Morton Feldman – For John Cage (1982)

For John Cage, for violin & piano (1982)

Stephen Clarke, piano
Marc Sabat, violin

Morton Feldman’s “For John Cage” scored for violin and piano, approximately 70 minutes long, was composed in 1982. This was during the last period of Feldman’s creative activity when made several works of extended listening durations, like the “Triadic Memories” (1981), “Patterns in a Chromatic Field” (also known as “Untitled Composition for Cello and Piano” (1981), “Crippled Symmetry” (1983), the 80-minute “String Quartet” (1979), the 43-minute ensemble piece “For Samuel Beckett” (1987), and the more than 4 and 1/2 hours of “For Philip Guston”. In his ensemble works, Feldman assigned certain identifiable gestures to certain individual instruments and instrumental groups, and these gestures would be repeated on long, asymmetrical time schedules. The rhythms would be gradually offset, the pitches would move through harmonic fields that would be outlined by changes in the single pitches, note duration and consequently coordination between parts would either be conventionally notated or be indeterminate and left to the choice of the performers. The resulting ensemble image would be like floating layers of sound passing each other and combining in various ways. In a work with only two instruments, such as this, the gradual modification of rhythm and other elements, is highlighted. In Feldman’s earlier works, notes would be relatively isolated, and every once in a while a motoric “loop” would be created from a sequence of notes, and would be repeated more or less without change for a brief period. In this work, these looping patterns pre-dominate. The violin and piano sometimes imitate each other, exchange parts, but most often share a pattern divided between themselves; . The patterns, although simple, are unpredictable both in their shape, their subtle modification in timbre, tempo, articulation (attack, non-attack) and their number of repetitions, or singular statement. There is no sense of traditional linear development, and there is, really, no exact repetition. Certain remarkable illusionary passages occur, for example, when the two instruments exchange parts: after a long time of single note repeats in the piano and two-note gestures in the violin, at approximately 20 minutes into the piece, the violin begins pulsing (at different tempi) and the piano plays two-note figure in the high and low registers. The effect on the listener is difficult to explain in previous musical terms, but the piano and violin start to be heard as distinct voices, even if the music looks the same on the page. As if your left and right brain functions (if those actually exist separately) have switched over to the other side. At approximately 26 minutes, extremely high notes, and a switch to triplet groups occur; small chromatic movements add to the eerieness. At approximately 48 minutes into the piece, clusters begin appearing in the piano part, and snaky microtonal inflections occur in the violin part; this is followed by chromatic scales in the piano part smeared with the sustaining pedal, and they are imitated almost in pitch unison by the violin playing in microtones, artificial harmonics and sul ponticello. This is truly a bizarre sound. All certainty assured by the traditional relation to pitch is gradually obscured. Gesture and shape become the prime vocabulary. The distorting mirror gradually becomes clear again. The piano provides an ascending ladder of tuning points adding up to more complex harmony than that of the beginning. There is a return to more energetic patterns. And then to the ascending chromatics (3 to 5 note patterns). The piece concludes with a slow 5-note ascending cluster. We are left with a great mystery simply expressed. “It’s a little piece for violin and piano, but it doesn’t quit” (Feldman in conversation with composer Peter Gena). [allmusic.com]

Art by John Cage

John Cage – Music of Changes (1951)

Music of Changes is a piece for solo piano by John Cage. Composed in 1951 for pianist and friend David Tudor, it is Cage’s earliest fully indeterminate instrumental work.

Music of Changes was the second fully indeterminate work Cage composed (the first is Imaginary Landscape No. 4, completed in April 1951, and the third movement of Concerto for prepared piano also used chance[1]), and the first instrumental work that uses chance throughout. He was still using magic square-like charts to introduce chance into composition, when, in early 1951, Christian Wolff presented Cage with a copy of the I Ching (Wolff’s father published a translation of the book at around the same time).[2] This Chinese classic text is a symbol system used to identify order in chance events. For Cage it became a perfect tool to create chance-controlled compositions: he would “ask” the book questions about various aspects of the composition at hand, and use the answers to compose. In effect, the vast majority of pieces Cage completed after 1951 were created using the I Ching. [source]

Book I (New York, May 16, 1951)
Book II (New York, August 2, 1951)
Book III (New York, October 18, 1951)
Book IV (New York, December 13, 1951)

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John Cage – Dream (1948)

Piano solo performed by Stephen Drury.

Dream, in fact, was composed at the request of Cage’s longtime collaborator, dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham. As was his usual practice, Cage began work on Dream only after the dance was completely planned and Cunningham had given him a list of the metric patterns for each dance as a template from which Cage could proceed. source

 

john-cage-dream

Ben Johnston – Suite for Microtonal Piano (1977)

Suite for Microtonal Piano (1978) is a suite for specifically microtonally tuned piano(s) by Ben Johnston written in 1977 (see also just intonation). According to Bob Gilmore the piece, “take[s] extended just intonation well beyond the point reached by Harry Partch.”

“The piano is tuned to a selection of overtones from the fifth octave of the harmonic spectrum of C. All octaves are tuned in the same scale….The lowest C (33 Hz.) can be used to tune the scale by ear. In succession, touch the nodes producing the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 11th, 13th, 17th, [and] 19th partials. Then G, D; D, A; E, B; [and] B-flat, F; are just (beatless) fifths.”

Movements

  1. Alarum
  2. Blues
  3. Etude
  4. Song
  5. Toccata

Alarum is a Shakespeare era stage direction indicating “a grand entrance” and an archaic word for a call to arms, so
“Alarum” is a fanfare.

“Blues” and “Song” are both slow movements. “Blues” uses as blue notes the minor seventh (C-B♭) and mediant (in D dorian exactly halfway between E and G). “Song” is in E phrygian.

“Etude” is a study in serial technique and six-against-five polyrhythms in which Johnston indicates “blur with pedal”. This, “clues us in that the linear intricacies are only part of the story here: the amazing swirl of overtones resulting from an atonal application of this tuning are of equal importance.”

“Toccata” features diatonic outer sections and a spikier chromatic middle section.
The piece has been recorded and released on:

Microtonal Piano by Ben Johnston (1997). Phillip Bush, piano. Koch International Classics 3-7369-2.
















benjohnston

John Cage – Bacchanale for prepared piano (1940)

Composed in 1940 for a choreography by the American dancer Syvilla Fort, this was the first piece Cage composed for prepared piano. Cage and Fort were both working at the Cornish School in Seattle, Washington at the time. The room where the dance was to be performed was not large enough to allow for a percussion ensemble, but had enough space for a grand piano. Cage decided to try placing various objects on the strings of the instrument in order to produce percussive sounds, inspired by Henry Cowell’s experiments with extended piano techniques. The whole piece was finished in just three days. Twelve notes are prepared, mostly using weather strippings. In the score, in 11 cases out of 12, the performer is instructed to “determine position and size of mutes by experiment.”




John Cage: Thirteen Harmonies (1985)

John Cages Thirteen Harmonies, for violin and keyboard (1985) is from the CD; Melodies & Harmonies, recorded September 29-30, 2009, Amann Studios, Vienna. The Thirteen Harmonies is a selction of 13 out of a total of 44 Harmonies from Apartment House 1776. Roger Zahab made the selection and created a version for violin and keyboard.

For this disc of music by John Cage for violin and keyboard, Annelise Gahl and Klaus Lang have intermingled the movements of two works, Six Melodies from 1950 and Thirteen Harmonies from 1985. Six Melodies grew out of the same impulse as Cage´s seminal String Quartet in Four Parts, and the composer described the melodies as a postscript to the quartet. With Cage’s approval, composer and violinist Roger Zahab arranged the Thirteen Harmonies from movements of Cage’s Forty-Four Harmonies, part of his 1976 composition, Apartment House 1776, for voices and instruments. The melodies used are hymn tunes by American composers of the Revolutionary period, such as William Billings, Supply Belcher, Andrew Law and James Lyon, and Zahab selected 13 in recognition of the 13 original colonies. Although the two works are from very different creative periods in Cage´s career, they are similar enough in style that they beautifully fit together, particularly in the ordering that violinist Gahl and keyboardist Lang give them. The movements from the two works have lengths from about a minute to 13 minutes. The Harmonies are distinguishable largely because the original hymn tunes are presented with unadorned directness, but otherwise many of the movements from the two works are similar in tone — meditative, introverted, gentle, and optimistic, unfolding with Feldmanesque openness and unpredictability. [read more]

The selected Harmonies are:
1. Nr.18 – Old North (William Billings) (2.32)
2. Nr.42 – Rapture (Collection Belcher) (2:29)
3. Nr.26 – Judea (William Billings) (0:47)
4. Nr.21 – Heath (William Billings) (2:18)
5. Nr.19 – New York (Andrew Law) (4:05)
6. Nr.5 – The Lord Descended (William Billings) (13:09)
7. Nr.11 – Wheeler’s Point (William Billings) (1:06)
8. Nr.14 – Brunswick (James Lyon) (0:46)
9. Nr.15 – Bellingham (William Billings) (1:15)
10. Nr.28 – Greenwich (Andrew Law) (6:38)
11. Nr.35 – Framingham (William Billings) (3:39)
12. Nr.38 – The Lord is Ris’n (William Billings) (4:38)
13. Nr.44 – Bloomfield (Andrew Law) (1:00)

Annelie Gahl – violin
Klaus Lang – keyboards (Fender Rhodes)

John Cage | Annelie Gahl, Klaus Lang | Melodies & Harmonies| Released 2010 | col legno – WWE 1CD 20292

 


John Cage, New York City, 1985. Photo by Chris Felver.

John Cage – JC + TT + SFT (2008)

Despite Cage’s repeated attempts open music to the world of noise, his catalog proves he did more to bring noise into the world of music, remaining disappointingly beautiful and musical. Originally commissioned by Mode Records for their upcoming “Cage(re)mix” CD compilation, the A-side to this limited edition colored vinyl release features a remix by Fagjazz impresario Terre Thaemlitz (a.k.a. DJ Sprinkles) that combines elements from twelve of Cage’s compositions with six new elements played by Thaemlitz. Ambient, moody and jazzy, this track emphasizes Cage’s reluctant relationships to musicality and jazz, appealing to ultra-deep dance floors and lounges alike. The B-side, not available elsewhere, features Simon Fisher Turner (SFT on Mute Records, Derek Jarman film soundtrack producer) remixing Thaemlitz’ remix. Beautifully succinct, succinctly beautiful… [Source]

John Cage: JC + TT + SFT EP | 12″ Vinyl EP | Released August 15, 2008 | C.017

1. Fagjazz Study for 12 Mode Sources + Six Additions JC remixed by TT 14:00
2. _cage tt set ivft TT remixed by SFT 3:48







John Cage – Branches (1976)

For John Cage, nature always provided an important source of inspiration. On a tour with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in Arizona 1975, dancer Charles Moulton brought John Cage a dried cactus, placed it near his ear and plucked its spines. This inspired John Cage to use cacti as musical instruments in pieces like Child of Tree (1975) and Branches (1976).The instruments in Branches are plants, preferably cacti, which are touched, plucked and »played«. The resulting sounds are amplified with contact microphones. From the score, the performers create their respective instruments with the assistance of the Chinese I-Ching’s coin oracle. In doing so, they determine which and how many instruments are to be played and when a break should take place. One of the instruments should be a Mexican pod rattle, which is always to be played as the final of the 8-minute variations. The performance, directed by Peter Behrendsen, combines Branches with Inlets (1977). Water-filled conch shells of different sizes are tipped by performers in order to produce gurgling sounds. This does not always work, however. Cage speaks of a »contingency« as there is no causal relationship between cause (action) and effect (sound). [Source]

Ryoanji (1983)
Performer: Shigemori Mika, Takemura Nobukazu, Inagaki Takashi
(simultaneous play)

Branches (1976)
Performer: Nishijima Atsushi, Murai Keitetsu
(simultaneous play)

Inlets (1977)
Performer: Inagaki Takashi, Takemura Nobukazu, Nishijima Atsushi, Miyajima Saikou, Murai Keitetsu

John Cage 100th Anniversary Countdown Event 2009
Date: November 8 / 2009
Venue: Kyoto Art Center






Japanese Chamber Cabaret at the Danish National Museum

By Ronnie Rocket, in Berlin-Charlottenburg and Copenhagen

This Sunday, the Danish National Museum will be the unique venue for a surprising matinee concert. The ensemble Eriko Makimura & Co. consisting of a tradtional chamber music format of piano and cello are joined by singers, actors and ballet dancers on the stage. Performing a set of compositions that are rarely played and adapted for the event, that is part of a charity concert series raising money for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The event is named after the song by the German techno band Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft, who just recently performed at DR Koncerthuset in Copenhagen.

Here is the list of works. Below you will find recordings and videos of the original and/or previously recorded versions of the music as a “warm up” service for the show.

Time: Sunday October 2nd, 2011, 14:00.
Place: The Danish National Museum, Ny Vestergade 10 (main entrance), 1220 Copenhagen K.
Tickets: DKK 150 at the door (door opens at 13:00).

1. D.A.F.: Der Räuber und der Prinz



2. Henry Purcell: The Cold Song (inspired by Klaus Nomi)


3. Friedlich Hollaender: Falling In Love Again (inspired by Marlene Dietrich)


4. Rodion Shchedrin: A la Albeniz


5. John Cage: A Room


6. Margo Guryan: The Chopsticks Variations





Boulez: Structures Books 1 and 2; Cage: Music for Piano 4-19, 42, 47, 53-68, 53-84

Pierre Boulez met John Cage for the first time in 1949. Though their approaches to composing were utterly different, each admired what the other had achieved and they struck up an unlikely friendship, which left an imprint on Boulez’s music when he introduced elements of controlled chance into his compositions. The works for two pianos on this disc from Pi-Hsien Chen and Ian Pace interweave pieces from Cage’s Music for Piano – his first keyboard work to rely upon chance operations to generate all the musical material, leaving the performers with decisions about what to play and for how long – with the two books of Boulez’s Structures. The first, from 1952, was Boulez’s last score to use serial techniques to determine every aspect of the composition – pitch, duration, dynamics, attacks – while the second book, composed nine years later, revisits the same material, but gives the players a limited choice in what to select and when. In comparison with the rigour and hard edges of its predecessor, the piano writing in Structures Book 2 is thrillingly brilliant, and it makes a wonderful contrast to the cool discontinuities of Cage’s pieces, with their plucked and strummed notes, percussive knockings and muffled chords.

[via The Guardian]