Canadian composer, saxophonist, and sound collage artist John Oswald is best known for his plunderphonics, which involves using samples of existing recordings to create a new work. A year before Negativland got sued for their U2 EP, in 1990, Oswald's most notorious recording, plunderphonics, was destroyed by prudes in the Recording Industry representing one of the many sample sources: Michael Jackson. He has since released recordings on Elektra, Avant, ReR Megacorp, Blast First, & Swell, featuring transformations of the music and performances of Stravinsky, Metallica, James Brown, György Ligeti, Dolly Parton & many others. A box-set CD & book retrospective of his plunderphonics work has just been released on the ONY label.
Oswald is Director of Research at Mystery Laboratory in Canada, and Musical Director of the North American Experience. Since the early 70ties he has composed, directed and produced various works for radio, film, theater and opera including collaborations with Micheal Snow, the Kronos Quartet, The Penderecki Quartet, the Monaco Balett and others.
His new work Spinvolver - developed in cooperation with Susanna Hood - is a performance relative of Plunderphonics taking familiar music and making it strangely familiar. Spinvolver is part lecture, part opera, part rave, part cinema for the ears: Spinvolvement is the signal, audio or otherwise, derived electrically, magnetically, and acoustically from the rotation of devices like the turntable, the tape recorder (reel-to-reel, cassette, 8-track, DAT), the disks compact (a.k.a. CD) hard drive and mini, as well as most of the cinematic variations of this media. We are now at the cusp of motionless time storage. From now on reflections of time will increasingly be stored in the fixed media of solid state, memory chips, bubble memory, liquid memory - soon the transmission of the memory of sound will cease to spin.