Reviews and Interviews

Note:

The following archive is by no means comprehensive. I have made no systematic effort over the years to archive reviews. The following is simply a list of those articles which by chance had ended up in my drawer when this web site was made. Many of these articles are older, as at a certain point I stopped saving press about my work. There was just too much of it.

It should also be noted that just as the vast majority of my concerts have been presented in non-English speaking countries, the vast majority of articles about my work is not in English. This includes all the more scholarly articles.

Concert organizers looking for press quotes for publicity purposes will find the “Brief Quotes” and “Selected Extracts” sections useful.

 

Brief Quotes:

The New York Times:
Bob Ostertag’s improvisations on various non-keyboard synthesizers are about as far removed from the electronic music clichés of the past as can be imagined.

Die Zeit:
Sampling technology is used in a significant way for the first time. The music encircles reality, decomposes it into music and recomposes it until reality is no longer able to escape. Great music, that has something to do with life again.

The New York Times:
Bob Ostertag’s “All the Rage” turned the evening on its head with a devastating roar of gay anger. Of recent concert pieces having to do with AIDS, “All the Rage” seems by far the most powerful example. Mr. Ostertag’s stern, purifying gaze has swept away the sentimentality and melodrama that have compromised more famous compositions in the genre.

Music and Sound Output:
Perhaps the oddest music I have ever heard, it’s also more the sound of lives lived, and lives lost, than any music I have ever heard.

Cadence:
Truly powerful political art is rare, but this is some.

Torso:
Odd and genius. Like nothing before or after, I promise.

Messagger Veneto:
Bob Ostertag is the blaspheming priest of the art of noise. Genius underlies his performance.

Faster Than Sheep:
Part of you will have to be frightened, part of you hopefully will be enlightened, and part of you may be dumbfounded.

San Francisco Bay Guardian:
As beautiful as the pastoral/celestial meditations of Brian Eno or Kitaro would be — if either one of those musicians chewed glass.

Jazzthetik:
Astonishingly, the music never seems artificial. The border between live improvisation and computerized manipulation blurs and is finally made irrelevant by the music which results.

Il Piccolo:
Bob Ostertag is the hero of the digital frontier and leader of new performance in sonic exploration.

Il Gazzettino:
Ostertag’s music brings together audience and musicians alike in an almost corporeal bond — music of enormous emotional impact.

Keyboard Magazine:
A gleeful savagery, with the droll wit of Satie’s piano pieces, the breathless silences of Japanese music, the collaged clutter of Stockhausen’s short-wave radio suites, and the political bite of Brecht/Weill songs.

Selected Extracts:

About Bob Ostertag
By almost any measure, electronic music composer/improviser Bob Ostertag is an extreme radical. His raw material is the world. He digs his trowel into the wet cement of everyday life, where nothing is really permanently set, anyway, and plasters it in impressionistic smears and pointillistic dabs across the walls of our perception. His strategies range somewhere between those of John Cage, academic computer musicians, brutally expressive free improvisers, and Che Guevara.

With entrance into Ostertag’s world comes a severe attitude adjustment. You have to curb your brain, dump your ‘common sense’ judgments, and peel away the calluses that have built up over the vulnerable core of your senses. Listening becomes cultural time travel at warp speed. Time, however, jumps off its linear tracks. You have to accept both the simultaneity of your feelings and your hapless inability to control them. Scary stuff.

Listening to Ostertag can be like looking at an aged oak. It’s as if the same force that turns gnarly bark, twisted trunk, and random crooked branch patterns into a perfect, beautiful tree is transforming these coarse and ostensibly unrelated sounds into music. The ‘music-ness’ of Ostertag’s work is no less than the ‘tree-ness’ of the oak; we’re just not trained to hear it.
— San Francisco Bay Guardian

About All the Rage with the Kronos Quartet
Bob Ostertag’s “All the Rage” turned the evening on its head with a devastating roar of gay anger. Of recent concert pieces having to do with AIDS, “All the Rage” seems by far the most powerful example. Mr. Ostertag’s stern, purifying gaze has swept away the sentimentality and melodrama that have compromised more famous compositions in the genre.
— The New York Times

About Sooner or Later
Bob Ostertag did not simply create a political piece but a musical reality, in which sampling technology is used in a significant way for the first time. The music encircles reality, decomposes it into music and recomposes it until reality is no longer able to escape. It is this clarity that makes Sooner or Later great music, a music that has something to do with life again.
— Die Zeit

Bob Ostertag made his Canadian solo debut at Victoriaville an opportunity to showcase his formidable talents… It was remarkable to see Ostertag seated at the keyboard, alone on the CGEP stage, creating a massive sound sculpture, the mutated sound of a child’s crying causing the listener to get a choking sensation in the throat. It is ironic that in an era where the technology of torture and death, smart bombs and their ilk, have allowed some in North America to look away from the obvious and terrible conclusions of war, an artist like Ostertag is able to use simple technology to create such a devastating portrait of human suffering. Frames flew by, hypnotic.
— Coda Magazine

Ostertag’s music slices the boy’s speech as thin as garlic cut with a razor blade, then blows each instant up into its own requiem. By examining each breath, each impact of shovel to ground under the audio microscope, he magnifies the pain so large as to engulf the listener with a wave of pure empathy while at the same time making art. Listening to this piece is like embracing someone who has no skin, as if the boy was a bare mass of nerves and guts and blood, which stain your own clothes when you touch him.”
— High Performance

With Fred Frith
Ostertag and Frith put on a fascinating show. The results, at times, were as beautiful in their own way as the pastoral/celestial meditations of Brian Eno or Kitaro would be — if either one of those musicians chewed glass. The listening, the interplay, the subtle dance between Frith and Ostertag was brilliant. From their jarring deconstructivist noises they were raising real music — music that could only come into being because those individuals were there at that moment, music that was so intense that it was barely contained by their virtuosity. The musicians dissolved before us and we were presented with a new, vivid angle on reality.
— San Francisco Bay Guardian

With John Zorn
Ostertag’s first show at the Knitting Factory, featuring saxophonist John Zorn, opened with a series of intense improvisations. The show was Ostertag’s first performance under his own name in eight years: at one time a regular collaborator on the downtown scene, Mr. Ostertag recently spent time as a journalist. Mr. Ostertag was in good humor, and on the opening piece he lowered the pitch of sounds Mr. Zorn had made by playing his instruments in water, transforming them into the intestinal grumblings of a Hollywood monster. The audience laughed, and Mr. Zorn honked and screeched. [The concert finished] in a staccato section that had all the excitement of a funk band, and had the audience cheering.
— The New York Times

About the Say No More Ensemble
[Say No More] is more than an experiment and much more than merely sensational. Astonishingly, the music never seems artificial. With acute sensitivity, Ostertag catches the strengths of his partners and lifts them up to a new level, magnifying the skill and intensity of these extraordinary virtuosos. The border between live improvisation and computerized manipulation blurs and if finally made irrelevant by the music which results.
— Jazzthetik

With Say No More, Ostertag elevated the sampler to the rank of musical instrument and gained recognition as a true visionary that cannot be ignored. The border between free improvisation and musique concrete will never be the same. Any serious fan of avant-garde music needs to hear this, one of the rare avant-garde albums where the relevance of the artistic argument equals the relevance of the result. A classic.
— All-Music Guide

Bob Ostertag: a complex human being, an expert of the sampler, a brilliant composer, but most important a highlight of last month’s festival. His Say No More project is an intricate affair about which pages of ink could be spilled. Here was Phil Minton — like Sylvester the Cat on helium: miraculous vocal cords at their prime. Here was Mark Dresser — all resonant bass, kicking it wherever he could. Here was my favorite drummer Gerry Hemingway, all hard-hitting guts through and through, interspersed with the subtlety and the restraint that he’s so loved for. Minton was left literally gasping for air, as he scrambled to respond to the sound of his own voice that Ostertag was throwing back in his face. If I had to cast a vote for the most energetic, the most quirky, and the most unrepentantly original ensemble of recent history, this would be it.
— Exclaim Magazine (Toronto)

About PantyChrist
There is a special pleasure that comes from things that are genuinely fucked up. Things that only try are one of the late 20th century’s greatest annoyances, but things that succeed are one of life’s timeless pleasures. I don’t mean bizarre, who’s-drugged-the-water-supply things, and I don’t mean odd, does-it-really-exist things. The particular joy I am talking about is reserved for a precious few things in this life, and it’s a joy whose expression finds its repose in a face cloudy with disbelief while the mouth attached to it, hanging half-open, slurs: “Whoa, Dude. That’s some enormously fucked-up shit.” It gives me the pride of a surrogate parent or a good house sitter, then, to alert you to the existence of a CD by this deeply aberrant, singular thing that calls itself PantyChrist. If you’ve ever bought a record just because it was God-damned weird to just let it sit there on the rack getting ignored, you probably ought to pick this one up.
— Last Plane to Jakarta

About Fear No Love
Ostertag is a true rarity: an experimental musician widely respected in avant garde circles who is openly queer and makes a point of it. Fear No Love deals with the phobias surrounding queer love — fear of intimacy, fear of femininity, fear of masculinity, fear of stereotypes, fear of AIDS, fear of rejection, fear of fear. To do this, he’s assembled a startling array of talent, most of it queer, all of it daring. There’s Lynn Breedlove, vocalist from the punk dyke-core band Tribe 8, rapping over dance beats. He’s got singer Mike Patton from the platinum-selling hard-rock band Faith No More dueting with drag performer Justin Bond. On guitar is the internationally celebrated noise expert Fred Firth. Rounding out the CD are soul singers, performance artists, and many uncommon combinations of musicians. The result is what queer radical music pioneer John Cage would have sounded like if he’d hung out in ’90s dance clubs. There is an intensely homo sense of humor and humanity at work that enlivens the experimentation.
— The Advocate

About Voice of America
A gleeful savagery, with the droll wit of Satie’s piano pieces, the breathless silences of Japanese music, the collaged clutter of Stockhausen’s short-wave radio suites, and the political bite of Brecht/Weill songs.
— Keybaord Magazine

Effectively captures the anger, chaos, and mayhem of armed rebellion. Sounds scream, bounce off walls, sicken, and unnerve. Voice, however, is quite exhilarating and refreshing, and is certainly more intriguing than the current slew of “political” drivel being served up by most bands now.
— OP Magazine, Spring

About Ostertag, Zorn, and Chadbourne: NYC 1980
With the “New Music, New York” series happening at the Kitchen, it is important to note the existence of another experimental music scene. I’m referring to the wild rebel underbelly of “free” musicians which includes Eugene Chadbourne, John Zorn, and Bob Ostertag. This is one scene that is below the underground, without even as much established recognition as the established school represented at the Kitchen. In the past few weeks, solo, duo, trio, and other recitals have been given by most of the local practitioners of this art, as well as a few imported from other areas of the world. There were duets between guitarist Chadbourne and reed man Zorn, the former rubbing balloons against his strings, the latter placing a miniature football in the bell of his alto sax. Bob Ostertag crouched over a forest of tangled wires and produced finely controlled, indescribable sounds, and interfaced a radio with his synthesizer to stunning effect. Two week later, brilliant Britisher Fred Frith joined them. This music is in a whole new realm. These guys aren’t just peering into the doorway of the unknown: they’ve taken a flying leap into the Black Hole. DEVO described their first album as ‘The important sound of things falling apart.’ Ha! They don’t even know the half of it.
— Soho Weekly News, 1980

About the First NYC Solo Show: 1980
Bob Ostertag’s improvisations on various non-keyboard synthesizers are about as far removed from the electronic music clichés of the past as can be imagined. Much synthesizer music still sounds like an imitation of something else — conventional instruments, natural or machine sounds, and so on. But the sounds that go into Mr. Ostertag’s music, while they can be exceptionally elusive, seem indigenous to the idiom in which he is working. They do tend to be sounds rather than pitched melodies, but what comes out is unquestionably music, a shifting, dappled patchwork of sounds that combine in clusters, circle each other in a kind of wary counterpoint and develop into other sounds in a disciplined manner. There were moments that faintly suggested birds, moments that suggested warfare, and indescribable overlays that each seemed to carry a specific emotional weight. An exceptional performance.
— New York Times

New York Times articles

On a Mission to Make Soul Unpredictable
Forum: Popular Music

New York Times, April 9, 2006

Creating Layered Sounds to Match Layered Animations:
Between Science and Garbage at Merkin Concert Hall

New York Times, January 14, 2003

Kronos Quartet [ PDF ]
New York Times, April 28, 1992

Duo’s Individual Statements [ PDF ]
New York Times, September 9, 1989

Fall Mountain’s New Music [ PDF ]
New York Times, date unknown

General

Shoot out the Lights [ PDF ]
San Francisco Bay Guardian, September 30, 1992

Stop the Osterizer, I Want To Get In [PDF]
San Francisco Bay Guardian, March 17, 1993

Kaleidoscope: Bob Ostertag’s new album, Like a Melody, No Bitterness, is a new chapter in a multifaceted career [PDF]
San Francisco Bay Guardian, March 17, 1993

BOB [PDF]
Mondo 2000, 1993 (large file, full color)

Bob Ostertag [ PDF ]
The Wire, Issue 151, September 1996

Ostertag’s Osterizer [ PDF ]
Wired, June 1995

All the News That’s Fit to Sample Bob Ostertag Talks to Phil England [ PDF ]
Resonance, Volume 3 Number 1 – Winter 1994.

Living Cinema

Special Forces turns Lebanon war into art
Jewish News Weekly, April 27, 2007

Creating Layered Sounds to Match Layered Animations:
Between Science and Garbage at Merkin Concert Hall

New York Times, January 14, 2003

Taking Out the Trash [ PDF ]
City Pages, September 12, 2001

PantyChrist

Give Me an Orange [ PDF ]
Last Plane to Jakarta
, Fall 1999

PantyChrist [PDF]
Torso, October 1999

PantyChrist [ PDF ]
Q.U.E.E.R. Zine, July 1999

PantyChrist [ PDF ]
ink 99, May 19, 1999

PantyChrist [ PDF ]
East Bay Express, April 23, 1999

PantyChrist [ PDF ]
Faster than Sheep, date unknown

Say No More

Say No More [ PDF ]
Jump Magazin, 1999
English translation in right column

Sooner or Later

Bob Ostertag: Attention Span | Bob Ostertag: Sooner or Later [ PDF ]
Oakland Tribune, March 31, 1991

Tape Beatles plunder a media-mad culture; overwhelming realism from Bob Ostertag [ PDF ]
Pulse, Number 100, 1991

Sooner or Later – Review [ PDF ]
High Performance, Fall 1994

All the Rage

Silence=Death Gay Rage Takes Center Stage at Center for the Arts [ PDF ]
Bay Area Reporter, November 18, 1993

The sound and the fury Remy Charlip and Margaret Jenkins forge street anger and creative tension into “All the Rage” [ PDF ]
SF Weekly, November 17, 1993

Collaborators Build Rage From Riot [ PDF ]
San Francisco Sentinel, November 17, 1993

Politics and Process New Music from Kronos Quartet [ PDF ]
San Francisco Bay Area Reporter, November 15, 1992

Yugoslavia Suite

Artist Examines Contradictions of Kosovo War [ PDF ]
Hartford Courant, September 13, 1999

Attention Span

Bob Ostertag, Attention Span | Bob Ostertag, Sooner or Later [ PDF ]
Cadence, January 1992

Bob Ostertag: Attention Span [ PDF ]
East Bay Guardian, August 1991

Voice of America

Voice of America – Reviews [ PDF ]
OP Magazine, Music and Sound Output, Down Beat, 1983-1984

Earliest Work

Three Good Records [ PDF ]
Village Voice, January 7-13, 1981

Things That Go Bleep in the Night [ PDF ]
Soho Weekly News, October 18, 1979

Brats in the Musical Playpen [ PDF ]
Soho Weekly News, 1979

Avant You Should Listen [ PDF ]
East Village Eye, August 1983

Fall Mountain [ PDF ]
Coda, date unknown

Assorted Reviews

Victoriaville Festival 1995 [ PDF ]
Cadence, July 1995

International Musique Actuelle – Festival Victoriaville [ PDF ]
Exclaim Magazine, May 1995

Festival Musique Actuelle [ PDF ]
Coda Magazine, March 1992

Victoriaville 1991 [ PDF ]
Cadence, December 1991

Creative Life: Music, Politics, People, And Machines [PDF]
The Wire, October 2009

Bob Ostertag, ‘Creative Life’ (Part 1: Music Politics People)
Bob Ostertag, ‘Creative Life’ (Part 2: Music & Machines)
Happily, The Future, January 31, 2010

From El Salvador to PantyChrist: Bob Ostertag’s Creative Life: Music, Politics, People and Machines [PDF]
Fuse, 2009

Creative Life: Music, Politics, People, and Machines
Critical Studies in Improvisation, 2010

French Press

Bob Ostertag [ PDF ]
Peace Warriors, February 2001

Engagé: Bob Ostertag [ PDF ]
Revue de Corrige, No. 14, Automne ’92
interview with Bob Ostertag

De gros coup de coeur et du plus ordinaire nostalgique [ PDF ]
Le Devoir, May 23, 2000

Musique sociale sur fond rouge [ PDF ]
Le Soleil, May 21, 2000

À Victo, jeux de guerre et fonction critique [ PDF ]
La Presse, May 21, 2000

Sans prétension bien souvent, avec humour encore plus souvent, pour le goût de l’improvisation pratiquement tout le temps [ PDF ]
Le Devoir, May 14, 2000

Bob Ostertag – impro enragée [ PDF ]
Transfert, January 2000

Bob Ostertag: Verbatim [ PDF ]
Jazz Magazine, April 1997

Parvenir au plus près d’une émotion physique [ PDF ]
Liberation Lyon, December 8, 1992

Carnet de chasse [ PDF ]
L’Union, October 10, 1991

Bob Ostertag: Attention Span [ PDF ]
Revue & Corrigée, No. 8, 1991

Fall Mountain remodeler sans modèle [ PDF ]
Liberation, date unknown

German Press

Musik – Moral – Militär [ PDF ]
MusikTexte, February 2004

Die Gemalte Projektion [ PDF ]
Das Filmmagazin, April 2003

Bob Ostertag [ PDF ]
Jazzthetik, February 1998

Remix Der Realität [ PDF ]
Neve Zeitschrift fur Musik, May 1996

Komponist im Cyberspace [ PDF ]
Die Zeit, May 12, 1995

Zeit Zum Hören [ PDF ]
Die Zeit, August 2, 1991

Jenseits dur Partitur [ PDF ]
Wespennest #106, date unknown

Schlagzeuger kennen keinen Schmerz [ PDF ]
Feuilleton, March 28, 2000

Gender Improvisieren [ PDF ]
WOZ, March 1999
interview with Bob Ostertag

Die Oper als Hupkonzert [ PDF ]
Südwest Presse, March 1999

Italian Press

Musica gratis dal compositore all’ascoltatore [ PDF ]
Cronaca d’Abruzzo, January 15, 2008

Festival Mimi 92 [ PDF ]
Musiche, No 13, July 1992

Other Languages

With the Accompaniment of the IDF Orchestra: Ostertag comes to Israel to play the second Lebanese war to an Israeli audience [ PDF ]
Haaretz, February 4, 2009

Vojne igre iz bivse Jugoslavije [ PDF ]
David Braun,Srreda, October 13, 1999

Vojnovˆ© hry Boba Ostertaga [ PDF ]
OS, January 2000/1

Bob Ostertag: Suita Jugoslavia [ PDF ]
Vecer, October 14, 1999

Vojne igre iz bivse Jugoslavije [ PDF ]
Vecer, October 13, 1999

V pricakovanju balkanala [ PDF ]
Muska, September 1999

Bob Ostertag [ PDF ]
OS, June 1999

Bob Ostertag [ PDF ]
Tristurte Revue, February 1999

Say No More [ PDF ]
Jump Magazin, 1999
English translation in right column

Z Boba Ostertaga [ PDF ]
Ticho, October 1998

Bob Ostertag [ PDF ]
Muska, August 1998

Fred Frith & Bob Ostertag [ PDF ]
Teatro Miela, 1994

Bob Ostertag: Attention Span [ PDF ]
Levyt, 1991