Broken Music

Milan Knížák

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Broken Music Review

by François Couture

When Broken Music was first released in 1979 on the microscopic label Multhipla, it went by largely unnoticed. Its CD reissue in 2002 by Ampersand forced a reappraisal of Milan Knizak's pioneering work, especially in the wake of his followers Christian Marclay and Martin Tétreault. The five pieces presented here all consist of Knizak's modified LPs being played (on one or two turntables it seems). He cut them up and glued unrelated pieces together, pasted pieces of paper on them, scratched them, painted them -- anything to destroy the medium and subvert its original contents to create new sounds. The needle hops, skips, falls into the holes of this Swiss cheese of a record, and eventually self-destructs. As if all that wasn't enough, Knizak also tampers with the playback speed. Nothing is sacred: classical music, religious music, jazz, rock, or pop -- any recorded work is susceptible to be submitted to the torture chamber. The sound quality is often terrible -- and not only because of the mutilated artifacts. The technique used to record the record players must have been primitive. Then again, Knizak was not making nice, comfortable music, so its gritty, lo-fi quality fits the sound terrorist aesthetic perfectly. Anyone interested in the works of Marclay and other post-postmodern turntablists should listen to Broken Music, if only to understand that listeners need to set the beginnings of the cut-and-paste way of life a few years back.

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