Wednesday, February 22, 2006



Well, I have enough new material for a few new reviews!  They come from my “unowned” list, which has now been updated.  Thanks to Andre for One12 and others which I’ll tackle tomorrow.

Three Pieces for Flute Duet
This composition from 1935 has three parts titled (uncharacteristically for Cage) “Allegro giocoso,” “Andante cantabile,” and “Grave adagio.”  These more or less describe what the music sounds like.  The first piece is a brief, bouncy introduction of sorts.  The second is cheerful and the third, perhaps the most interesting, is fairly dramatic.  The pieces are all chromatic and seem overall cold and modern (I’d compare it to the atonal music I’ve heard), and basically typical of Cage’s early piano works.  

Five Songs for Contralto
More early Cage songs from 1938.  The accompaniment is not especially overbearing, but a little more prominent than in the earlier Three Songs.  In all the songs, it’s played with brief notes and with great nervous energy.

The text is based on poetry from e. e. cummings.  “Little Four Paws” is a cute song about cats, but not particularly clear in its meaning.  “Little Christmas Tree” is a sad song addressed to a tree that has been cut down.  It becomes progressively more absurd with the narrator saying he will kiss the tree’s heart and hold it close like it’s mother would (don’t tree “mothers” pretty much toss their “kids” on the ground?).  The tree will then end up standing tall and proud, well-dressed in a window.  “In Just” seems to be discussing a spring day with children playing and a balloon man whistling.  It has little variation in melody.  “hist Whist” is mostly nonsense alliterative text and a somewhat clearer melody than normal; the vibrato in the voice obscures a lot of the text.  “Another comes (Tumbling-hair)” is slow and an appropriate (though not interesting) finale.  It discusses flowers in a field, primarily.  The images as a whole invoke a lot of rustic, homey imagery.

This is an abnormal number piece, written for a lecturer.  The performer says a word with the number of letters specified by numbers in the score.  I’m not sure if words are provided or not; in this performance Cage seems to be pronouncing words in more than one language, with only a few obvious English words (including “river” and “red”).  Since each letter is given a tone, a song-like structure is produced.  At certain points, Cage uses strange vocal styles and seems to be choking a little.  

If I were to compare to anything, I’d compare it to a reading of 62 Mesostics Re: Merce Cunningham, except witout such a...outrageous variety of sounds.  This is a much softer, more relaxed vocal performance.

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