Friday, January 20, 2006


Europeras 3 and 4

I guess I have more or less shifted to a new posting style, since I think interest in this project from others has dwindled somewhat.  I’m now listening to a few things and then posting every couple of days instead of every day.  This past week I specifically tried to get out of the way the music that I was looking forward to the least.  So here’s about three hours worth of reviews of things I don’t much want to hear again!

A Dip in the Lake: Waltzes 23-61; Marches 1-28; Marches 29-56
This is a continuation of the work for recordings of Chicago.  I went ahead and heard the last hour and a half the other day, which was interesting but just not interesting enough to warrant such an investment of time.  The best sounds were heard among the first two in the three remaining “chunks.”  In the first, I heard some nice siren noises and a few instances of people speaking.  It’s when there is a distinctive sound that you can pick up the rhythm of its re-use most effectively.  In the second (the first collection of marches), there was the clear sound of the Chicago airport, which made me smile.  I ended up there often when If flew home from Cleveland in college, even though going northwest is not the most efficient way to head to a location to the southeast.  The last section featured sounds that seemed to be recorded inside a car, but I wasn’t sure.

I’m also not sure of the rhythms associated with this music, whether there is a specific rhythm or not.  I could hear repetitions, and a few times they reminded me of waltz patterns and such, but I’m not totally sure.  Oh yeah, I heard two pieces of pop music: one rock song played in such a distorted manner that I could recognize the tune but not put a name on it, and one hip-hop track played on the street.  

This work reminds me of N30, a recording by Christopher DeLaurenti.

Europeras 3 and 4
Oh man, this was the most boring thing I have ever heard in my life.  How do you come up with an experience more irritating than opera itself?  Simply pile a whole bunch of operas together!  Whew, what an experience.  This set (the two operas must be performed in sequence) is from 1990.  No. 3 involves six singers, two pianos, Victrolas, and the Truckera tape of loud, indecipherable opera superimpositions..  No. 4 has two singers, one piano, one Victrola, and Truckera once again.  

A disclaimer for this review should be stated, if it’s not obvious by now...Basically, I find the singing used in opera to be utterly and completely repulsive.  Normally when I hate something, I try to expose myself to it more to see what I can get out of it, but it’s been a total failure with opera.  To those who say Cage’s Europeras are a parody of opera I say, “No; opera is a bloated and disgusting parody of itself.”  I remember reading a review of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha that suggested the dialogue was hackneyed, but which also conceded that if the author could understand the language of all the “great” European operas, he’d probably feel the same way about them.

Now...with that off my chest, I’ll try to offer some thoughts while keeping my general hatred of the music in check :-)

The recording was generally pretty quiet in Europera 3, because the performers were scattered around the stage.  Often they would outsing one another.  I did not find that the Victrola players played anywhere near the significance that they played in Europera 5 (which I actually enjoyed because of its nostalgic, slightly sad atmosphere).  I didn’t feel as if the sound mixing in this recording worked well, either, since the piano seemed to be much louder than the singers ever were, and although I sometimes heard the Victrolas, it was rare that they managed to get my attention, totally unlike Europera 5.  The highlight of the recording was the Truckera tape which, I’m sad to report, didn’t actually show up that much.  I remember liking it a lot in Europera 5 and I thought it could be used to great effect here in this more exuberant performance, but it wasn’t.  

I’m afraid I really didn’t tell much difference between Europera 3 and Europera 4, except that the latter was shorter (thank goodness).  I’d probably enjoy going to a performance of this, because the silliness of the activities on stage would probably be very entertaining and would distract me from the overbearing false intensity of the singers.  As an audio-only recording of a live event, though, I’m afraid I can’t enjoy it one bit—even the parts I liked the most from Europera 5 seemed to be minimized or too hard to hear.

I'll be disappointed when you get to the end. And yet, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the number of Cages pieces I have never heard of, let alone have never heard. An interesting exercise, nonetheless.

Robert Gable
Now that I have the index up, I hope you will be able to find some of the more interesting recordings!
We need more anarchy...
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