While Sonic Youth’s Lee Ronaldo and Thurston Moore approached playing their instruments from traditional methods, Kim Gordon’s playing “starts at a free and liberated point,” according to Ronaldo. It is this background and her ambivalence towards being labeled a “musician” that makes Gordon’s musical endeavors so unbridled and exciting to this very day.
Her new album with Bill Nace as Body/Head is the perfect example of how self-taught musicians escape a pre-conceived framework of how an instrument is supposed to be played. Via The New York Times:
“I wasn’t trained as a musician,” she went on. “But I did grow up listening to a lot of jazz records, and John Coltrane.” The Body/Head song “Abstract,” she explained, has a similar structure to the music on Coltrane’s album “Meditations”: “you have a theme, and it falls apart, and then it comes back.”
This nonmusicianship idea could have to do with the conceptual-art tradition she came from, in which so much art was a form of commentary, analyzing or questioning its function. It definitely has to do with the No Wave scene she encountered when she moved to New York at the end of the ’70s. One of its credos, as the guitarist and de facto No Wave historian Alan Licht put it recently, was “the musicality of the nonmusician” — the notion that “if you put an instrument in an interesting person’s hands they will do something interesting with it.”