Author Topic: John Cage (1912-92)  (Read 74339 times)

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Offline petrarch

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #180 on: July 10, 2011, 04:46:18 AM »
Figures ..  you've bought into the (empty) rhetoric then.  :(

:D. You are too funny. Your hopelessness is almost endearing.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2011, 04:48:38 AM by petrarch »
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Offline mjwal

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #181 on: July 10, 2011, 04:49:26 AM »
Cage might be a nice person but his practice (rationale/technique) is not musically liberating or delightful at all ..  in fact it's just the opposite.
Might have been - he's dead, you know. Unless you are afraid he's out there, somewhere, watching you.
By prevaricating with the term "practice" you succeed in avoiding my point and implicitly negating my experience. Yes, the results of his generative device(s) were delightful, to me. You were not there, I believe, so you cannot know. The classical injunction that poetry delight and instruct - whatever preconceptions artists or philosophers historically have had about the right means - still seems to me to apply to all art; and Cage is all about teaching as well as delighting, regardless of what I or you may think of the constraints he uses to generate his music. He taught us about sound production on the piano in his Interludes and sonatas, he taught us about the integration of aleatoric elements and the useful adaptation of the 9 permanent emotions of classical Indian aesthetics in 16 Dances - my own personal favourite of his works, a delightful revelation to me when the Ensemble Modern played it in Frankfurt way back when - learning from the delight came after, as is right and proper.
The Violin's Obstinacy

It needs to return to this one note,
not a tune and not a key
but the sound of self it must depart from,
a journey lengthily to go
in a vein it knows will cripple it.
...
Peter Porter

karlhenning

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #182 on: July 10, 2011, 04:51:50 AM »
Ah, the first good chuckle of the day:

Quote from: James
. . . his practice (rationale/technique) is not musically liberating or delightful at all . . . .

James demonstrating anew that he fails to understand what a fact is.

karlhenning

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #183 on: July 10, 2011, 04:53:50 AM »
Of course, the doubly amusing aspect of that mini-pontification, is how James reveres Zappa, and yet, conveniently forgets that Zappa (for one) delighted in Cage's practice.

karlhenning

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #184 on: July 10, 2011, 05:13:44 AM »
James is still struggling with incapable of grasping the notion that things he does not like can be likable. (Other people and hence other opinions exist besides him.)

Fixed!

Offline mjwal

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #185 on: July 10, 2011, 07:18:51 AM »
Is that what he taught us? Whoa .. major.  ::)

Delve into Stravinsky, Bartók or Webern; you'll quickly realize that Cage as 'musical liberator' is a nonstarter; he's a neanderthal in comparison.
Who? Never heard of 'em.
Quite apart from the breathtaking patronisation, I think you need help - how about a nice logic class at your local high school. C is a primitive nonstarter -  A and B are much better letters and all you need, ergo C is not worth a groat. That disposes of the alphabet then.
The Violin's Obstinacy

It needs to return to this one note,
not a tune and not a key
but the sound of self it must depart from,
a journey lengthily to go
in a vein it knows will cripple it.
...
Peter Porter

snyprrr

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #186 on: July 10, 2011, 07:38:34 AM »
Figures.

I gotta tella ya, I think I'm the only person on your 'side' here. Why I can't go an exhume Cage's grave and have my way with his remains, and call it 'Art', is beyond me. I think the logical conclusion of Cage's aesthetic is Genocide.

snyprrr

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #187 on: July 10, 2011, 07:41:52 AM »
+1

ok, I give up,... can you recommend me your choice for 'The One' piano disc of Cage. I would probably go for the most typically blizzard-of-notes kind of thing (the most Darmstadt sounding?),... not the Early stuff (too normal), or the Late stuff (too note-less), probably,... ouch, there's just soooo much...

Offline Grazioso

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #188 on: July 10, 2011, 10:50:23 AM »
Why I can't go an exhume Cage's grave and have my way with his remains, and call it 'Art', is beyond me.



There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. --Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Offline petrarch

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #189 on: July 10, 2011, 03:25:29 PM »
ok, I give up,... can you recommend me your choice for 'The One' piano disc of Cage. I would probably go for the most typically blizzard-of-notes kind of thing (the most Darmstadt sounding?),... not the Early stuff (too normal), or the Late stuff (too note-less), probably,... ouch, there's just soooo much...

Music of changes, played by David Tudor (for historical value) or Martine Joste (for sound quality).
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snyprrr

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #190 on: July 10, 2011, 06:52:42 PM »
Music of changes, played by David Tudor (for historical value) or Martine Joste (for sound quality).

Thanks.

Now, here's one of those things I imagine drives James up a wall,... and me too btw!! ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V12XFtFtC3U

I find it infuriating,... but,... dig those crazy old timey dresses, haha,... and look at Cage: Harrison Ford as The Fugitive, haha,... oh, that's funny! :P

Offline petrarch

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #191 on: July 11, 2011, 02:09:51 AM »
Thanks.

Now, here's one of those things I imagine drives James up a wall,... and me too btw!! ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V12XFtFtC3U

I find it infuriating,... but,... dig those crazy old timey dresses, haha,... and look at Cage: Harrison Ford as The Fugitive, haha,... oh, that's funny! :P

Would like to know more about why you find it infuriating... The version of Winter Music sans Atlas Eclipticalis on Mode is actually quite enjoyable, as is the one on this video.
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Offline petrarch

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #192 on: July 11, 2011, 02:21:34 AM »
Lecture on Nothing (1950)



The String quartet in four parts helped Cage clarify the ideas he had hinted at in articles written in the latter half of the 1940s. His excitement over the composition of the quartet and the ideas that it engendered resulted almost immediately in the Lecture on nothing, rightly one of his most renowned and oft-quoted writings. Ideas about the emptiness of rhythmic structure are presented more clearly and forcefully in this new lecture, and with an eloquence and poetry that exceeds any of Cage's earlier writings.

The lecture was the first one of Cage's lectures to employ a rather unusual format and performance style. This stems from his treatment of the lecture as a piece of music, thus using the same structure and methods as for a musical composition. Written and delivered in such a fashion, a lecture is no longer just a conduit for information, but is both an explanation and a concrete demonstration of ideas. As Cage said in retrospect:

"My intention has been, often, to say what I had to say in a way that would exemplify it; that would, conceivably, permit the listener to experience what I had to say rather than just hear about it."

This is the model that he was to follow increasingly in future years, becoming less and less interested in plain essaying, and more concerned with writing such musical lectures that would fill his need for poetry.

The Lecture on nothing, then, serves as an explanation and demonstration of rhythmic structure by being written within such a structure. The structure used is of five parts with proportions {7, 6, 14, 14, 7}, or a total of forty-eight units of forty-eight measures each. There are four "measures" per line of text, so that twelve lines form one unit of the structure (these divisions are marked in the text). The content of the lecture is based on the four-fold division of composition (structure, the division of the whole into parts; form, the continuity of sounds; method, the means of producing continuity; and materials, the sounds of the composition) with each section of the rhythmic structure devoted to one element. The first, second, and third sections deal with form, structure, and materials, while the fifth section deals with method. The fourth section is special: it conveys no information at all, and its role in the lecture will be discussed later in this article. The unusual layout of the lecture in print is for performance reasons and is related to the rhythmic structure. The lines of text are divided into four columns, which correspond to the four "measures" of each line. The words are then distributed among these columns, sometimes with large gaps representing silences. The measurement of the text presented by this layout serves only as a means of loosely regulating the timing of delivery.

Another unusual feature of the lecture is the question and answer session at its end. Cage planned on there being questions after this lecture, and wrote six answers to give to the first six questions asked, no matter what they were. In addition to the obvious resulting non sequiturs, he made the answers themselves rather irrational and cryptic: "My head wants to ache," for example, or "According to the Farmers' Almanac this is False Spring." The questioning would be cut off by the sixth answer: "I have no more answers." The nonsense of these answers was perhaps inspired by the style of the Zen koan or mondo, which Cage would have been familiar with and himself called this "a reflection of my engagements in Zen."

The body of the lecture itself represents the full statement and elaboration of the ideas about the emptiness and discipline of rhythmic structure. Cage uses various analogies and images to convey the voidness of rhythmic structure with regard to content, beginning with "an empty glass into which at any moment anything may be poured." Here, the glass represents structure and that which is poured into represents the content. A further analogy is made to the State of Kansas, which he asserts is "like an empty glass, nothing but wheat, or is it corn? Does matter which?" At one point, the text of the lecture refers to the units of its own rhythmic structure as they pass by, and in this context the independence of content from structure is clearly stated: "As you see, I can say anything. It makes very little difference what I say or even how I say it." He also reiterates here the portrayal of rhythmic structure as a necessary discipline: "It [structure] is a discipline which, accepted, in return accepts whatever, even those rare moments of ecstasy, which, as sugar loaves train horses, train us to make what we make."

These "moments of ecstasy" are the focus of Cage's discussion of form in the first section of the lecture. The sort of form or continuity that he presents could be characterized as "instantaneous" form, a continuity in which "each moment is absolute, alive and significant." In music demonstrating such instantaneous form (which is made possible by the emptiness of rhythmic structure), events can happen suddenly, at any time, and then disappear just as suddenly. The text of the lecture repeatedly refers to its own manifestation of this quality, as in the following passage:

"As we go along, (who knows?) an idea may occur in this talk. I have no idea whether one will or not. If one does, let it. Regard it as something seen momentarily, as though from a window while traveling."

In such an instantaneous form, the composer is in the position of no longer attempting to hold onto ideas or events. This sense of detachment is certainly related to the statement he made in a previous article, Forerunners of modern music, that a work of art should be "attractively disinteresting," but the sense of non-possession is more vivid in Lecture on nothing, and its positive results are made clearer.

The third and largest section of the lecture is devoted to the subject of musical materials. Prior to this lecture, Cage had said very little in his writings about either the nature of materials or their handling, and the large space devoted to this subject here shows how his work within the gamut technique in the String quartet had focused his thinking. An important new idea presented here is one learned from that work--the necessity of discipline and structure in one's way of handling materials: "The technique of handling materials is, on the sense level, what structure as a discipline is on the rational level: a means of experiencing nothing." A structured way of dealing with materials (such as the strict use of the gamut in the String quartet) produces a sense of emptiness akin to that of rhythmic structure, allowing the sounds to exist as themselves rather than as tokens manipulated by the composer's mind. Cage makes his realization of this clear in his account of his renewed interest in pitched materials:

"I begin to hear the old sounds--the ones I had thought worn out, worn out by intellectualization--I begin to hear the old sounds as though they are not worn out. They are just as audible as the new sounds. Thinking had worn them out. And if one stops thinking about them, suddenly they are fresh and new."

The notion that sounds should be themselves, that they should be free from the intellect, is the new idea that will take Cage through the 1950s and beyond. It appears here--for the first time--only briefly, but soon will become the central point around which his compositional activity revolves.

These ideas--the independence of structure and content, the notion of instantaneous form arising from disinterest and detachment, the need to avoid letting thought about sounds cloud their identities--relay the essential content of the Lecture on nothing, but communicate little or nothing of its beauty. While rigidly structured around the four-fold division of composition, the lecture goes far beyond simply describing these divisions, crossing over into poetry. We see this in the gentle aimlessness of the text, in which ideas and images appear briefly from nowhere and then are dropped. The lecture is full of personal touches, such as the autobiographical treatment of materials or the self-references to the act of giving the lecture. There is poetry in the stories and personal anecdotes, sometimes clarifying, sometimes cryptic, such as the story of the man on the hill who is there for no reason, but "just stands." In sum, the Lecture on nothing is a lecture that serves professional, personal, and musical ends; it is at once technical, religious, and entertaining. This is a mixture that fuses perfectly here, and results in as memorable a piece of writing as Cage had yet produced.

Of all the many memorable features of the lecture, perhaps the most prominent is the overriding tone of negation. From the title onwards, Cage persistently repeats various phrases that connote the negative: "we possess nothing," "we are going nowhere," "there is no point or the point is nothing." Perhaps the most frequently quoted line from the lecture is of this sort: "I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry as I need it." But this atmosphere of negation is not to be confused with a perverse negativism or nihilism; rather, this is a negation that has its roots in the "divine unconsciousness" of Meister Eckhart. This is a negation only of fixed ideas, the sort of self-denial that leads ultimately to an acceptance of all. Note that Cage does not state only the negative--that he has nothing to say--but goes on to state the positive--that he is saying it. Cage's "nothing" is analogous to what D. T. Suzuki says about the Void of Buddhism: "it is a zero full of infinite possibilities, it is a void of inexhaustible contents."

The negative phrases and aimlessness of the text together lend a rather bleak and flat quality to Lecture on nothing, an effect similar to that of the String quartet, and best exemplified by the fourth section of the lecture. This section is lengthy (as long as the section on materials), but consists only of seven repetitions of the following lines (with changes made to reflect the passing of the structural units):

"Here we are now at the beginning of the fourth large part of this talk. More and more I have the feeling that we are getting nowhere. Slowly, as the talk goes on, we are getting nowhere and that is a pleasure. It is not irritating to be where one is. It is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else. Here we are now, a little bit after the beginning of the fourth large part of this talk. More and more we have the feeling that I am getting nowhere. Slowly, as the talk goes on, slowly, we have the feeling we are getting nowhere. That is a pleasure which will continue. If we are irritated, it is not a pleasure. Nothing is not a pleasure if one is irritated, but suddenly, it is a pleasure, and then more and more it is not irritating (and then more and more slowly). Originally we were nowhere; and now, again, we are having the pleasure of being slowly nowhere. If anybody is sleepy, let him go to sleep."

This section forms a great pause in the flow of the talk, a kind of mantra for settling the mind, a concrete demonstration of "saying nothing." The regularity and static character of this passage suggests the canon movement of the String quartet in four parts, and perhaps was inspired by that work.
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Offline Luke

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #193 on: July 11, 2011, 03:25:19 AM »
Whereas James has one thing to say. And boy, does he say it... *yawn*

Offline Luke

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #194 on: July 11, 2011, 03:28:12 AM »
Indeed. But it's the lightness, not the heaviness, that is to be prized in Cage. No wonder you don't get it.

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #195 on: July 11, 2011, 03:48:48 AM »
Indeed. But it's the lightness, not the heaviness, that is to be prized in Cage. No wonder you don't get it.

Some people are determined not to enjoy themselves

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #196 on: July 11, 2011, 03:52:18 AM »
Music of changes, played by David Tudor (for historical value) or Martine Joste (for sound quality).

Thanks for the suggestion . . . oddly (perhaps), another case where, although I've known of the piece forever, I've not yet actually heard it.

Separately . . . if the music is what's around us, and just what is happening . . . I wonder what sound quality can matter . . . .

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #197 on: July 11, 2011, 03:57:07 AM »
Music of changes, played by David Tudor (for historical value) or Martine Joste (for sound quality).

Oh, is there any reason you don't recommend Steffen Schleiermacher? (I'm hoping, just lack of familiarity?)

Offline Grazioso

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #198 on: July 11, 2011, 04:00:40 AM »

Separately . . . if the music is what's around us, and just what is happening . . . I wonder what sound quality can matter . . . .


A dripping faucet under a buzzing fluorescent light...Takemitsu rip off! Bumblebees in a flower patch on a windy day...60's Ligeti! Heavy construction equipment at a busy New York City intersection...a Wagner love scene!
There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. --Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Offline petrarch

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Re: John Cage (1912-92)
« Reply #199 on: July 11, 2011, 04:09:40 AM »
Oh, is there any reason you don't recommend Steffen Schleiermacher? (I'm hoping, just lack of familiarity?)

Lack of familiarity indeed, but I do like his rendition of the massive Études australes very much.

My first exposure to Music of changes was through Herbert Henck on Wergo. For many years it was one of those CDs I would rarely play (I still have it, and still don't play it), as that particular recording never grabbed me. It was only when I got Martine Joste's on Mode that it clicked and became clear.

(coincidentally, another recording that would have surely turned me off in a similar manner, had it been my first foray into those works, is Henck's performance of Stockhausen's Klavierstücke--boy, am I glad I got into them through Kontarsky... today they are truly some of my favorite piano music ever--so perhaps I just don't like Henck's touch)
« Last Edit: July 11, 2011, 04:11:16 AM by petrarch »
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