Tuesday, February 07, 2006


The Seasons for piano

And so it ends (except for everything else). The question is...What now? Well, for starters I need to go fill in all those reviews I didn’t quite finish writing! I’ll also be adding more and more as they show up. I did go ahead and buy the two missing easily-available Cage CD’s, and I have access to that Reunion recording. Once those all arrive, that will be a new review. Beyond that, I’ll look forward to new releases (there’s still plenty of stuff left to record, check the unrecorded list!) and comment on them as they arrive.

Oh, yeah, I should probably rewrite the unrecorded work list, and maybe put some effort into figuring out why particular works have never been recorded. For whatever it’s worth, here is my Top 10 list of unrecorded works, in no real order:
  1. Speech 1955

  2. Renga

  3. Music for Carillon No. 4 (including all instruments)

  4. One?, for cameraman

  5. Marriage at the Eiffel Tower

  6. Music for “The Marrying Maiden”

  7. 27’10 etc. for a Percussionist (a normal version)

  8. Solos for Voice 1 & 2

  9. Song Books, all solos performed in sequence (which I can then play simultaneously at random)

  10. Unpublished early works: First Chapter of Ecclesiastes, Greek Ode, Chess Pieces, Piano Etudes (if they still exist), Haiku

Maybe someone thinking “Ugh, I want to record Cage, but I don’t know what to do!” will read this and do something from it ;-)

The blog format is not very convenient for my faithful readers, so I guess what I will do is begin the slow process of downloading the entire blog and moving it to a new website. I’ll extract all the references to eating noodles and so on, and reorganize it and try to find some sort of synthesis of this experience I have undergone. On the one hand, the random order of the experience has made it hard to see the threads between different works, but at the same time I know they are there, so “something” useful should result.

Maybe I can ad banner advertising and make a million dollars and go bribe the European librarians to send me all their prepared train and music box recordings. :-)

Music for Piano No. 2
This work consists of groupw of notes on four pages created via paper imperfections. Being an early piece in the series (1953), it doesn’t have anything besides note specified, so there are no extraneous piano noises. The music is not particularly sparse and there are plenty of sounds. Dynamics are chosen by the performer, and I would call this chance-determined but not indeterminate music.

Variations IV
Cage reached an extreme in the 1960’s, producing compositions which cannot reasonably be described as music (except insofar as “everything is music” in which case the word is worthless), in my opinion. Variations IV from 1963 is one such work. Creation of a performance begins with a map of the performance area onto which circles and points are peppered; these shapes represent the locations at which activities might occur. No indication of what these sounds are is given, and thus once again we have a performance that is, to me, much more the creation of the performer than the composer.

To go further, I’d call interpreting some of Cage’s more peculiar scores like this one and Variations III and others in the series something close to divination. Cage’s score is the tortoise shell; or the night sky, or the palm, or whatever.

Anyway...about this recording! It’s basically a bi mixture of sound sources scattered in a perofrmance space: many of them recordings of voices, some of them sounds of the street or a cafe. There’s also a lot of music. Curiously, no Cage music. The first time I heard it I thought, “This is a really long version of the Beatles’ Revolution 9.”

Overall it’s not much fun to hear, although I do like the cathedral bells and some of the strange radio and/or movie extractions. Once again, I’ll say this sort of thing is a lot of fun for performers and participants in the activity, but recording it is of not much use (even this recording is merely a bunch of excerpts from an all-day performance).

The Seasons for piano
This is the 1947 work, and I already heard the orchestral versions. Cage uses the Indian interpretation of seasons in a series of relatively brief pieces with interludes between them. The piano version has a lighter and more emotive feel to it than the orchestrated version, in my opinion. Listening to the spring section, in particular, just sounds more full of fluttering and more breezy in the piano performance. Additionally, I don't feel as distracted by certain elements that seem unique to the orchestral version (for example, the strings come in with notes during Spring that do not seem to be played by the piano at all). The theme of the first prelude returns in the finaly, and it is a theme I find haunting. That aspect of the music is the only part I prefer in the orchestral version. As I think I said in my comments on the other performance, I really like Spring, and like Winter some, but the other two don't do too much to excite me.

Music for Piano 85
Here’s a piece that is appropriate enough to end on. It was written in 1962 and is the last in the series of Music for Pianio. The instructions include refrences to feedback. The performance is very silent and begins with a scream of sorts. A glissando flies in, and a single held tone...Feeback is heard! Fortunately, the feedback is not as painful as in some of the other recordings. Most of the work, anyway, is taken up by single tones with long silences in between. The additional sounds of the piano body and the feedback add some entertainment. Oddly, I actually kind of like it!

One11 (for cameraman) has been videotaped. So, you can remove this from your unrecorded list and rent the DVD.
Congratulations. You almost lost me at the end when you suggested In a Landscape was "tedious New Age piano music" but if anyone is entitled to their opinion, it's someone who has listening to everying...
Hey, I thought I said it only reminded me of the tedious New Age stuff! Satie and Cage can't be blamed for the stuff people made after them ;-) (I think Cage expressed the same sentiment when he said Buddhism was not to blame for him...)
glenn, which DVD is this on?
'in a landscape' has appeared on some new age compilations i think. this one is close to that sentiment - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000AXWGXG/qid=1139729876/sr=1-17/ref=sr_1_17/103-5954628-8103059?s=classical&v=glance&n=5174
One used to be able to rent the DVD from here ...


... but perhaps no longer.
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