again, you'll here some grumblie state that all the good records are gone. If they haven't been snatched up by roving collectors, they are priced to unaffordable on the interweb. Poppycock! The key to finding good records is to keep your mind open, your wallet willing, and your eyes askew. In other words: take chances, be willing to spend a few bucks (and by few I mean a few), and look for things beyond what you already know. Here's what I mean:

I walk into a local record store and start digging through vinyl. The place is somewhat legendary because of past finds and clients, but legendary means that it is pretty picked through. Still, good things appear time to time and the staff have their blind spots. So I see this double album in a plain sleeve, Outstanding Contemporary Composers of Texas. It is priced at seven bucks. Seven bucks? Not one dollar, but what they hell. I am sure only a thousand, maybe two were made and most of them are stuck in univeristy music libraries. Could be some good shit on it and, at the very least, I will now know what Texas composers were doing in the 1980s.

That last bit is important. People have come to expect that every record must be a winner that they are unwilling to look at the act of listening to music as one of discovery, of self education. So what if a record sucks, now you know that and why. Or maybe it sucks just a bit. Or maybe it doesn't suck but is a little off-putting because you aren't used to the sounds on it. Or maybe it fucking cracks open you skull and blows your fucking mind. In all cases, you are experiencing something first hand. Your life, your music is not being mediated by a third party (and that includes me).

So there are pretty extensive liner notes that come with these records, but I am not going to rehash them for you. Most of the text is background on the composers and what they were trying to accomplish with what piece.
International Contemporary Music Exchange or ICME is a pretty nifty organization. Though the Seventies and Eighties they produces lots of album by composers who no major label would touch, as well as avant garde giants such as John Cage and Charles Ives.

Note that this collection is a sampler, so some of the songs are excerpts. Fine by me, the sounds are still good.

dear Scott,

I hope I won`t be bothering you with my comment here, but once again you struck a nerve with me. I think you are right that most people are wishy-washy when it comes to their acquired “taste”. Everybody wants to be special and we all want to impress each other with our interesting tastes, but most people, including most bloggers, are lazy and not curious to “find” any kind of culture on their own. They need people like you to hand certified cool stuff to them. And the stuff you discover maybe isn`t before, but it is cool after it passed through your fingers.

I`m always curious to find something that I don`t know yet, because I like to be surprised.
But what I`m really looking for is inspiration. The inspiration to create something myself. And then hopefully surprise others with that.

As much as I enjoy collecting it has its limitations. Of course I have certain guidelines of what I`m looking for. And as much as I`m always trying to escape and re-arrange them from time to time, to collect something you have to have a system, otherwise its just heaps of garbage. And a system creates a habit and the habit kills creativity.
Ultimately collecting stuff that other people made, can never be as creative as creating something yourself anyway.

Maybe one day, when we have turned every stone and discovered every last bit of forgotten popular culture and it`s all been eaten-up and digested, we will start to post our own new creations: our new songs, stories, pictures and movies. Whatever my good intentions with BERLIN BEATET BESTES are to preserve forgotten regional pop culture, I feel really stupid to be distributing some “digital files” around the world. First, because I don`t listen to mp3s myself, so I don`t really care for the product of my labour. And second, all the opinions and personal feelings that I attach to these records, magazines, cartoons and photos will still not make this stuff my own. It´s only a crutch. Until I pick up a pen and a brush…

Thanks for your great blog!

Best wishes
I am in the business of buying and selling collectibles so I have no illusions about collecting as a creative activity. I don't think it is. You can certainly be creative in going about collecting or documenting your activity, but the acquisition of an item itself isn't creative.

While I partially agree with you that you need a system to collect stuff, I don't think it is limited to picking up music (or anything else) of one type or several genres. I think the system can be more abstract than that (looks interesting) or based on practicality (is cheap) or both. Then using taste, quality, or some kind of filter as a guide, you throw out the bad and keep the good. Of course this is always subjective, but that is what makes just accumulating collecting. The reason I advocate cheap is that - even though the garbage is always more than the keepers - it allows one to discover new music on a budget, providing they keep an open mind. --SS
For those interested in seeing a tid-bit of what was going on in the music departments just to the West of Texas at this time (1984).

I don't suppose one of the Texas composers featured on this disc is Fisher Tull? Have loved most of what I've heard of his stuff in the past. (For instance, "The Final Covenant," big thumbs-up)
Okay, I got a little excited and posted before I listened to the samples. I'm thinking Tull's music wouldn't fit in this genre. Still interesting stuff, though--thanks!
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