The Artist Project: Cory Arcangel

The Artist Project: Cory Arcangel


My name is Cory Arcangel and I am a fine artist and a composer. My own work deals with preservation of obsolete technology. I have written computer programs that produce some kind of hopefully interesting result. Music is very similar. Music is a set of instructions to be run on a particular technology. It can be a piano, it can be a flugelhorn, a clarinet. And the harpsichord is my favorite kind of obsolete musical technology. A harpsichord is a plucked string instrument, so it doesn’t matter how hard you press the keys— —every note that you play on a harpsichord comes out at the exact same volume. And the innovation that the piano introduced was that it was a mallet hitting the strings and the mallet could be hit with different velocity, which means you could play loud and you could play soft. When I think of the harpsichord I think about the moment right after the harpsichord. I would love to have been around when people’s minds were blown. Like, when I sat down at a computer for the first time, it’s probably what people were thinking when they were first introduced to the pianoforte. So when I see a harpsichord, I think about a harpsichord but then I think about a piano. And then I think about technology, and I think about all these things that are lost. It just spirals on. People aren’t accustomed to thinking about music in terms of these issues. Music seems always so alive in our lives and it’s so experiential. I don’t need to hear it to think about those things, but the great thing about the harpsichord is that it is an instrument to be played and it is just a great, great sound. What could be better than that? Now the higher notes sound quite beautiful, but the lower notes—that’s a pretty raw sound. It sounds bizarrely contemporary, like some weird bass sound that somebody would stick in some hip-hop song. I just love that rigid, raw, mechanical sound. I have this fixation on the harpsichord because I like to work with stuff when people are looking the other way. You’re no longer susceptible to cultural pressure; once something becomes dated they basically don’t exist to culture. For my purposes as an artist, it’s finding the things that haven’t been preserved yet and then declaring them artwork, then convincing people that it’s artwork, and then sneaking into a museum, and then I have won the game. That’s what I do. The weird thing is my own work becoming dated. That’s been a trip!

2 thoughts on “The Artist Project: Cory Arcangel

  1. Cory "Arcangel"  is this a joke

  2. How can you take an artist seriously who wears a sweater like this one?

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