Ubuweb may not be an ordinary sound archive, precisely because Kenneth Goldsmith is no ordinary archivist. He himself is quick to refer to his lack of training in the field as both a disadvantage and a strength, and the sum of the two produced the amateur immediacy that made it possible to create and develop such an ambitious repository, conceived and managed outside of the usual channels. Ubuweb has always been a true reflection of Goldsmith’s personality and way of looking at the world, and this becomes apparent in this personal reconstruction of a lifetime of sound collecting. Starting with childhood memories of his grandfather’s book collection, Goldsmith looks back over the path that began with him as an avid music consumer and led him to (or to better understand) his obsessive dedication to the ‘accumulation of cultural artefacts’ and ultimately to founding Ubuweb.
Goldsmith remains aloof from some of the practices traditionally associated with music and sound collecting, and chooses abundance over rivalry and exclusivity, the content of records over their appearance or condition, so that listening is stripped of many of its tangential elements (what William Bennett calls ‘transparent concessions’). Goldsmith’s personal history as a collector is essentially the history of the disintegration of the object, which plays out in parallel to the evolution of sound media and the emergence of the digital networks, in which the values and interests of this accidental archivist and poet find their natural habitat. From Howlin’ Wolf to Joseph Beuys, from the Beatles to People Like Us, the deconstruction of Goldsmith’s collections sheds light on his tendency to continue to stockpile beyond the limits of the humanly graspable, his interest in eccentricity and the unexpected that pays no heed to artistic genres, and his incurable obsession with sharing with his peers.
This music selection is a teaser for the MEMORABILIA. Collecting sounds with… Kenneth Goldsmith lecture, which took place on April 20th, 2012 at the MACBA, and features some of the highlights of Goldsmith’s collection.
03.08.2012 (7′ 48”)
We dig up some unreleased fragments of
the interview with sound collector Kenneth Goldsmith that we were unable to include the first time around.
00:00 Extravagant records in the collection
00:47 Quality in Ubuweb
03:48 The Burroughs affair
06:27 Standards on the web
Music selected by Kenneth Goldsmith. Mix produced by Roc Jiménez de Cisneros
This is a collection of various strange bumpers that I used on my WFMU radio show, which ran from 1996–2010. Many of them became weekly signature sounds signifying for many listeners that it was time to turn off the radio for the next three hours. My show – known variously over the years as ‘Unpopular Music’ or ‘Anal Magic’ – was perhaps the most-hated show ever broadcast on WFMU. I have over a thousand bumpers, but for this podcast, I’ve selected about 40 of the best ones. Sometimes, I would do three hour radio shows, just stringing together one bumper after another. Most of these clips are of indeterminate origin, grabbed willy-nilly over the course of fifteen years, snagged from various LPs, cassette tapes, CDs and gems plucked from Napster.