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.

hi zac,
i got a copy of the Five Hanau Silence 7".
ill try to convert it to mp3 soon and send it to you.
Thanks Greg! I don't see you online so much, but I'll keep my eyes peeled for you. I'd be interested in that Eight offer you made earlier too, as Amazon's not as cooperative as I had hoped :-( I'm also going to pick up the Cage transcription of Satie's "Socrate."
rapidshare links plz!!
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