Variations is an eight part radio podcast series on the history of musical collage, traced through the last hundred years of musical development. It is also frequently presented as a one to three hour long lecture / colloquium with audio examples. The original series was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona.


Morton Feldman's remark that "The degree to which a music's notation is responsible for much of the composition itself is one of history's best-kept secrets" referred to the medium of sheet music. But the comment is just as true now that the site of the musical composition has migrated from written notation to the captured recording. The creative process of modern music production is revealed to the listening audience in the form of collage and sampling music precisely through its use of familiar materials; through a demonstration of how known compositions and sounds can be transformed, the tools used by all sound engineers to construct modern popular music are made transparent.

Although there is nothing new at all in the practice of using pre-existing musical material as the basis for a new composition, the use of sound recordings challenge the paradigm of the individual creator which was enabled by the advent of written notation. Sound records provide a more accurate document of communal influences and multiple authorship, leading to a music with a new and audible ideology, which is increasingly in direct conflict with the concept of intellectual property. Setting examples from both formal art music practioners alongside million-selling popular music experiments with collage from novelty singles to disco and hip-hop, this lecture charts the development of a creative practice which is now so prevalent as to have become nearly invisible, even though its key messages have yet to be widely understood.

The original series is available for streaming or download at the Radio Web MACBA archives.

The lecture has been presented at the following institutions:

10 October 2007 - Zeena Parkins' class, Mills College
2 October 2009 - Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona
19 October 2009 - Laeticia Sonami's class, Stanford University
21 October 2009 - Kota Ezawa's class, California College of the Arts
7 November 2009 - Artist Television Access
10 November 2009 - Craig Baldwin's class, UC Davis
3 August 2010 - Evolution Control Committee's Spirit of Plaid (Radio)
22 September 2010 - Peabody Conservatory, Johns-Hopkins University
29 September 2010 - Laetitia Sonami's class, SF Art Institute
11 October 2010 - Songlines Lecture Series, Mills College
28 October 2010 - Zachary Watkins' class, UC Santa Cruz
29 March 2011 - Zeena Parkins' class, Mills College
13 April 2011 - CCRMA Colloquium, Stanford University
11 October 2011 - Bruce Bennett's class, San Francisco State University
1 November 2011 - Bob Ostertag's class, UC Davis

For inquiries about the lecture, contact [email protected]