John Oswald Interviewed

Source: Tone Glow.

John Oswald is a musician, composer, and media artist based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he experimented with sampling and alternative modes of music distribution via projects like Burrows (1974-75), which features audio of William S. Burroughs cut up and re-arranged, and Mystery Tapes (1980- ), which consists of unattributed music compiled to cassette. He is most well-known for creating “plunderphonics,” a genre that recontextualizes recognizable samples, or “sonic quotes,” influencing artists from Negativland to Girl Talk. More recently, Oswald has been focusing on his Rascali Klepitoire project, for which he mines the classical repertoire from Beethoven to Varèse to compose new works. Matthew Blackwell spoke with Oswald over the phone on October 14, 2021 to discuss his education under R. Murray Schafer, his livestream performances during the pandemic, and the ways that plunderphonics and the Mystery Tapes have adapted to the age of YouTube and Bandcamp.