Monday, November 21, 2005



I’ll be posting twice today, so keep your eyes peeled in a non-literal manner.

Cage’s fourth piece for two instruments features either violin and piano or violin and sho.  Naturally, I chose the sho version!  Both were created in 1991.  It’s three section for the sho’s seventeen pitches and four movements for the violin, which is played microtonally.  The show plays relatively loudly in comparison to the violin in my version, with a bit more variation in dynamics.  The violin is played so softly that the bow’s scraping sound comes through very clearly, and I don’t hear the slow raising and lowering of volume that I observes from other number pieces.  The fairly high pitches used for both parts gives the music an airy quality, as if the listener is floating through it.  

In terms of pace, the sho’s part is more rapid and more is happening; it seems as if the violin part mostly provides a generally unvarying contrast to the sho, as the tones it plays tend to extend much longer in time than the sho tones, which at their loudest totally overpower the violin.  To follow my nature theme from previous reviews, I’d compare this to crickets and fireflies, where there’s a only-very-slightly varying sound context of the violin while the sho flashes in and out unexpectedly.  Because of the way the sho is played (not sustained for a long time), I’m guessing the piano version is similar, but the attack would be different since the piano would not build up the ay the sho music does.

The Unavailable Memory Of
This prepared piano music from 1945 uses only five pitches.  The piano preparations are not very complicated, and the sustain pedal seems used throughout. The piano sounds a little more plucked than usual. The music begins with two sections that start relatively slow, but then move through the pitch material quickly.  Then the music becomes more rhythmic and a bit more dramatic (that is, played forcefully in this recording) but it still strikes a meditative mood because of the repetitions. Its ending is unusual in its non-abruptness.

Perpetual Tango
This is something like Cheap Imitation.  For this work, Cage manipulates the notes but keeps the rhythms of Erik Satis’s Sports et Divertissements.  It was written in 1984 for a tango collection.  The result is similar to other of Cage’s deconstruction efforts; you feel as if you hear a somewhat distorted version of the original music.  At first the recording sounded dead to me, but I warmed to it; it does capture some of the warmth and humor of the original Satie piece, but now it’s a little more confused.  The music is repetitive, obviously, but it’s fun to listen to.  I prefer this to Cheap Imitation by a pretty large margin.

Music for Piano No. 1
The series of piano music from the 50’s begins here, with notation based on imperfections of the paper on which it was written, one of several ways Cage sought to bring chance into his compositional process.   There’s a lot going on in the music, and seems almost melodic to my ears.  I do like the variety of tones, and the string plucks.  I’m not sure I really hear any chords though, except when to keys manage to be pressed at the same time.  It’s a quick selection of solid notes, cascading down rather like rain…

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