Friday, May 12, 2006


Chess Pieces

Well, as promised here are my reviews of the new pieces on the Chess Pieces and Works for Percussion 4 discs.  I’ve preordered Works for Saxophone 2 and Eight-Two-One5 from Amazon, and they should arrive by the end of next week (I hope).  

Chess Pieces
This is an obscure work from 1944, which is written on a chessboard and was submitted to an art show, then purchased.  It was recently “rediscovered,” although I’m not really clear how it could have been lost in the first place—it’s known, and it couldn’t have been that challenging to look up who bought it.  

The music is pretty straightforward, and I impressed myself by being able to follow portions of the score printed on the CD cover.  The liner notes describe the music as being a different piece for each square of the board, but on looking at the score it’s clear that many bars overlap different squares.  Thus it’s easiest to think of it as one relatively lengthy piano piece, usually with one dominant melodic line in the high notes, and the bass notes merely providing either additional color or rhythmic accompaniment.  The work has a pretty consistent “flavor” throughout: several bars of melody on one line, followed by more dramatic, loud sections.  It’s pretty simple stuff, with a focus on the “pretty.”

As a side note, I like Tan’s interpretation.  It’s annoying when people play Cage’s early work with the same sort of outlook that one might apply to, say, Music of Changes.  That leads to things like decidedly un-jazzy interpretations of Jazz Study.  Tan approaches this collection of straightforward melodies with a directness that is appealing.

Four Dances [What so proudly we hail]
This is a work for piano (with a few seemingly prepared tones) assorted percussion instruments from 1942.  

The first dance actually sounds pretty dancable, and I swear the piano plays like a banjo might in some sort of hoe down.  The second dance begins with some strummings of the piano strings, and a bit of moaning.  Even non-strummed notes appear to be either plucked or are prepared.  A fairly generic fast rhythm is played on some drums before the moaning/singing resumes.  The third dance is primarily a set of fairly staccato and forceful piano rhythms.  The final dance consists of jazzy piano, claps and lyricless vocals, followed by more jazzy-ragtimish piano.

It sounds basically like a mix of other piano and ‘home performance’ percussion music Cage was doing at the time.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Cage Trends

My discs arrived today, so I’ll post thoughts on Chess Pieces and the percussion works quite soon, probably this evening.

In the meantime, I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with Google Trends, which plots popularity of search terms, and names of various composers.  

It seems John Cage and Stockhausen get pretty decent results, and are quite similar to each other and with Philip Glass.  Cage beat out both except during early 2005 for some reason.  Other related composers barely even register or do not show up at all—Xenakis, La Monte Young, Morton Feldman...Cage also beats out the search term “Schoenberg.”

Sadly, most other composers do surpass Cage in popularity, but by less than one might suspect.  Chopin, Strauss, Schubert, Bach, Beethoven and Mozart all of course are well above Cage, but Cage is just about on part with Rachmaninov, and not too far below Brahms, Liszt, and Grieg.

In terms of locations, Cage had a lot of searches from Norway for some reason, with the USA coming in 8th.  However, NYC was far away the most popular city from which searches for Cage were run.  Schoenberg is also most popular in NYC, although in terms of region, it was the Philippines (!?!?) that saw the most searches.  

Sunday, May 07, 2006


In the meantime...

Well the new reviews shall be pushed back awhile because I accidentally gave the wrong billing information, so now I’ll be waiting awhile longer.  In the meantime, here’s another site I bumped into a few years ago:

Someone sent Stockhausen a bunch of music from electronic musicians, and he offers his thoughts, and the musicians reply.  Aphex Twin asking whether Stockhausen danced made me smile.  

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