Bob Ostertag
Selected Press

This page is not exhaustive, nor is it intended to be. It is a collection of a few of the most important or interesting articles from over the years, along with some favorite review quotes. Many more reviews are excerpted in the biography accessible elsewhere on this site.


Favorite Press Quotes

San Francisco Bay Guardian: As beautiful as the pastoral/celestial meditations of Brian Eno or Kitaro -- if either one of those musicians chewed glass.      

Music and Sound Output: Perhaps the oddest music I have ever heard, it's also more the sound of lives lived, and lives lost, than any music I have ever heard. --

Die Zeit: Ostertag did not simply create a political piece but a musical reality, ...great music, a music that has something to do with life again.

Cadence: Truly powerful political art is rare, but this is some.

High Performance: Listening to this piece is like embracing someone who has no skin, a bare mass of nerves and guts and blood, which stain your own clothes when you touch.

Q.U.E.E.R. zine: To say that this has made me radically rethink my use of the word "queer" is an understatement.

Torso: Odd and genius. Like nothing before or after, I promise.      

Keyboard Magazine August: A gleeful savagery, with the droll wit of Satie's piano pieces, the breathless silences of Japanese music, the collaged clutter of Stockhausen's short-wave radio suites, and the political bite of Brecht/Weill songs.

Articles by Bob Ostertag
Leonardo Music Journal Vol. 12, 2002 Human Bodies, Computer Music essay will also appear in forthcoming book, Creative Life
Literaturen Vestnikî 14-20 April, 2994 Human Bodies, Computer Music Bulgarian Translation of English
MusikTexte Number 100, February 2004 Kunst und Politik: Nach dem Elften September essay will also appear in forthcoming book, Creative Life
WOZ March 1999 Gender Improvisieren interview
Ars Electronica 1996 At A Dead End? essay published in the 1996 edition of Ars Electronica. Widely reprinted in many languages, usually with the title Why Computer Music Sucks, which it was given in a reprint which appeared in Resonance.

The New York Times

January 14, 2003
by Jon Parales

"Creating Layered Sounds to Match Layered Animations:
Between Science and Garbage at Merkin Concert Hall"

Junk food and trash were the makings of "Between Science and Garbage" by Bob Ostertag, an electronic composer, and Pierre Hébert, an animator, on Thursday night. The music started with Mr. Ostertag popping the top of a Coke can; he handed the can to Mr. Hébert, who put its image on screen, to be combined with images of a swinging watch, an apple and a computer motherboard that looked like a city seen from the air. There were also drawings that Mr. Hébert made on the spot of a man falling, reaching for the apple or diving into a garbage can.

Meanwhile Mr. Ostertag and his computer layered pop-tops, fizzes, rubber-duck squeaks and the crunch of chips into assemblages that could be sparse and funny. Then he transformed them into thick, rumbling, throbbing soundscapes like distant ominous factories. The imagery grew apocalyptic: a city buried or perhaps bombed, a man perpetually plunging and reappearing. Despite its comic moments, the piece left eerie memories.

April 28, 1992.
by ???????

Bob Ostertag's "All the Rage" turned the evening on its head with a devastating roar of gay anger.  Of recent concert pieces having to do with AIDS, "All the Rage" seems by far the most powerful example.  Mr. Ostertag's stern, purifying gaze has swept away the sentimentality and melodrama that have compromised more famous compositions in the genre.

September 9, 1989.
by ??????

Ostertag's first show at the Knitting Factory, featuring saxophonist John Zorn, opened with a series of intense improvisations.  The show was Ostertag's first performance under his own name in eight years: at one time a regular collaborator on the downtown scene, Mr. Ostertag recently spent time as a journalist.
    Mr. Ostertag was in good humor, and on the opening piece he lowered the pitch of sounds Mr. Zorn had made by playing his instruments in water, transforming them into the intestinal grumblings of a Hollywood monster.  The audience laughed, and Mr. Zorn honked and screeched.
     [The concert finished] in a staccato section that had all the excitement of a funk band, and had the audience cheering.

January 27, 1980.
By ???????.

    Bob Ostertag's improvisations on various non-keyboard synthesizers are about as far removed from the electronic music clichés of the past as can be imagined.  Much synthesizer music still sounds like an imitation of something else -- conventional instruments, natural or machine sounds, and so on.
    But the sounds that go into Mr. Ostertag's music, while they can be exceptionally elusive, seem indigenous to the idiom in which he is working.  They do tend to be sounds rather than pitched melodies, but what comes out is unquestionably music, a shifting, dappled patchwork of sounds that combine in clusters, circle each other in a kind of wary counterpoint and develop into other sounds in a disciplined manner.
    There were moments that faintly suggested birds, moments that suggested warfare, and indescribable overlays that each seemed to carry a specific emotional weight.  An exceptional performance.

English Language
San Francisco Bay Guardian March 13, 1993 Stop the Osterizer, I Want to Get In Derk Richardson
By almost any measure, Bob Ostertag is an extreme radical.  His raw material is the world.  He digs his trowel into the wet cement of everyday life, where nothing is really permanently set, anyway, and plasters it in impressionistic smears and pointillistic dabs across the walls of our perception... His strategies range somewhere between those of John Cage, academic computer musicians, brutally expressive free improvisers, and Che Guevara...
  With entrance into Ostertag's world comes a severe attitude adjustment.  You have to curb your brain, dump your 'common sense' judgments, and peel away the calluses that have built up over the vulnerable core of your senses.  Listening becomes cultural time travel at warp speed.  Time, however, jumps off its linear tracks.  You have to accept  both the simultaneity of your feelings and your hapless  inability to control them.  Scary Stuff.
    Listening to Ostertag can be like looking at an aged oak.  It's as if the same force that turns gnarly bark, twisted trunk, and random crooked branch patterns into a perfect, beautiful tree is transforming these coarse and ostensibly unrelated sounds into music.  The 'music-ness' of Ostertag's work is no less than the 'tree-ness' of the oak; we're just not trained to hear it.
Soho Weekly News 1979 (exact date unknown) Brats in the Musical Playpen Michael Shore
    With the "New Music, New York" series happening at the Kitchen, it is important to note the existence of another experimental music scene.  I'm referring to the wild rebel underbelly of "free" musicians which includes Eugene Chadbourne, John Zorn, and Bob Ostertag.  This is one scene that is below the underground, without even as much established recognition as the established school represented at the Kitchen.
   This music is in a whole new realm.  These guys aren't just peering into the doorway of the unknown: they've taken a flying leap into the Black Hole.  DEVO described their first album as 'The important sound of things falling apart.'  Ha!  They don't even know the half of it.

French Language
Mouvement: Revue Indisciplinaire des Arts Vivants No. 20, Janvier-Février 2003 Le Corps Animé Hervé Joubert-Laurencin on Between Science and Garbage

German Langauge
MusikTexte Number 100, February 2004 Kunst und Politik: Nach dem Elften September Bob Ostertag
MusikTexte Number 100, February 2004 Musik - Moral - Militar: Sampling in Bob Ostertag's Musik Jens Hauser
Schnitt: Das Film Magazin #32 Die Gemalte Projektion interview
Die Zeit August 2, 1991 Zeit zum Horen Konrad Heidkamp
WOZ 1999 Gender Improvisieren interview
Die Zeit May 12, 1995 Komponist im Cyberspace Thomas Meisgang
Jazzthetik (date not clear) Bob Ostertag Christian Clement
Schwabilche Beitung March 26, 1999 Godzilla und John Cage machen gemeinsam Larm Pierre La Qua
Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik May, 1996 Remis der Realitat Peter Niklas Wilson
Wespennes Number 106 Jenseits der Partitur: Bob Ostertag's Klang-Arbeit im elektromagnetishen Feld Peter Niklas Wilson

Favorite Press Quotes (again)

Last Plane to Jakarta:  There is a special pleasure that comes from things that are genuinely fucked up.  Things that only try are one of the late 20th century's greatest annoyances, but things that succeed are one of life's timeless pleasures.  I don't mean bizarre, who's-drugged-the-water-supply things, and I don't mean odd, does-it-really-exist things.  The particular joy I am talking about is reserved for a precious few things in this life, and it's a joy whose expression finds its repose in a face cloudy with disbelief while the mouth attached to it, hanging half-open, slurs: "Whoa, Dude.  That's some enormously fucked-up shit."
    Try putting a whole coconut, shell and all, into a high-powered blender  with its lid off, and then punch the liquefy button.  The ensuing chaos in your kitchen will provide a visual rough equivalent to track 1.  After that things get really weird.
    If you've ever bought a record just because it was too God-damned weird to just let it sit there on the rack getting ignored, you probably ought to pick this one up.