After studying with composers John Cage and Earle Brown, Joe Jones became a prominent figure in Fluxus, contributing to the movement's first "yearbox" alongside La Monte Young, György Ligeti and Nam June Paik. Beginning in late 1961, Jones began constructing his own music machines – drawing inspiration from the calliopes, automata and orchestrions of the 19th and early 20th century to create self-playing ensembles of stringed instruments, percussion and woodwinds – "played" through an elaborate (yet decidedly lo-tech) system of rubber bands, balls and tin foil.
Christened the Tone Deaf Music Company, this battery of automated musical instruments generates the sounds on In Performance (originally released in 1977 on the Harlequin Art imprint). With exacting conceptual precision and varied subtleties of natural motion – not unlike Harry Bertoia's sounding sculptures – Jones' machines produce richly-textured strata of sound and serve as engines of paradox. While bringing the figure of the artist-composer to the foreground, the machines ultimately dispense with the need for the performer entirely – a cunning subversion of the fetish for virtuosity and individual genius.