Saturday, March 25, 2006



Well, I still have a few blank spots on the list that somehow I missed earlier, so I need to fill those in.  I’m excited by all the new Cage releases!  Several first recordings including Four Dances, Composition for Three Voices, Chess Pieces, and Eight.  They all have finally all showed up on Arkivmusic, so I’ll be ordering soon!

Or maybe not, because their shipping fees are just awful.  Amazon will not be getting them in any time soon though, and I would prefer to order them all simultaneously.  


Freeman Etudes 25 – 32
Considering how much I whine about there, I’m surprised I missed them.  This time for a change of pace I actually tried to use them to help me sleep and, surprisingly, it worked pretty well.  The screeching complaints of the violin as it is tortured do not strike me as relaxing, but somehow the lack of melody or rhythm in the performance made it easy to break that concious focus that keeps me awake.  The only thing I don’t like about these Etudes is that there’s really nothing distinctive about any of them.  I guess I wish Cage had varied the materials subjected to chance operations a little bit—some pieces could have all possible sounds, others would have a more limited range.  That would be much more interesting ‘study’ I think.  

I am going from zero information on this one, besides the 1989 date and that it is for piano.  The performance seems more 50’s-like, because I hear the distinct sound of noises from outside the piano, but they do not distract me and do not feel like a gimmick.  Like other early number pieces, it seems to be composed from a wider variety of material choices, including single notes of varying duration and chords (many of the later pieces use primarily long, drawn out single tones).  To be honest, although I am nearly certain the work was composed using chance operations, I have a strong sense of melody when I listen to the music.  Maybe it’s just that I’ve listened to so much of this sort of music that my brain no longer tries to hear normal melodies and every sequence of notes is pleasing, or the style in which it is played simply makes the separate parts work together like magic.  In any case, it’s an effective and affecting performance.

49 Waltzes for the Five Bouroughs
This work from 1977 is a lot like Cage’s other “dance” work, which was for recordings and performances in Chicago.  This one, however, utilizes 147 addresses in New York, which on this Waltz Project record was taken as locations for recordings of waltez.  In general, it sounds pretty much like A Dip in the Lake except that additional music is added on top of the city sounds.  The city sounds themselves also feel a bit more powerful, somehow, in this recording.  The effect is like being enveloped.

I’m not so sure I agree with the music being added to the recordings, though.  It seems to me the reason Cage refers to dances in 49 Waltzes and A Dip in the Lake is that the scattered points on the map might resemble some kind of dance pattern, moving from one location to the other.  I don’t know how choreography works, but this idea came to mind seeing one of the maps.  Either that, or it’s simply an emphasis on the movement needed to get from one location to another in the city.

This is a review of the awful quality recording on this site: .  

This is an excerpt from a 1968 performance where the output of the sound system is connected to the moves made on a chess board.  I believe the original recording was in sad shape already, and adding to it the awful Quicktime compression artifacts (it sounds like a chicken, frankly) doesn’t do it much good.  That’s too bad because the sounds actually sound pretty cool: lots of birdlike forest noises (think Tudor’s Rainforest—except maybe these are real birds?) along with some ominous low and long tones.  The performance was to suggest the coming together of sound sources.  You can go hear it and judge for yourself.  It seems pretty cool to me.

My concentration on the game would stink with all that racket though ;-)

Zac, glad you are starting to fill in the blanks. You might want to take a look at the review index and update your suggested recordings. Please delete the CageMap from your blog or revise it and add every Cage piece ... that would be fun to look at!
The index is fully updated now. I'm not sure when I will do womething about the Cagemap. What I wanted to do was find a thematic catalog of sorts for Cage's work by grouping them into clusters and seeing what appeared. It's pretty hard though since i only get 2 dimensions!

Maybe I'll throw my data points into one of my clustering programs and see what it comes up with...
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