Wednesday, November 16, 2005


String Quartet in Four Parts

Tonight I heard a pretty decent variety: orchestra, string quartet, piano, and vocal.  I received an ad for a 127 CD box set of the entire works of Mozart on CD from Arkivmusic today, and certified its quality by verifying that Adagio and Rondo for Glass Harmonica is, in fact, performed on a glass harmonica.  Anyway, it entertained me to imagine what a “complete Cage” box set would look like.  I have about 60 hours of Cage on my computer, and lack a lot, probably another 10 or more hours worth of music.  So I’d guess about 60 CDs would make a decent Cage box set, although you’d have to provide lots of versions of the indeterminate works.  Maybe a separate disc devoted to each Variations?

That’s not 127 CD’s of course, but when you get down to it, who ever plays or listens to Mozart’s 20,000 minuets?  I dare someone to buy that box set and do a blog on it...

Day 78: Yet Another Symphony
Mozart wrote this at the age where I was playing with He-Man action figures in the bathtub.  Geez, I’m depressed.  


This is off the wonderful The Seasons CD which also features the rendition of toy piano music I reviewed some time ago.  I find this one to be much more dramatic in scope than the other number pieces I’ve heard; it doesn’t feel as peaceful as some.  The music is, like the other orchestral number works, dominated by strings and the brass (where is the percussion exactly?).  I would compare this to one of the others, which I described as a night ride on a raft, except this time, consider it a moonless late night trip through some sort of fairly barren landscape.  There’s a nervousness to the music, like something is constantly lurking just around the corner...It’s a great late night listen.   I think I get a similar feeling from other string-heavy number pieces, but this is stronger than usual.

Two Pieces for Piano, 1946
I have to use the year to distinguish this from a set from 1935.  Conveniently enough, the first piece (creatively titled ‘I’) continues the ominous mood set by Seventy-Four tonight.  In fact, these are directly related to The Seasons that I heard a few days ago, featuring music for certain sections.  I didn’t really associate the two with that work, but even now that I know, I am not sure how the second piece (‘II’) fits in; it seems extremely fragmented and does not, even as I listen to the winter section of The Seasons, really seem to be the same thing (except at certain points).  It feels fragmented, or maybe even unfinished.

String Quartet in Four Parts
This item from 1950 has four movements, the first three gradually becoming slower.  The first movement feels relatively conventional, except with curious dissonant shifts at certain points.  The second one pauses more often, and seems to become more fragmented, with sudden shifts in unexpected directions, and sudden sonic bursts where quiet was assumed.  Apparently this music has to do with the fall in America, but looking outside I’m afraid I don’t see the connection.  Anyway, the third part seems to continue in this progressively-more-distorted direction, and it seems as if the strings actually squeal and groan in protest at certain points.  It’s played a bit more quietly.  Throughout all three of these parts, there is a constant back and forth feeling that comes close to making me seasick (a nod to Glenn, who asked if Cage could make me ill, as I recall...).  The final movement, the quodibet, is totally shocking.  It’s really very attractive and feels fairly Baroque in nature.  And I swear one of the instruments sounds like bagpipe towards the end, or else I am just crazy (or both may be true).  It feels like a nice celebratory dance after the long voyage above.

Nowth Upon Nacht
Ahhh, I always know this piece by the SLAM of the piano lid at the beginning, which makes an excellent percussion sound!  I broke Cage’s score, which I recall requires that Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs be played first.  It’s got some Joyce text sung in a hilariously dramatic way (I’m amazed anyone can say “snicky sticks” with any seriousness).  The best part is definitely the “wooo-hwwwaaaaooo!” near the end.  I rather wish Cage had written more pieces like this.  Peacefulness is all well and good, but sometimes you need a bit of yelling and lid slamming!

i love string quartet in four parts. i think it was written around the same time as 'the seasons' using cage's gamut technique. whereby he would compose sonic blocks or materials and place them in a magic square and move around the square using chance operations i think. so you get this great modular / static sound to the music. in college, i used cage's gamut technique to write a piece for solo celeste. it was quite fun.

id love to see a complete cage boxset at some point. i think mode is trying to record and eventually release every piece that cage wrote. maybe theyll put them all in a box when its all done.
I do like Mode's efforts; some of their performances are my favorites, especially the orchestral works CD

I don't think they'll make it through all Cage's music alone, though...Their first in the Cage series was what, 1987? It'll probably be another several decades at the current rate.

Probably I'll just have to live with my own handmade box set ;-)
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