Wednesday, February 01, 2006



Tonight, I’ll tackle a few more items.  I think doing it in 90 minute pieces is pretty easy.  Will I finish by Sunday?  We’ll see...:-D

This work was written in 1991 and is a little unusual in that there are four performers, but they are not assigned to particular instruments.  Instead, during each time bracket, the performers may play rainsticks, the piano, a violin, or do nothing.  The piano music, incidentally, is the same Lullaby on which the obscure work for music box is based.  Everything is performed softly and slowly.  

As usual, the rainsticks sound vaguely like rain and perhaps a bit more like seeds falling slowly down a narrow tube ;-)  Nonetheless, the instrument is a great choice for a slow, quiet and peaceful work.  The rainsticks seem significantly more popular than any of the other sounds.  They are also conducive to the Cage idea of sounds being brushed into existence, as they start slowly, grow louder, and then fade.  The piano music sounds much as I expect Satie to sound in his more mystical moments, slow and meditative.  Satie and rainsticks complement each other nicely.  The violin is a little bit of a letdown, in a way, because the high C it is supposed to be playing does not feel very constant.  It also doesn’t show up much; I almost wish it had been a true oscillator, so that it would resemble a solid, unchanging tones around which the rest of the sounds could wrap themselves.  

Overall I’d rank this among my favorite Cage number pieces.  

Music for Piano 21-36
Didn’t I already listen to this?  It’s considered a single work along with Music for Piano 37-52.   I’ll hear it anyway since I don’t think I actually broke them up the first time through.  Do I even truly need an introduction here?  It’s another in Cage’s long line (85 long, I think) of chance-composed piano music; in this case, paper imperfections are involved.  

There’s not especially much (new) to say about this music, except that the number of non-keyboard (or at least non-string) events is pretty low.  This performance is also not as sparse as others I’ve heard, and the pedaling keeps most of the sound in the air longer.  It has a more ambient feel than some of the other performances in the Music for Piano series.  

This piece is from 1991, and after Twenty-Three and Twenty-Six, I half expected it to be scored for a big mass of violins.  But it’s not!  It’s only scored for a big mass of strings, plus timpani and percussion.  No violins though.  Also, the famous bowed piano of Fourteen fame.

This is an awesome performance; the timpani adds an enormous amount to the ominous energy that is pouring from my speakers.  The strings, all by themselves, are dissonant and terrifying, but the additional rumblings from the timpani make it additionally terrifying.  This music doesn’t feel as natural as most of the other number piece, instead it seems very industrial?  In it I seem to hear the loud humming of machines and rushing and grinding of motors and gears.  Excellent!  Cage uses the large number of instruments at his disposal to great effect here, and the sound is overwhelming.  Special mention goes to the bowed piano.  While it’s not as prominent here as in Fourteen (probably because there’s such a wall of sound), it has that same terrifying power to it and you can hear it distinctly.  

Four3 was peaceful, but this listening experience is intense and raises the hair on the back of my neck.  Wow.  

Twenty-Nine is scored for violas, cellos and basses along with percussion, timpani and bowed piano.
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