Originally published at A CLOSER LISTEN
It was previously believed that he had ceased recording when he stopped releasing music, but it was recently discovered that he continued to compose music for several more years. Last year, Punctum Press released a fascinating book dedicated to the late Minóy, accompanied by a companion CD and cassette of unreleased and previously unknown recordings.
In addition to an incredibly prolific collection of solo work (numbering over 100 releases), his collaborators over the years included If, Bwana (Bwannoy), Agog (No Mail On Sundays), PBK (Disco Splendor), Zan Hoffman (Minóy\Zannóy), Dave Prescott (PM), Not 1/2 (El Angel Exterminador), and many many others.
This episode of Everything is Real Radio features one of those collaborators, the equally prolific Al Margolis (If, Bwana), as well the editor of the Minóy book, Joseph Nechvatal, who joined in by telephone. Nechvatal founded the Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine in 1983, and has become known for both his art and critical writing, including the thought-provoking study Immersion into Noise. The guests talk about first encountering Minóy’s unique sound world and their experiences working with him and corresponding with him. Whether you’re a longtime fan or have never heard of the man, do yourself a favor and have a listen.
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In the ‘70s Minóy had previously been working with super-8 film, but by 1980 felt his work had hit a proverbial wall. By happenstance, he discovered an open call for a mail art exhibition (no jury, everything accepted), marking an introduction to “the Eternal Network” of Mail Art, eventually leading him to trade homemade tapes and finally releasing in somewhat more official channels.
Even amongst the fiercely creative and idiosyncratic work produced in this scene, Minóy’s music stands out for its captivating and beautifully imaginative soundscapes. While his work is by no means easy listening, there is nonetheless a welcoming aesthetic quality, an invitation to share in this very human space. Punctum has done a valuable service in reintroducing Minóy to a new generation, and the texts in the book not only shine a light on the life of the artist himself, but raise many issues that will be of broader interest.
It is of course impossible to make generalizations about the oeuvre of such a prolific artist. At times Minoy’s compositions are austere and droning, at others almost whimsical in their multi-layered interactions, and at times angry and harsh. Though his work may find commonalities with proto-industrial, industrial, and noise artists, he can’t be comfortably confined to any such categories. This is often the case with cassette culture artists, working in isolation and yet engaged in a collaborative feedback loop with like-minded participants, giving the work of many artists in the network aspects of both familiarity and idiosyncrasy. Somewhat akin to techno / dance culture in this regard, yet the solitary creation and generally solitary reception (listening) of cassette culture marks an important difference. Even when broadcast through an inherently social medium such as radio. I think this relationship, one that celebrates the unique perspective of each artist while also blurring the author function (as in add-and-pass practices of Mail Art) is fundamental to understanding the enduring appeal of much of this work.
Joseph Nechvatal, himself an intriguing theorist and composer (who collaborated with Rhys Chatham on an underground opera in the downtown scene of ’80s NY), contributes much to this book, describing his initial encounter with his work and how they came to collaborate. Nechvatal founded the Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine in 1983 along with curator Claudia Gould (now of the Jewish Museum) and Carol Parkinson, a composer and staff member of Harvestworks/Studio PASS. “As for most others,” Nechvatal relates, “Minóy first came into my realm of awareness in the mail. I never met the man. Out of the blue I received in my Lower East Side mailbox a tape from him that I loved immediately: ‘In Search Of Tarkovsky.’ I quickly began trading Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine tapes with him for his work; my favorites being ‘Doctor In A Dark Room’ (1985), ‘Nightslaves’ (1986) and ‘Firebird’ (1987).” The piece “Tango” was included in the dark ambient compilation released in 1988’s Issue 20 entitled Media Myth.