Morning Music: A Musical Genius Dies

Richard LyonsI know a lot of you are really saddened by the death of a music legend last week. So I figured that we should commemorate Richard Lyons’ death by listening to a week’s worth of Negativland.

According to Rolling Stone, Richard Lyons had been fighting cancer for over 12 years. He had a very aggressive kind of skin cancer, which sucks, given that most forms are relatively trivial. He apparently did not suffer much. But he was only 57.

Richard Lyons formed Negativland in 1979 with his high school friend Mark Hosler. They lived just down the road from me in Concord. The band itself is normally described as “experimental.” That’s true, but doesn’t mean all that much. But you just have to listen. Some of it is hard to call music at all. Their focus has always been on sound — not that there is too much of a distinction there.

It’s hard to know where to start with Negativland. The first self-titled album is fascinating. It’s a sparse combination of music and found sounds. Some of it reminds me of stuff that Laurie Anderson would do later. For example, “4” (all the songs on Negativland are simply numbered) reminds me of Example #22. I hear a lot of things that remind me of other music — stuff that comes both before and after — but it’s hard to put my finger on it exactly. Overall, the effect is riveting.

I can’t find individual tunes from the first album. So I’ve embedded the whole thing. It’s worth listening to. But I’ve cued it at “6.” I don’t have much of a reason for doing it, other than that it is the only song that has what could be called lyrics. And they include the oddly hilarious, “Seat be sate; play Black Sabbath at 78.” The lines are delivered by David Wills, the third founding member of the band.

2 thoughts on “Morning Music: A Musical Genius Dies

  1. You might find this odd for a guy like me…..who spent much time and money buying things like Meat Puppets and Dead Kennedys just because I had never heard of them…….buy seriously, I have not only never heard these guys, I have never heard of these guys. Where the hell have I been?

    • If you were ten years younger, you probably would have. It didn’t help that they weren’t much of a touring band. They are amazing though.

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