Montage of Heck
November 3, 2014 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Newly unearthed — and not for the faint of heart — Kurt Cobain 's 1988 experimental sonic collage / mixtape, Montage of Heck. Recorded on a four-track cassette recorder when he was 21. Here's some notes on what you're listening to. And Consequence of Sound has additional info. Not recommended for work speakers, probably. What if this had started the alternative revolution instead of Nevermind?
posted by naju (14 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
(None of the articles are very clear on this, but it appears as though this recording has been circulating for a while, and has only now gained wider awareness.)
posted by naju at 11:41 AM on November 3, 2014

Sweet bloody cheebus, this is fantastic listening.

Yes, there is a lot of rhythmic puking and toilets flushing but if you can hear past that and imagine Kurt hunched over a 4-track piecing this together like the Orson Welles of rock it is mind-blowingly good.
posted by carsonb at 11:55 AM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

What if this had started the alternative revolution instead of Nevermind?

What if Revolution 9 started the alternative—nevermind....
posted by carsonb at 11:56 AM on November 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Always loved the brief montage in front of "Love Buzz" on the 45. I'll have to check this out.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:57 AM on November 3, 2014

Audio collage like this is nothing new, this one is only getting recent internet attention due to it's creator later becoming famous, and then later becoming dead while famous. I mean, it's unique, but don't think that Cobain was creating some great art movement here that was ignored.

To his credit Cobain did seek out William Burroughs. There's an ocean to absorb out there about Burroughs' cutup technique collaborations with Brion Gysin. But even then they are just one rich vein in a deep mineshaft of audio collage.
posted by Catblack at 12:01 PM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Senator, I made mixtapes. I knew mixtapes. I made a mixtape for a friend of mine. Senator, you're no mixtape.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:23 PM on November 3, 2014

humboldt32, Consequence of Sound clarifies their use of the term:
“Mixtape” is in quotes there because it’s not so much a mix as a collage of noises, sounds, and snippets compiled from Cobain’s extensive collection, the radio, and other sources.
Musique concrète is the term generally applied to this sort of audio sampling, and it was broadly theorized back in the late 1920s, and came to life in the 1940s.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:30 PM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

There is some precedence in calling this a mix. Williams Mix by Cage is the first that comes to mind but there are certainly more.
posted by lownote at 12:56 PM on November 3, 2014

Oh yeah, "What if this had started the alternative revolution" was totally a joke. I think this is great but I'm aware it's part of a rich tradition of sound collage, etc.
posted by naju at 12:59 PM on November 3, 2014

I was going to just post that if the word they chose needs quotes and clarification, they should have just chosen a better word. All the social media posts I've seen are now picking up on that poorly chosen word. Of course "Musique concrete" would be less effective than "mixtape" in the lowest common denominator world of social media.

I decided to make a humorous (to me at least) quip instead.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:24 PM on November 3, 2014

Nirvana fanatics know about Montage Of Heck, and apparently there are two different versions:
  • a long stereo version (about 36 minutes long)
  • a short mono version (about 8 min long).
Some material in the short version isn't on the long version, and vice versa.

For instance, the clip of a Nirvana song referred to as "The Landlord" -- where Krist sings that "the landlord is a piece of shit from hell!" -- only appears in the short version.

The two versions are mixed very differently. In the long version, layers of sound move around in two speakers. The short version tends to highlight certain sounds by themselves, rather then presenting them as layers.
That site also lists more than 50 sources "featured and/or hidden" in either of the two versions.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:25 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cool link! It's part of the FPP :)
posted by naju at 2:38 PM on November 3, 2014

Arglebargle, sorry 'bout that, and your first comment clarifies that this isn't really new new, but newly publicized on the 'net at large.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:10 AM on November 4, 2014

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