Introduction
Arthur​Russell​hailed​from​the​Midwest,​yet​felt​at​home​in​
downtown​New​York.​Outwardly​normal​to​those​who​ob-
served​his​checkered​shirt​and​acne-scarred​face,​he​trod​the​
mazelike​streets​that​ran​from​the​battered​tenements​of​the​
East​Village​to​the​abandoned​piers​on​the​West​Side​High-
way​for​hours​at​a​time,​and​on​a​daily​basis.​The​labyrin-
thine​infrastructure​and​contrasting​neighborhoods​of​lower​
Manhattan​ suited​ his​ purpose:​ equipped​ with​ a​ portable​
tape​recorder​or,​when​it​became​available,​a​Sony​Walkman,​
Russell​would​play​Abba​alongside​Mongolian​throat​music,​
or​Bohannon​back-to-back​with​Terry​Riley,​or​Peggy​Seeger​
followed​by​Grandmaster​Flash—selections​that​were​drawn​
from​the​global​spectrum​of​sound​and​summoned​the​dis-
junctive​backdrop​of​the​city.​Stopping​only​to​offer​his​head-
phones​to​a​friend,​or​to​note​an​idea​on​one​of​the​score​
sheets​he​stuffed​into​his​bulging​pockets,​or​to​watch​the​
sunset​over​the​Hudson,​Russell​was​a​musical​nomad​who​
had​downtown​imprinted​onto​his​sneakers.
New​York,​a​hub​for​sonic​invention,​hosted​a​spell​of​par-
ticularly​manic​productivity​during​the​1970s​and​1980s,​and​
Russell,​who​lived​in​the​city​from​1973​to​1992,​became​one​of​
its​most​audacious​musicians.​Striving​for​a​level​of​sonic​mo-
bility​that​matched​his​winding​walks​and​unpredictable​tape​
selections,​Russell​wrote​and​recorded​folk,​pop,​new-wave,​
dance,​and​orchestral​music​while​composing​songs​for​the
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