Joe Jones, Cage Music, 1986, Silkscreen on cloth, 122.5 × 112 cm, Edition of 30
Courtesy of Archivio Conz, Berlin
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  • Silkscreen on cloth
  • 122.5 × 112 cm
    (48 ¼ × 44 ⅛ inches)
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  • Joe Jones was an American avant-garde musician primarily known for his astounding music machines. After completing a classical music education at the Hartnett Music School in County Kildare, Ireland and beginning his career as a jazz drummer, Jones became involved in the avant-garde from the 1960s onwards. He attended the experimental composition courses of John Cage and Earle Brown at the New School in New York. The latter introduced him to Dick Higgins, as well as to George Maciunas, Yoko Ono, La Monte Young, and George Brecht. From a notion of liberated and indeterminate music, Jones began to create his original musical machines. Assembled from instruments and mechanical components found on the bustling Canal Street in New York City, Jones’s automated machines are activated by small motors and rotating propellers that run on plucked strings or percussion instruments. While producing steady, modulated sounds, they adapt to the most diverse shapes. Peter Moore’s remarkable black-and-white photographs in Joe Jones in New York 1962–1972 (vol. I), a refined edition published by Edizioni Conz in 1975, summarize Jones’s journey as a close-knit member of Fluxus. Presenting his sound machines as individual instruments or resounding orchestras, Jones participated in the 1963 Yam Festival in New Brunswick, Fluxus concerts at Carnegie Recital Hall and Judson Hall, and several subsequent editions of Charlotte Moorman’s Annual Avant Garde Festival. In 1969, Jones opened the Tone Deaf Music Store, where passersby could activate his motorized instruments directly from the storefront window. In 1970, the space hosted a legendary series of events organized by Yoko Ono and John Lennon in collaboration with Maciunas, featuring performances by Geoffrey Hendricks, Robert Watts, and Ben Vautier, among others. Jones also crafted eight music machines that debuted on Ono’s second solo album, Fly (1971). After relocating to Europe, the meeting with Francesco Conz inaugurated a decade-long exchange of collaborations and edition commissions. Eventually settling in Wiesbaden, Jones began working on his computer-generated Fluxus Home Movies series, produced on a Commodore 64 home computer. Jones received fellowships from the DAAD, Berlin (1980) and Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria (1988). He performed in numerous institutions, including the Akademie der Künste in Berlin (1976, 1980, 1989), the Wiener Secession in Vienna (1980), and the Bonner Kunstverein in Bonn (1989). His one-of-a-kind instruments are included in various public collections, such as those of The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the mumok – Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien in Vienna.

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