Friday, January 27, 2006


Five Stone Wind

I’m going to be silly and post the newest items before going and writing anything about the ones I posted the other day.  A huge disadvantage of listening one day and writing the next is that I forget what I wanted to say.  So I’ll fill those in as time goes on.  

I also discovered a Cage group on MySpace, which I joined.  One person who posted a message is from Italy, and his presence has gotten my hopes up about getting that Silenzio Perduto recording from the Florence library!

Five Stone Wind
This 1988 work derives its title from its component parts, Five Stone for clay drums and an unspecified realization by David Tudor .  I can’t do much but quote André’s description here because I have little clue what it means: “Tudor used recordings of earth-vibrations, passed through an electronic gate, tuned both as to frequency and duration.”  Takehiso Kosugi played flute and pizzicato sounds on the violin for the Wind part, which starts late in the performance.

This performance comes from the Mode recording, and is full of electronically treated percussive sounds.  There is, like pretty much all of Cage’s late work, a natural feeling to this, almost like raindrops or bubbles popping.  The Five Stone part dominates the sound throughout, and the clay drums are pretty clearly heard.  There are certain electronic noises that resemble the bubbles, while there are other high-pitched chiming noises that remind me of falling water.  I’m not sure where they come from exactly.  The Wind portion is hard to hear, because the flute is played very lightly when it is played.  Unless that is a violin I (very barely) hear, in which case it is playing extended tones instead of pizzicato sounds.

It seems about 2/3 of the sounds, from all the performers, have electronic treatment of some kind, whereas others do not.  The electronics generally make those sounds much louder and more distinctive.  If I turn the volume way up (careful with the popping noises!) I hear some interesting sounds like an electronic hissing or very quiet cricket chirping.  Is this Tudor’s earth vibrations?  

I was not looking forward to this recording, but it’s turned out to actually be one of my favorites of the late works because of the wide variety of sounds, and because it brings to mind some of the earliest percussion works.  Some of the lighter, more ambient noises also remind me of the music from Robert Ashley’s Automatic Writing.

Etcetera 2 / 4 Orchestras
This work is from 1986 and is fairly similar for the original Etcetera from 1973: soloists from each orchestra move to platforms and perform at particular times.  Four conductors beat, but the score calls for some sounds to occur at times off from the beats.  There is also a taped component to the music, featuring sounds of traffic and so on recorded in Cage’s New York apartment.  This makes the music less focused on nature sounds than the original (which had raindrop-like rustles, sounds of birds, and the like), and in my mind makes yet another case for the equivalence of sounds of the environment we think of as “natural” and those we think of as “artificial.”  
The music sounds an awful lot like other Cage works for orchestras or large groups of instruments.  On the plus side, there’s plenty of variety and it’s recorded very well: I can distinctly tell the difference between each group of instruments, unlike such low quality recordings as 103.  I would say it sounds like a lot of quiet creaking, interrupted by occasional simultaneous groans of a large group of instruments.  Usually the brass seem to be loudest.  I don’t hear very much from the piano besides a few brief tones now and then.  Also there’s some percussive sounds that seem more like someone dropping his instrument than anything else!  

The tape that is supposedly playing is worth a discussion on its won, because I don’t hear it.  Or maybe I do—I hear a kind of rushing sound in the background that could either be a tape or it could be air rushing over the microphone.  There are also other sounds that resemble the grunting of a truck moving down the street, but these may actually be instruments that happen to not be amplified.  I heard no evidence of telephones or any other “apartment” activities, though (unless that ringing sound towards the very end is a telephone and not some percussion instrument).

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