Long before sampling, turntablism, mash-ups etc., became common currency, Scott Johnson was creating amazing pieces for tape loops and electric guitar. It wan't easy - composing meant literally hand cutting & splicing tape, and fashioning loops (sometimes as long as 25 ft) to run thru recorders. John Zorn's Tzadik Records label has recently released an album called "John Somebody," and we're all the better for it. The title piece [click to listen], begun in 1977, is a classic example of the Johnson style - taking recordings of real people talking, writing original music based the rhythms and cadences of conversation, and making those voices sing.
One section, "Involuntary Songs," is created by layering tapes of people laughing, then writing happy guitar music as accompaniment. I found myself starting to chuckle along with it. Ooh, what weapons to torture your room/office mates with!
He's called a "composer" and has had his stuff played by fancy-shmancy folks like the Kronos Quartet and ballet companies, yet he plays rockin' distored electric guitar, and premiered "John Somebody" at The Mudd Club, the infamous New York punk hang-out of the late '70s. To Johnson, it's all good.
Although these are old out-of-print recordings, they're still new to most ears - two pieces on this album have never been released before. Essential.