Saturday, November 19, 2005


In a Landscape

On my way back to Alabama, I listened for an hour or so to the NPR classical radio station. I was reminded why I don't listen to much of the stuff: it sounds totally and utterly dead. Well, not everything, but the stuff from the mid-to-late 19th century. Gah. I think one of the reasons I like Baroque-and-earlier music is the liveliness of it. Or maybe it has to do with how the music is transmitted to my car radio, perhaps somehow the life is sucked right out of it.

Here's today's Internet Cage Quote. I was discussing Cage with an acquaintance of mine, and he mentioned how much he liked Four6 as performed by Sonic Youth. I mentioned that it didn't really follow Cage's score, he said that was OK, it sounded great anyway; "they made it sound symphonic." He finally noted that Cage probably wouldn't be a stickler for the rules.

I tend to disagree; it seems to me that when you are given a relatively high degree of freedom, the non-free aspects become all the more important. But nevertheles, I will hear that ecording at some point, since it's the only version of it I have around ;-) Tomorrow I will begin the first part of the correctly-recorded version of A Dip in the Lake which is avilable on the Internet!

Triple-Paced No. 2

This is a 1944 prepared piano version of Triple-Paced, aparently identical besides the changed instrument/ I would describe it as actually rather cute, in a way. The melodic part is very bouncy and upbeat, so I smiled while listening. This is intersperesed with some forceful segments, but even they do not seem angry, just louder. Maybe the work is simply a bit childlike. The piano preparations seem pretty basic as well, without any substantial complexity.

In a Landscape
Last time I heard a Satie-themed piece, I said it would sound lovely on a harp. So, since Cage specified "piano or harp" for this music from 948, I chose a harp version! This piece, or at least a hideous, mangled monstrosity inspired by it on a William Orbit CD (experimental pop musicians would be way more experimental if they could drop the boring, repetitive beats).

It seems my harp version also involves a guitar, which is too bad. I would describe this one, like Dream, as subtly beautiful. I say that because it is so slight and slow, but very atractive. The reader who found Dream insipid probably won't like this one any more, although I feel it's a bit more complex. It seems to be a myriad of variations on an upward-moving 'revelaing' theme; I can almost imagine a curtain being opened in front of some amazing golden artifact when it arises. The emphasis here is on the implications of the word "artifact," because this music feels like it is putting me in touch with something ancient, some faded remnant of a lost history.

The only negative is that this sounds a bit too similar to modern "new age" music for my tastes, so I prefer to simply think o it as in the style of Satie: mysterious, quiet, and still.

A Book of Music
Here's a big virtuoso two prepared piano work composed in 1945. It strikes me as a curiously underheard item Cage's output. My suspicion is that it's very long at about half an hour, so it doesn't fit easily on a compilation CD, and it alone isn't as "central" a work as, say, the Concerto.

The music does not seem especially complicated; in fact, it seems more primitive and rhythm oriented than most; the music is largely a long series of single staccato thrusts of the beat. Virtually all of the preparations are either percussive in nature, or make the piano sound plucked instead of hammered. The second part speeds things up quite a bit. Homrously, I think of a spider as I listen, because the music seems to zip across the floor, and then pause suddenly, then zip again. Or, that miht be because I just saw a spider a little while ago.

To me it feels like the music is more complicated than its result; that is, it sounds like a lot of effort went into designing the sounds I hear, but at the same time the result seems fairly basic. I think the highlight of this work is the rapid fire use of multiple percussive sounds in the second part, which is pretty fun. Still, it's not overall very memorable.

i have the 'live at summerstage' version of Four6. cage was a performer in it (along with labarbara and winant and someone else too). it was performed and recorded shortly before cage passed away. Four6 is probably has the most freedom of any of the number pieces. but i do agree that with cage's music, just because the performer has freedoms, they shouldnt abuse them.

if you want the other Four6 let me know. i can send it to you (along with other things)
I don't know why it is that all the classical radio stations sound so bland. It's no different in Europe.

I've gotten into some of the modern composers preceding Cage, like Gustav Mahler or the Czech composer Viktor Ullmann (who studied under Schoenberg).
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