Tuesday, January 10, 2006



Tonight I had the strange experience of buying a $1.00 Cage CD.  The local record srore had exactly six used albums in their classical music section.  I bought four of them: an Arnold Bax Symphony, Cage’s “Litany for the Whale” disc (I have access to the disc but did not own it until now), Allegri’s Misirere, and a disc full, of all things, of music for harmonica and orchestra.  Total cost was $6.50.  If only I could meet whoever brought those in...

At the bookstore, I sat around reading some book about some female oboe player, and was amused to learn that the classical music world is as much a drugged-out oversexed freak show as the rock and roll world, except everyday people actually want to hear rock music.  ;-)

Tonight I will do a big pile of fairly short works, including a
of a never-before recorded Cage work

The size of that text was absolutely essential.

Oh, I also made recordings of part of Art is a Complaint ot Do Something Else lately.    

Here of course is Cage’s infamous silent work, scored for any number of performers, performed infamously by David Tudor not long after it was written in 1952—incidentally, the only date I know off the top of my head!.  I recorded this myself, and enjoyed the experience.  The recording features miscellaneous sounds, mostly the sounds of my computer whirring and me sitting in my chair.  I hear myself breath a few times, and I hear myself shift positions.  Interesting, because I wasn’t aware my microphone was so sensitive.  

This may not be a legitimate recording, because I failed to not be playing an instrument...  

The traditional way of interpreting this piece is that the incidental noises are what form the music.  However, one of the ways I like to hear it is to suppose that I have to listen behind all the extraneous noises, that the music is the silence produced by the performer but all the other sounds—my computer, my blood, the electrical impulses in my brain--are too loud and drown it out.  I guess that’s kind of the sad view of 4’33”.  

The work is divided into three movements, although I did not do anything to indicate this in the recording since it would involve intentionally producing sound.  Maybe splitting the track into three parts would have been a way to do it?  

This is a three-minute work for unspecified percussion from 1991, and it brings to mind Three2 which I reviewed previously and may be from the same disc.  Similar rushing sounds are heard, and rattling as well.  It’s great for a windy, rustic night such as this.  Overall, though it’s atmospheric, but fairly nondescript.  The score is just about as simple as they come, featuring number superimposed on staff lines, indicating when the performers should start and stop their sounds.  I think i would have preferred a more radily recognizable percussion instrument ot two.

Music for Carillon No. 2
This work from 1954 was created using holes in cardboard, and can be adapted for any type of carillon.  

Music for Carillon No. 3
This work, also from 1954, uses the exact smae materials as No. 2 but simply is read upside down.  

This work from 1962 is also called 4’33” No. 2, and is intended to be performed in any way by anyone, within certain specifications: It must be amplified, the actions taken must fufill an obligation to others, and the actions cannot be performing music.  

This was recorded while typing up the revision of the Water Walk review last night, and this is a world premiere recording, but not technically the one I am referring to in the intro.  Primarily what I hear are keyboard sounds, including some rocking back and forth as a consequence of the way I amplified the sound.

I had no contact microphones, so I attatched the end of a stethoscope under my keyboard, and then used clay do fashion a tube leading from the earpiece directly into my microphone.  The result sounds pretty good; the keyboard is amplified and not much else can be heard.  It’s interesting how the spacebar has such a distinctive forceful sound to it.

Two is an early number piece scored for flute and piano, and a pain to find!  Thanks to Lothar for a copy.  It was written in 1987, and to my ears seems pretty distinct from its followers in the same genre.  

59 ½ for a String Player
Only one solo recording of this that I know of exists, and it’s on a “Wonderful Widows” disc that I now, annoyingly, have three copies of!  It was written in 1953, and the performer chooses what four strings are referred to by the notation.  Bowing pressure and auxillary sounds are indicated, too.  

This work from 1991 is scored for three clarinets (one bass), a horn and timpani.  I’m grateful for the timpani, because it adds some fun to the music.

This is a wonderful piece that’s depressignly hard to find a copy of; credit goes to Greg for this one.  The duration of the 1977 work is mostly taken up by the sound of water in conch shells being tipped over, which sometimes produces noises and sometimes does not.  Added to this is the sound of a burning pinecone and a single, drawn out blow on a shell.  I rather wish the last part wasn’t there; it is so loud that I have to keep the volume on my stereo down to avoid waking the dead.  However, when I do that, I have trouble healing the watery sounds, much less the pinecone.  

Cage’s first and only performance of this work in Tokyo in 1989 was in response to a request to perform 4’33”.  Feeling that silence had changed since the 50’s, he chose to do this.  he sound system of the performance area has its volume raised until the point that it is about to feedback.  I didn’t really get what this meant until I bought my microphone a few weeks ago, and annoyed my ears with lots and lots of feedback, and I subsequently felt like an idiot.

But after that, I realized that I could use this fact to produce my own rendition of One3.  So I set my volume levels and kept one hand on the mouse as I recorded, because my feedback is a little shaky.  There will be none for a long time, and then suddenly it explodes.  So in a way, my listening was even more intense than in the original 4’33”.  I also did as Cage did in the original performance, and measured time with my inner clock, resulting in a performance that made it to five minutes and thirty seconds.  A minute too long!

The sound is much the same, except I can hear a very vague moaning sound that might be a little feedback creeping in, and it does seem as if sounds in general are louder and more hollow-sounding.  I can hear myself breating in the One3 recording more than the 4’33” recording, anyway.  It was an awful lot of fun to record.

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