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natewooley on 06/21/2012 at 02:30PM

The League of Automatic Music Composers: Making Wrong So So Right

Tim Perkis, Jim Horton, and John Bischoff, the three key members of the great band and social construct known as the League of Automatic Music Composers

I went to Oakland in January of 2012 to interview the two remaining primary members of the League of Automatic Music Composers, John Bischoff and Tim Perkis.  I was mostly familiar with their solo work before starting my job at DRAM.  Tim is one of the greatest improvising electronicist in the US, working with John Butcher, Gino Robair, ROVA, and others.  Bischoff creates beautifully constructed, almost sculptural works of electronic sound. Although I had spent time with recordings of both of them, it did nothing to prepare me for the late 1970s work they had embarked on with Jim Horton and the LAMC.

The League was one of those rare instances where a group of people came together with no initial goal of production.  They didn't initially form to make recordings or tour. They simply wanted to see what they could do with a couple of early Kim1 computers and a mess of wires. Three guys seeing what would happen if you did the "wrong" thing, as Perkis put it in our interview.

This is the kind of group that has always inspired me.  I could be overly romantic and call it a bunch of guys in search of the truth, but that wouldn't even be it.  This is a group of people that weren't out for the truth, nor were they initially out to change music.  All they wanted was to see what happened if you plugged this thing into that thing. 

This may be hyperbole, but it's the "let's see what happens" attitude of these kinds of groups that DOES change the world.  That's totally exciting and something that I constantly hope is still deeply ingrained in the American psyche: the ability to give up the non-essential desires of producing anything but maintaining a profound desire to experiment.  It's what gets us somewhere as a culture and it's vitally important.

That is what the second issue of our quarterly journal Sound American is about, groups of people coming together to see what happens if they do things "wrong", be it the technological experimentation of the LAMC, the brutal honesty of the BSC and its desire to find a large group improvisational language, or the ability of Shinkoyo Collective to shift and change their business model during a time of great turbulence in the art world.

Sound American is proud to accentuate the work of these kinds of collectives, not only because they are interesting and inspiring as social collectives, but because their fucking music sounds GREAT!  If it was simply a group of people getting together to posit ideas on how they could approach extending the limits of what they do, or putting their ideas into a half-assed practice than it would be a pointless exercise.  With all three collectives, however, they have not only found different ways to communicate and operate efficiently as a group, but they've been artistically very successful, and that deserves praise and attention.

Please visit our new quarterly for interviews with members of Shinkoyo, a podcast of the interview with Tim Perkis and John Bischoff mentioned above, and excerpts of the great new publication BSC: Manual, as well as streaming "mixtapes" of the music of each group and the opportunity to donate money and get an individual subscription to DRAM (which now comes with some great gifts!)

Also, in that spirit of networking, follow us on twitter @SoundAmerican and like our facebook page

It may not change the world, but it's a start.

Oakland One is the first in a series of pieces featuring Jim Horton, Tim Perkis and John Bischoff from 1980.  It is found on the New World Records release The League of Automatic Music Composers 1978-1983.  DRAM is also pleased to announce the addition of the full cassette archive (12 full albums worth ) of the LAMC's output, the only place where you can hear this music in it's entirety.



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