UbuWeb is an free resource that embraces experimental music, as well as other streams of what they term the avant-garde. That term isn’t the one I would choose for what they offer, but I’m not sure I could come up with a better one. In any case, the content is fantastic, and it is very relevant to the themes I’m exploring here at sound expanse.
Recently I’ve gotten interested in projects carried out with an open source methodology. Project Gutenberg (a library of over 25,000 free ebooks) was quite helpful to me as I looked up some William James quotes for my dissertation last September. I clicked on a banner ad, and quickly got involved in PG’s virtual back room, Distributed Proofreaders. The skills and conversations (not to mention the friendships) that have developed through this volunteer work have opened my eyes to other great work that is happening that has no basis in traditional currency. Here’s a relevant excerpt from UbuWeb’s FAQs.
How do I purchase something from your site?
You can’t. Nothing is for sale on UbuWeb. It’s all free. We know it’s a hard idea to get used to, but there’s no lush gift shop waiting for you at the end of this museum.
In fact, the whole site is a lush gift shop, with the singular omission of a cash register. Everything is available to see, hear, or download.
In Aspen: The multimedia magazine in a box, you’ll find:
- John Cage’s How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse)
- Morton Feldman’s The King of Denmark
- Max Neuhaus’s realization of Cage’s Fontana Mix
- an entire Fluxus issue
- an article on the potential nature of music by La Monte Young that I wish I had found when I was writing a paper on him, followed by a striking Terry Riley score excerpt, in The Psychedelic Issue
In the incredible Publishing the Unpublishable series, you’ll find Tom Johnson‘s The Voice of New Music, a collection of his Village Voice reviews from 1972-1982. It is fine writing, coming from a standpoint of experience, knowledge, and interest.
The list of artists in UbuWeb: Sound will look very different from my set of links, and there are good reasons for that. I’m planning on delving into these links in any case, but here is the explanation for the difference:
Originally focusing on Sound Poetry proper, UbuWeb’s Sound section has grown to encompass all types of sound art, historical and contemporary…Categories include Dadaism, Futurism, early 20th century literary experiments, musique concrete, electronic music, Fluxus, Beat sound works, minimalist and process works, performance art, plunderphonics and sampling, and digital glitch works, to name just a few. As the practices of sound art continue to evolve, categories become increasingly irrelevant, a fact UbuWeb embraces. Hence, our artists are listed alphabetically instead of categorically.
I can’t recommend the site highly enough. If I have any objection to it at all, it’s that huge treasures are hidden behind tiny links. Sometimes I wish the scale of their offerings was at least partially visible on the front page. But when you walk into an enormous library, you know there will be some research and careful browsing involved. One discovery will lead to another. Why not approach UbuWeb in the same way?
Here’s one of thousands of examples of what UbuWeb has to offer: footage of a live performance by Maja Ratkje in Paris in 2005.