Sunday, 20. June 2010, 23:03 - 23:45, Ö1



“Creative Life”

by Bob Ostertag

Live from Studio RP4, ORF Funkhaus Vienna


Bob Ostertag is a composer, performer, historian, instrument builder, journalist, activist and kayak instructor – let alone the range of his activities indicates that his oeuvre defies pigeon holing or a simplified summary.

His book “Creative Life. Music, Politics, People and Machines” (published in September 2009 by University of Illinois Press) is part memoir, part journalism and part aesthetic manifesto. With the live radio performance based on the contents of the book, Ostertag creates yet another transgression of artistic disciplines by extending his “Creative Life” onto the acoustic space of radio.

For his Kunstradio performance in 5.1 (sound: Martin Leitner), Ostertag, who is currently Professor of Technocultural Studies and Music at the University of California at Davis, will draw on fragments of his book, and furthermore work with excerpts of the many recordings that span the 30 years of music and radio making the book describes. The projects included in the live broadcast are ‘Say No More’ (1980) and ‘Sooner or Later’. By the way, all of these projects can be downloaded at, according to his decision to make all of his recordings to which he owns the rights available as free digital downloads under a Creative Commons license.

The Wire magazine reviewed “Creative Life” as "The most lucid philosophical work on music, culture and politics since Steve Reich's Writings on Music." And here is a not less enthused Book review by electronic music maker Roddy Schrock (source:

Bob Ostertag’s "Creative Life: Music, Politics, People, and Machines” is a humble yet powerful reminder of the importance of being true to your ethics and clear about your motivations. Ostertag is known to the music world as an experimental electronic musician who cut his teeth in the downtown New York scene of the 1980′s with Zorn, Firth, etc. But his other life, as a journalist and activist in Latin American politics is something less known to most musicians, myself included.

I personally became interested in his work in the late 90′s. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that there were openly gay electronic musicians doing work that I was into, on the experimental side. I would quickly learn that this wasn’t the case, but Ostertag’s openness certainly stood out. And he even did work about gay topics, clearly from a culturally activist point of view. While I didn’t want to mimic his approach, I found it totally refreshing. And in this age of mono or micro culture, his wide-ranging and strident voice sounds even more necessary and still fresh.

The book is equal parts personal search for common ground between his music and his political activism as well as testament to the importance of following your internal compass even if it makes little sense at the time. In many ways, it’s a personal explication of Ostertag’s ethics with the subtext as a reminder to other’s to find their own.

I love his struggle to determine his own motivation; it was a long time for him to begin to come to terms with the driving force of his life. Anyone who works that way is more interesting than those that seemingly know what they are to do from the beginning. And certainly preferable to those artists who so frantically package themselves with a bow on top, for easy plucking.

All-in-all, a highly recommended read, if not for the insights into the political struggles of Latin America than for an amazing artist who soldiers on with little notice of fad or fortune.”

Pages from Bob Ostertag's 'Creative Life', with notes by the artist for his Kunstradio performance:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

University of Illinois Press