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Listen To A 33-Minute Sound Collage Made By A 21-Year-Old Kurt Cobain In 1988

The recipient of Cobain’s four-track recording uploaded it to Vimeo to share it with the world.

Listen To A 33-Minute Sound Collage Made By A 21-Year-Old Kurt Cobain In 1988
[Photo: Michel Linssen, Redferns, Getty Images]

Kurt Cobain’s career was obviously defined by his role as the frontman for Nirvana, but if the only creative endeavors by the man that you’re familiar with are Nevermind and In Utero, there’s a side to him that you haven’t seen. Cobain’s journals, published in 2002, demonstrate (amidst its shopping lists and potential invasions-of-privacy) that his knack for turning a phrase wasn’t limited to his lyrics, and the drawings, cartoons, and artwork that’s been published reveal a creative mind that was restless in its energy.

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Another example of Cobain’s creative process exists in the form of a 33-minute sound collage that he made in 1988, when he was 21, on a four-track. The tape, which he dubbed the “Montage of Heck,” was a gift to a friend–who, two years ago, uploaded the recording to Vimeo. It sat dormant on the site until a few days ago, when the blog DangerousMinds.net posted a link to it (click through to find a comment from Nirvana bassist Krist Novaselic hilariously demanding a photo credit for a picture of Cobain in Singapore, posing with a statue of KFC mascot Col. Sanders).

The recording features a collage of sounds–there are snippets of songs on it, as well as found sound recordings, selections from movies and television, recordings played at different speeds, bathroom noises, etc. The entire thing plays a bit like a recording from sound collage artists Negativland, which was released in 1987 on SST Records–a South California-based punk rock label from Black Flag founder Greg Ginn that Cobain was almost certainly aware of in the late ’80s. The actual listenability of the recording couldn’t accurately be described as “pleasant,” but that’s not what Cobain was going for–instead, it’s another glimpse of the artistic mind of one of the most important creative figures of the past few decades at work.

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About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club

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