Sunday, December 11, 2005


Mysterious Adventure

I’m grumpy this evening due to my annoyances as I attempt to watch “Boudu Saved From Drowning” (DVD plays it but with no sound; computer won’t play it at all...)  So I’ll hear some Cage to calm me down before bedtime.  

Sorry for the sparse updates, it’s exam time I’m afraid...

Thirty Pieces for String Quartet
A coincidence of solos for strings; the performers should be far away from the audience.  We get three kinds of music and time brackets, one of their first uses way back in 1983.  The work, to be totally blunt, reminds me of other orchestral works, since even in those the strings often, but not always, dominate everything else.  This music is nowhere near as frantic as the Freeman Etudes, but it’s not exactly charming either, the same way that Atlas Eclipticalis was.  It also doesn’t bring to mind other number pieces, because the majority of the tones seem to be fairly brief, and they don’t seem “swept in” as in most number pieces.

I believe this is a live recording based on the wide array of coughs.  The way I think of this works is as maybe a halfway point between some of the more forceful or “random sounding” music like Atlast Eclipticalis and the Freeman Etudes and Etudes Borealis and so on, moving more towards the later number pieces.  The lack of detail in the recording is a little disappointing because it’s harder to hear the specifics of the individual sounds, though I do note some unusual percussive playing of the instrument frame and perhaps some strumming noises.  Nothing is making the instruments seem to scream in pain as in the Freeman Etudes though!

More or less where it began, as far as number pieces are concerned—piano chords differing in loudness, written in 1987.  Now, I wonder if this is my imagination or what, but the earlier I go with the number pieces, the less “number piece like” they sound.  This one seems rather forceful; some tones don’t seem to be allowed to fade out.  I do like the performance of chords though.  I’m not exactly sure how Cage chose which chords to perform, because none of them seem totally bizarre.  I presume they are chance-determined within some range.  it’s very silent and meditative, and the only flaw might be that the speedy exit of the sound doesn’t really give me the chance to experience it fully.  

I’ve said other number pieces bring to mind the sky or the moon or whatnot; perhaps this one brings to mind some of that but also a sky with lots of shooting stars, that zip through my field of hearing before I really have a chance to experience them, and then they’re gone.  This would frankly be a nice piece of music to hear when I am going to sleep, especially through earplugs: nothing too distracting, and sufficiently random-sounding to get my mind in the proper state for sleep.

Mysterious Adventure
And now for something completely different...Prepared piano dance music in five sections; apparently it is “trivial” but not “simple.” I’m not sure what that means!  It’s lower in pitch than other prepared piano pieces, it seems to me, and the rhythms seem ritualistic to me, and I think there’s some great sounds, very sharp and hard sounds, and a beat I can actually tap along to for parts of the piece.  I would say the opposite of, that it’s pretty simple but not trivial, if for no other reason than it goes on a lot longer.  I especially like the second section with the quiet rhythm repeated over and over with a bell sound between each repetition.  
Unfortunately, the second part is the only part that uses a slightly different set of sounds.  The other four seem largely similar: fragments of a rather similar rhythm played repeatedly.  The only exception is a shift into different material in the fifth part, almost like someone broke the machine performing the music!  Anyway, it ends with something close to a fade out, something I hear fairly regularly with Cage’s percussion music.  Did anyone use fade-outs before Cage?

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