John Cage, Cowboy Surf Shop, and Garage Jazz

John Cage was the first garage musician, freeing music at once from the academy, from high culture, from ubiquitous radios, from naturalism – from preconceived notions of what sounds should sound like. Cage valued sounds; he desired sounds, required sounds. Cage captured sounds he found in his environment and remixed them in his garage, creating a philosophy of music that encouraged listeners to experiment, restoring sound to primeval element. Cage’s music is not devoid of sentimentality, and heralds both warnings and callings – electronic blasts to the chest, bees dancing in the labyrinths of our ears.


We are anxious to hear the sounds we make, our own voice, which we hear in unison, subverting our self-consciousness. The echo, reverb, was the first natural recording. Garage Band allows us to extend the range of our voice, format, and get loopy – all Cageian values. We’ve been listening for a long, long time; how much training do we require?


Cowboy Surf ShopJohn Linker’s Cowboy Surf Shop employs his various interests – folk, alternative, literature, surfing, and playing guitar as something to do with your hands. In one piece, “Rock ‘n Roll Eden,” a Lou Reed cover, we hear a voice reading from Jack London (Jack’s ranch, in the Valley of the Moon, is not too far from John’s place). A diversion from teaching duties, John’s project is a demo, a rough draft, experimenting with loops, voice-overs, a variety of instruments (sans drums – bass picks up both rhythm and percussion), and improvisation on covers and originals.


When in the Army in the late 60’s we used to hang around the motor pool after hours playing guitar. Spec. 4 Martin, who had worked at Fender, offered this criticism: “You never play the same thing the same way.” As we’ve discussed, Cage was not a jazz fan, but what we require now is garage jazz, inviting thought: what is garage; what is jazz.


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