Wednesday, December 07, 2005



Today I spent an hour or so skimming through most of John Cage’s Theater Pieces which gave a useful rundown of some of the more obscure later works, and then I read some extracts of Conversing with Cage.  I have a perverse fear of checking out books from this library, so consequently I didn’t keep them.  

I look forward to a new Cage biography, because I didn’t like The Roaring Silence very much.  Although it was pleasant to read, I frankly didn’t get much out of it since I had already read so much of Cage’s own writing (I was especially annoyed by the lengthy excerpts from them).  The last several sections, covering the final decades of Cage’s life, reads like an itinerary and are painfully dull.  The book’s casual dismissal of Cage’s homosexuality as “unimportant” also strikes me as insane.  I agree that it’s pretty much irrelevant to the music, but it was a biography, not a musical analysis book.  Good gravy.  
On a random note, I really wish blogspot would accept Word’s superscripts.

Oh boy, this is not one I have been very eager to hear.  This was designed to fit on one CD, which had a length of 72 minutes at the time.  It features very sparse music for unspecified percussion instruments using the flexible time brackets Cage was fond of around 1991.  I am hearing the ‘original’ Amadinda Percussion Group version, for whom it was written.  My lack of eagerness is a consequence of long-ness and sparse-ness., but we’ll see how I react after I listen...

The music is some of the most lonely I have ever heard.  The sounds consist of low, slow growing rumblings, the occasional gong, and sometimes other miscellaneous percussive noises.  And wind chimes, it seems, very soft and ghostly.  It’s the gong and drum that seem to be coming in from a great distance away, something like the sound of a train horn blowing in the far off distance or a dog howling...really, really lonely.  I think this is great atmospheric music if you are depressed (or if you want to be!).  

The most readily apparent sound, though, is that of your environment because Four4 has some extremely long silences contained in it.  I think the constant listening for the sounds from my speakers actually leads me to concentrate more fully on all the other sounds around me, maybe even more than I would when hearing 4’33” performed..

But it’s also suitable, I think, for meditation.  The distance you feel as you listen sort of gets sucked into you, and as a consequence you feel as if you remind is far away; I always seem to say the number pieces are trancelike, but each one seems to be in a different way.  

Perhaps the best part of this piece is that you go on listening long after it’s over, thinking there will eventually be another sound to hear...


i really like Four4 a lot.
what is your hesitation with it?
because its so long and so sparse?

im really glad cage took this number piece to this extreme.

has anyone read the book (dissertation) that rob haskins wrote about cage's number pieces?

im curious as to how cage determined how sparse or dense each number piece would be. i imagine it was chosen by chance. im wondering how he determined how many times a player would play (or how many time brackets they had)
Yeah, the longness and sparseness do it. One of the difficulties of coming to Cage from pop music is that I like to have my music in five minute or less chunks. So something like this or (worse) 103 can be too much to handle in one sitting, no matter how many noodles I cook!
i really love long duration pieces. especially ones where not much happens.

i used to listen to feldman's 'for philip guston' on repeat when i was in college. and thats a long piece.

i like the way time distorts (or disappears) when you get really immersed in a long piece. i see it as sonic meditation. clear the mind and ears cause we are so used to being constantly bombarded with stimulus. its very refreshing for me. i think this is one of the many reasons why im always coming back to cage's music.
Try cooking rice...
It takes longer than noodles.

Or maybe, in time, you'll acclimate to longer pieces.

It can be a great experience. Sometimes, I listen to several-hour pieces while on the way to somewhere (trains, or walking). Then the music can turn into a soundtrack for the surroundings. And if the music is not too loud, the acoustic environments are allowed to enter and mix.
Heh, perhaps I will try the rice. I'm fond of it, but it's a bit too easy to burn!

I shouldn't have compared it to 103, though, because my reaction to them is totally different. One of the reasons Four4 is hard for me is that it's so incredibly lonely and depressing! That's not a feeling I'm keen on having continue for 70 minutes.

103 is completely the opposite; I just had little or no emotional reaction to most of the music, which is an even worse than being depressed!

As for a soundtrack, I usually prefer just hearing what there is to hear, especially when I am on a noisy airplane or train or taking a walk. Maybe these long things would add to the experience, though, so I'll give it a try.
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