Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Music for Carillon No. 5

So, my plan to review music before bed last night was caught off-guard by my having a pretty terrible flat tire on the interstate after coming home from a date.  So here I am tonight, doing this instead of the other work (writing a paper, specifically) that I really probably ought to be doing...

The impact of being a Cage fan on one’s romantic life is probably worth noting, but it will be saved for the 4’33” review.  

I would like to ask if anyone knows how many players are on the Quartets I-VIII recording by Hat Art, since I do not have the liner notes handy and I may need them soon...  

I think Cage was dead wrong about recordings.  I’ve been to numerous concerts this semester at Tech, and whether it is a Berio sequenza or a Mozart sonata, I have never gotten anything from the live performance that I did not get from a recording. Cage expressed his disdain for recordings all over the place.  Two extreme examples: In the film I have nothing to say and I am saying it, he gets upset, frankly whiny, when someone suggests that recordings “can sometimes be useful.” In Silence he comments, referring to Satie recordings, “it would be an act of charity, even to oneself, to smash them whenever they are discovered.”   By contrast, I think there’s little point in performing most music live anymore.  I guess I am a Gouldinist or something.

On a lighter note, I got some glares from the gals behind me at the concert I went to this weekend for tapping my fingers (silently!) to the rhythm of all the music (some boring romantic stuff and a Mozart sonata).  I think it would have required less energy to just look away if it bothered them so much...

Music for Amplified Toy Pianos
This is one of those crazy transparency-based indeterminate performances.  From 1960, the music features speakers distributed around and actions performed on a toy piano with contact microphones attached.  The music, consisting of tweaks, blips and scrapes brings to mind Cartridge Music, except that it is obvious these sounds are from a toy piano.  The sound is sparse, as I had expected, but it actually keeps my interest a little better than Cartridge Music since I know more or less where the sounds are coming from.  The only exception is the one that sounds an awful lot like a zipper...

One7 / One13
This 1990 music is (according to johncage.info, as always) the first part of Four6 performed as a solo, “for any way of producing sounds.”  In this particular case, the twelve sounds required for One7 are chosen such that the result sounds like One13, an incomplete number piece for cello (from available information, that piece conveniently seems to have been intended to last close to the same amount of time as One7).  Consequently, this piece of music features performances of single drawn out pitches (some continuing for a remarkably long time).  Or, I might say “pitch” because they all seem to be the same, performed at slightly varying amplitudes.  The notes that I scrawled during my listening session read, “Sounds like a freaking bee!”  

Of course, being that this is a real instrument, there’s lots of variation even within the same pitch.  The sheer length, as with other number pieces, allows you to focus on the component sounds that make up the sound I describe as a cello.  Specifically, slight, vague warbling of the pitch is clear, and the scraping of bow on string is also apparent as a very light rubbing sound.  As I mentioned, the sound is subject to sudden increases in volume, and at a few points I think I hear more than one tone played simultaneously, but this might be an artifact of my stereo or my ears.  

Overall I’m reminded of La Monte Young’s Drift Studies which featured a single long tone where the listener could explore the phase shifts and such as they occurred.  I remember hearing an excerpt of it off the Ohm electronic music compilation when I was in college, on the way back from dinner with my girlfriend at the time.  That was the only time she got truly angry about my selection of driving music...

Music for Carillon No. 5
Thanks to Greg for a nice live recording of this.  This is one of the most absolutely insane scores there is: ten photos of wooden boards having engraved musical staves; the knots and grain shifts of the wood to be interpreted into music during a performance.  It was written in 1967.  The performance is of the ten boards separated by silences.  I’m not really sure about how well it’s done because they all follow the same pattern—light playing, then increase volume, then end.  It would be surprising to me if ALL the boards had such a similar grain structure.  There is some variation though; I might describe the third as “curious” and the sixth has more single tones than the others.  The ninth and tenth both seem to follow a “stairstep” pattern.  It would be fun to see this score in its entirety.    

i checked the liner notes for the hatart quartets. its one of those art lange liner notes that is so poetic. haha. it doesnt say how many players that version is for.

my girlfriend likes john cage too (well at least she doesnt object to me playing his music alot). just gotta find the right lady. ha.

lothar, can you send zac that version of Atlas by eberhard blum. ive been looking for that disc for some time but its long out of print. id love to hear it too.

i have a video of Cage performing One7 live about a year or so before his death. its really great. lots of space and silence. im going to transfer it from VHS to DVD soon i think.
One13 is an unfinished work for cello. It was to be a work where different manifestations of the same pitch (sketches for the different F#s were nearly completed by Cage). One pitch for Cage, in this case, did not mean one sound; and this was to be the basis of the composition. We see various uses of this "singularity" idea occurring in some of the final orchestral works as well (Eighty and Seventy-Four, for instance) so it was an important (and perhaps still widely unknown) direction Cage took very near the end of his life. The instructions for Cage's One7 instruct the performer to choose 12 (actually 11) sounds. Since this is a CD of Cage's final works (Number Pieces) composed for cello it would have been irresponsible to leave out One13. Only the sounds Cage had composed for One13 were used to perform Cage's own One7, and according to Casge's own instructions. Cage completes Cage.
Non sequitur:
Quoting Toru Takemitsu, Japanese composer,

"I learned a lot in cinema. When I was very young, around the age of seven, I saw a film by Anatole Litvak, with Annabella; the music was by Arthur Honegger. I've forgotten the title. That was what marked me, even though I knew nothing about music. Then I discovered Shostakovich, Darius Milhaud, etc. That's why I'm interested in cinema and in what it can bring to an incomparable number of individuals. I believe many composers ought to recognize the importance of cinema as a medium. Nevertheless, even in the United States, there are many who remain on the outside of cinema, and still scorn it. The scorn with which many "serious" composers regard film music is enough to make one despair. This attitude must evolve."
glenn, i was reading some notes to one of the number pieces on ogreogress and one of the performers wished to remain anonymous. why is that? i was just curious about that. is it a secret famous performer who is secretly a huge cage fan but ashamed to come out public with it? :)

thanks for the explanation on One13. i was wondering about that too. sounds like a great marriage of the 2 pieces. didnt michael bach write a work based on One13? is this the same idea you used? also i noticed that the score calls for multi-tracked cello parts. did you utilize this?

also, steven drury mentioned to me once that cage was talking about writing a number piece for him before he died. might have been One14 for solo piano? i guess we will never know.
"one of the performers wished to remain anonymous. why is that?"

i have no idea why ... that person never gave a reason. seriously.

"didnt michael bach write a work based on One13? is this the same idea you used? also i noticed that the score calls for multi-tracked cello parts. did you utilize this?"

yes. i've not yet heard michael bach's work based on cage's unfinished one13. the materials which exist for one13 make no reference to multi-tracked cello parts. this version of one7, however, was realized for recording. thus, a live performance might end up being quite different in nature, due to logistics. cage's score makes no reference to multi-tracking in either case, but recordings can be realized much differently than live performances while still observing cage's scores as intended.
oh i was just going by what i read on johncage.info


1 live cello and 3 recorded cellos

Unfinished. Piece to be composed of single tones. There were supposed to be four voices, all playing the same note, but differently.
Michael Bach composed a work, based on One13 and premiered this on June 2, 1993 at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe, Germany (other sources mention Musica Strasbourg as place of first performance). Duration of this performance was 27:46.
John Cage was actually developing the concept for One13 in a converation with Michael Bach & Joan Retallack, printed in "Musicage".

Re the multitracking (which should have been something similar to the multitrack options of "Ryoanji"), Cage referred also to Feldman's "Three Voices", which should be performed by one singer, with the other parts played back from tape.

Cage saw the whole setup for One13 like a "live music sculpture", inspired by a One8-performance of Michael Bach, which he liked very much.

If I'll get enough time later that week, I'll hack some of that conversation into my computer & post it on the Silence list.
ive been meaning to read that book again.
i should dig it out.

i rejoined the Silence list about a month ago and there seems to be very little activity on it compared to what there was a couple years ago.
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