Author Topic: John Cage (1912-92)  (Read 43095 times)

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Offline some guy

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #20 on: October 14, 2008, 09:54:37 AM »
Then there are two versions of the piece Seventy Four - which are subtly different due to the aleatoric nature of the work.
Not that this battle is worth fighting, or is as vital to fight as some others, but the word for Cage's practice is "indeterminacy," aleatory being a European word (coined by M. Pierre Boulez) describing a European concept of having some chance elements inside a determined structure. (In this, it is not much different from any piece, ever, as there are always little things different in each performance of each piece. That goes for each playing of a fixed recording, too.)

Indeterminacy, on the other hand, is about finding ways to let go of control, finding ways to bypass one's own tastes and desires (this goes for performers as well as composers, hence the distinction Cage always made between indeterminacy and improvisation). Aleatory basically leaves the whole Western art tradition intact, leaves the audience still in the position of admiring "works." Indeterminacy, briefly, overturns the tradition, inviting the audience to take more responsibility for their enjoyment, inviting the audience to become more aware of if not even enjoy the sights and sounds of every day life.

Superficially, they all seem similar, aleatory, improvisation, indeterminacy. But they really are all three quite distinct.

That concludes this week's lecture. Next week, wave synthesis or granular synthesis, which will get you the babes? (In truckloads.)

karlhenning

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #21 on: October 14, 2008, 10:23:28 AM »
Hey, I thought it an excellent point.

Offline Guido

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #22 on: October 14, 2008, 02:18:38 PM »
Not that this battle is worth fighting, or is as vital to fight as some others, but the word for Cage's practice is "indeterminacy," aleatory being a European word (coined by M. Pierre Boulez) describing a European concept of having some chance elements inside a determined structure. (In this, it is not much different from any piece, ever, as there are always little things different in each performance of each piece. That goes for each playing of a fixed recording, too.)

Indeterminacy, on the other hand, is about finding ways to let go of control, finding ways to bypass one's own tastes and desires (this goes for performers as well as composers, hence the distinction Cage always made between indeterminacy and improvisation). Aleatory basically leaves the whole Western art tradition intact, leaves the audience still in the position of admiring "works." Indeterminacy, briefly, overturns the tradition, inviting the audience to take more responsibility for their enjoyment, inviting the audience to become more aware of if not even enjoy the sights and sounds of every day life.
 (In truckloads.)

I certainly think this is a point worth making, and thanks for correcting me... Lutoslawski is a very different beast from Cage in both intention and effect when it comes to these performer decision/chance elements in their works.
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Offline Ugh!

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #23 on: October 15, 2008, 10:18:25 AM »

That concludes this week's lecture. Next week, wave synthesis or granular synthesis, which will get you the babes? (In truckloads.)

Beware of the granular synthesis groupies my friend, word of advice.

Offline Superhorn

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #24 on: October 18, 2008, 09:32:01 AM »
   I've  never  found  Cage's  music  interesting  at  all, although  I  haven't  heard  everything  of  his.  Basically, his  music  is just  a  collection  of  gimmicks.  There is no  there  there.  I  don't  mind  radical experimentation  on  the  part  of  composers, but  I  can't  accept  this  if  the  music  is not  interesting.
  He  was  just  looking for  an  excuse  to  show  how "different"  he  was  from  the  mainstream  of  western  classical  music, and  what a  "maverick" he was. (Where  have  we  heard  that  term  before? Is John MCCain  the  John Cage  of  politics?).  The wonderful book "The Rest Is Noise" by Alex Ross  quotes Cage as having declared that "Beethoven was wrong". 
  I suppose this means that Cage considered HIS way of composing vallid and that Beethoven's wasn't. But this is like blaming Goya for not painting like Picasso.  Cage was a colorful and amusing character,though.

Offline Lethevich

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #25 on: October 18, 2008, 09:39:15 AM »
The wonderful book "The Rest Is Noise" by Alex Ross  quotes Cage as having declared that "Beethoven was wrong". 

Vaughan Williams went as far as "The Beethoven idiom repels me" - a lot of good composers say dumb stuff...
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lukeottevanger

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #26 on: October 18, 2008, 09:54:15 AM »
   I've  never  found  Cage's  music  interesting  at  all, although  I  haven't  heard  everything  of  his.  Basically, his  music  is just  a  collection  of  gimmicks.  There is no  there  there.  I  don't  mind  radical experimentation  on  the  part  of  composers, but  I  can't  accept  this  if  the  music  is not  interesting.
  He  was  just  looking for  an  excuse  to  show  how "different"  he  was  from  the  mainstream  of  western  classical  music, and  what a  "maverick" he was. (Where  have  we  heard  that  term  before? Is John MCCain  the  John Cage  of  politics?).  The wonderful book "The Rest Is Noise" by Alex Ross  quotes Cage as having declared that "Beethoven was wrong". 
  I suppose this means that Cage considered HIS way of composing vallid and that Beethoven's wasn't. But this is like blaming Goya for not painting like Picasso.  Cage was a colorful and amusing character,though.

This is all pretty uninformed. Have you read the article in which Cage says 'Beethoven was wrong'? Do you know to what he was referring? In his own terms - and that's all anyone can ask of any composer - he was exactly right.

The 'he was just looking for an excuse...' line is your interpretation, but it's unsubstantiated - and as everything I know of Cage breathes sincerity, thought and conviction, I rather doubt its truth.

karlhenning

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #27 on: October 18, 2008, 10:08:31 AM »
Vaughan Williams went as far as "The Beethoven idiom repels me" - a lot of good composers say dumb stuff...

Well, but I should take it (as a rule) more on the order of, for an artist to find his own voice, part of the process is a rejection of What Has Already Been Done.  The rejection may be temporary or not.

The other thing is, sometimes it is a matter of actually rejecting some aspect of the past.  Some of it is putting the public on notice that one is going to write nice music, but it isn't going to fit into the Nice Music boxes of the past.

lukeottevanger

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #28 on: October 18, 2008, 10:27:42 AM »
The VW Beethoven rejection implied by that quotation is also not really the case. He certainly had 'issues' with certain aspects of the style - with what he saw as occassionally routine variation for the sake of variation, for instance, and felt the influence of the salon too much in the odd place - but his respect and reverence for Beethoven was profound. His article on the Choral Symphony expresses all of his thoughts on Beethoven - he saw it as a supreme masterpiece.

lukeottevanger

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #29 on: October 18, 2008, 10:50:07 AM »
Heavy's good, right?

lukeottevanger

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #30 on: October 18, 2008, 11:32:44 AM »
Sometimes, James. Not always.

Offline Guido

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #31 on: October 18, 2008, 02:17:06 PM »
  He  was  just  looking for  an  excuse  to  show  how "different"  he  was  from  the  mainstream  of  western  classical  music, and  what a  "maverick" he was. (Where  have  we  heard  that  term  before? Is John MCCain  the  John Cage  of  politics?).

This is utter, utter tosh. His brilliant writings very well illustrate what he was trying to do - I have a feeling that you have just created that explanation of his work from a mixture of your own dislike of the music and a complete lack of interest in truth. I have absolutely no quarrells with anyone who dislikes Cage's music, but the reasons people give for their dislike are almost always based on ignorance, closed mindedness and their own imagination. People say some really stupid things when they try to rationalise why they dislike something. It's better to just say "I don't like it".

As a side note, I'm not sure if anyone has brought this up but your posts are really visually off putting to read because they all appear to be double spaced. Is this intentional?
Geologist.

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karlhenning

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #32 on: March 31, 2009, 07:52:06 AM »
Hey, that's very interesting.   I read that Cage went into a totally insulated anechoic chamber in order to experience TOTAL SILENCE.   To his surprise, he could still hear two noises, one high and one low.     The high one was his nervous system in operation and the low one was due to his blood circulation.   This was one of the triggers for 4'33".     Another one was seeing Rauschenberg's series of totally uniform white paintings .... he was inspired to create the musical equivalent.

Hmmm .... I should have started a separate thread on 4'33" ..... we got grossly off-topic  :-\

And, honoring the current 'buzz'  8)

Offline Brewski

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #33 on: March 31, 2009, 08:02:16 AM »
I wonder if anyone in this forum has ever attended a live performance of 4'33" ??     It would surely be a memorable and unique experience.   And it is maybe the ONLY way for anyone to experience the composer's intentions for the listener .... I mean you could debate whether listening to a recording is a valid way of experiencing 4'33", or simply a different way (I suspect that Cage would say the latter ....).

I have heard it in live performance at least five times, in versions for solo piano, cello and clarinet, as well as string quartet and chamber orchestra.  And yes, it is memorable; there is something about this piece--part stunt, part philosophy, part music--that pulls you in.  It's not too long (e.g., 4'33" is much more doable than say, 48'33"), and inevitably some tiny sounds in the room enter the picture, and you notice them in a way that you might not have otherwise. 

And yes, people do laugh: some nervously, or responding to a particular sound.  Some laughter comes afterward, discussing it, e.g., at the chamber music version a friend wanted them to repeat the "rondo" section.

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karlhenning

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #34 on: March 31, 2009, 08:22:49 AM »
. . . there is something about this piece--part stunt, part philosophy, part music--that pulls you in.

And Cage himself was that selfsame tangle, Bruce.

Offline istanbul

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #35 on: May 14, 2009, 04:01:26 AM »
i read last year a essay from BRANDEN W. JOSEPH (in turkish)
it was wonderfull.
this is original name:
"BRANDEN W. JOSEPH / John Cage and Architecture of Silence"
OCTOBER, Number: 81, Summer 1997, Page:80-104

i want to read cage's books (for the birds; silence...) but my english is awful
and turkish is very poor for music literature too,
you can't find anything cage's books in turkish.
but the music is solves problems, you haven't to speak english;

Offline jowcol

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #36 on: May 14, 2009, 09:24:45 AM »
Vaughan Williams went as far as "The Beethoven idiom repels me" - a lot of good composers say dumb stuff...

Wandering a bit off topic, but this recalls the famous conversation between Proust and Stravinsky that goes like this:
<snip>
The first exchange between Proust and Stravinsky was a taste of what was to come. Perhaps a little maladroitly, Proust attempted to engage the composer on the subject of another composer.
Proust: “Doubtless you admire Beethoven?”
Stravinsky: “I detest Beethoven.”
Proust: “But, cher maître, surely the late sonatas and quartets . . .”
Stravinsky: “Even worse than the rest.”
<snip>

My knowledge of Cage is limited-- but there are some artists whose contributions may not be so much in the works themselves, but in the context they create around it.  Malevitch, the painter of "White Square on White Background" wrote some wild essays that really let you appreciate his work in another dimension.  I've enjoyed Cage's writings very much-- and am curious about the earlier works cited here.  At worst, I'd compare him to Andy Warhol-- a controversial artist who had valid insights and stimulated the community, but I would not pay as much for one of his works as I would for a Van Gogh.

He was interviewed in a Buddhist magazine and had a couple of points I found worthy of reflection.  He said that if you use chance methods, you had to accept the results. (I heard he liked reading Finnegan's Wake in random order).   He also said it was terrifying to answer the phone, because "you never knew if it was Creation or the Buddha calling".

(Ned Rorem has a good zinger about how Cage was "tirelessly promoting his selflessness")



"If it sounds good, it is good."
Duke Ellington

karlhenning

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #37 on: May 14, 2009, 09:38:49 AM »
Rorem's zingers are better than his music (what little I've heard, anyway).

Offline istanbul

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #38 on: May 22, 2009, 06:40:20 AM »
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(for john cage :))

karlhenning

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #39 on: May 30, 2009, 04:50:54 AM »
I don't buy into the "heavier is better" mantra.  And the light touch of the Sonatas & Interludes for prep. piano, the Concerto for Prepared Piano & Orchestra, and the Four Seasons is expert music.

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