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Thread: John Cage

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    Default John Cage

    This is a composer who's ideas were better than his music in my opinion. Schoenberg described him as "the inventor of genius" and I firmly aggree with him. A lot can be learned from Cageian ideas about the nature of music and how we respond to music.

    Although quite a bit of his music is lacking in artistic merit (such as his radio music), his works for musicians can be very liberating. I went to hear his piano concerto recently and there were points during the performance where the orchestral players could make any sound they wanted. Also the piano part is a graphic score which I find very exiting as it closes the divide between composer and performer (the performer being free to semi-compose the work themselves).

    John Cage I understand is a cotravertial figure and I know how we all like that so let battle commence!
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Elgar View Post
    This is a composer who's ideas were better than his music in my opinion.
    In many people's opinions, so far as I can tell. It's an odd notion, though. He was a composer. He thought with sounds, he thought about sounds, he distinguished between intentional sounds and unintentional sounds. I don't see how one can separate his ideas from his music. (No one does this with anyone else. Well, maybe Schoenberg a little.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Elgar View Post
    Although quite a bit of his music is lacking in artistic merit (such as his radio music)
    Given who Cage was, and his contributions to music, to how we think about music, this is a very peculiar statement. Indeed, it would be a peculiar statement about anyone, come to think of it. I despise the music of Bax, for instance, but I would never in a million years, or at least 750,000 years, say that about any of his pieces.

    But back to Cage. Part of his importance to music was how he redefined what could be considered music. How he elevated the roles of performer, as you've pointed out, but also of listener, which if you had considered, you might have considered "lacking in artistic merit" a trifle off the point!

    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Elgar View Post
    John Cage I understand is a [controversial] figure and I know how we all like that so let battle commence!
    Why? You really want battles? How lacking in artistic merit!! (In any event, it is 2009 already. Almost twenty years after his death. Almost a hundred years after his birth. Maybe it's time for listeners, for members of online music forums, to catch up with creative musicians around the world and appreciate the many benefits Cage conferred on the whole business!!)

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    Yo some guy, let me first start by thanking you for providing your own differing opinion that provides the basis for a good, healthy argument which is the word I immaturely infered with "let battle commence". I too think that Cage's input was highly beneficial to music. His musical ideas, which do include the listener as an entity in the performance process, are revolutionary concepts for audiences to grasp even decades after their formulation.

    However Cage's radio music and music for music-box require decidedly no work from the performer. These in my opinion are not even revolutionary or innovative and are quite conventional works. 4:33 requires little work from the performer yes, yet it is still revolutionary as it includes the listener in the music making process to the highest degree. This is what I believe makes the radio music and music for music-box lack artisticly.

    I think his music is a small slice of how far he took his ideas. His output does reflect his idea that music lies in everything, but to what extent did he explore the possibilities? That's why I believe his ideas were better, or rather wider reaching, than his music. I see you appreciate the need for a future of classical music and it would be interesting to find out if others feel that Cage is the way forward or not.

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    Senior Member marval's Avatar
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    I don't think I could say I am a fan of his, but give him his due he did have ideas that were different.

    I think I would have to get to know the man and his works a little better, before I could fully discuss him.

    This audience did not know whether to take him seriously or not.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSulycqZH-U


    Margaret

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    Yo marval! That is my favourite Cage clip from YouTube! The dedication and determination he has to his own cause is inspiring, the only thing wrong is that he's 100 years too early!
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Senior Member marval's Avatar
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    Yes, I agree, I think it is an inspired clip. It gave people an insight into Cage's future music.


    Margaret

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    I have so much fun with this forum, and I learn so much. But, if I had never gotten anything more than that link to the Cage video, all my time here would be worthwhile! Thanks.

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    Senior Member marval's Avatar
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    Hi msegers,

    Glad you liked it, I think it gave a good indication of what John Cage was like.


    Margaret

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    There is a lot of John Cage material in the archives at http://www.ubu.com.

    The search for John Cage returns 213 items on ubu.com at -
    http://search.freefind.com/find.html...uery=john+cage

    Among the videos are -
    "American Masters" John Cage: I Have Nothing to Say and I Am Saying It (1990)
    http://www.ubu.com/film/cage_masters.html
    Vivian Perlis (writer), TV Series: "American Masters" (1983)
    Original Air Date: 17 September 1990
    Country: UK, 55 min


    4"33" (2004)
    http://www.ubu.com/film/cage_433.html
    On January 16, 2004, at the Barbican in London, the BBC Symphony Orchestra gave the UK's first orchestral performance of this work. The performance was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, and one of the main challenges was that the station's emergency backup systems are designed to switch on whenever apparent silence (dead air) is detected. They had to be switched off for the sole purpose of this performance.

    From http://www.archive.org, there are also a number of items in different media. A search returns 239 at http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=john%20cage, but it is obvious that some of them are irrelevant.

    An interesting video is "At Land" (1944), a 15-minute silent experimental film written, directed by and starring Maya Deren, John Cage, Alexander Hammid and Parker Tyler at http://www.archive.org/details/AtLand.
    Last edited by msegers; Feb-04-2009 at 01:26. Reason: word choice

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    Really nice composer.
    I see you are crazy about the AMERICANS.
    So try Tedesco.

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    I recently had the chance to hear the solo piano work In a Landscape (1948) by John Cage and thought it was an effective piece. Very evocative.

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    I bought a Cage CD a while back. My favourite is either Credo in Us or Rozart Mix.

    Not very emotional music, but it's neat to listen to every once in a while.
    "Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives. The English reading public explains the reason why. "

    -James Joyce

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    I think that the reason why Cage can still be such a 'controversial' figure is that people who haven't heard any of his actual music (as opposed to simply hearing or reading about 4'33") start ignorantly judging his whole output. I think these people can be very inflexible and unwilling to correct their assumptions by learning about the actual facts.

    For example, I bought a cd yesterday of Cage's music, in the EMI American Classics series, and have been pleasantly surprised. The piece Credo in Us is especially engaging, incorporating snippets of Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 (on vinyl records), radio broadcasts, and music played live by the pianist and percussionist. The non-live sounds are turned up and down, becoming a kind of orchestra/accompaniment to the live players. There is a dialogue, and sometimes the players subvert the recorded/radio material, sometimes they complement it. There's alot of collage going on in this work, such as when (towards the end) the pianist starts belting out what sounds like a honky-tonk tune. The most amazing thing is that this innovative piece was composed in the 1940's, about a decade before Varese started using taped sounds in his own music.

    Another interesting thing is that he actually composed for a variety of instruments, from prepared piano, to toy piano and even carillon (bells). So he was probably one of the most versatile composers around.

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    Senior Member Jeremy Marchant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    I think that the reason why Cage can still be such a 'controversial' figure is that people who haven't heard any of his actual music... start ignorantly judging his whole output. I think these people can be very inflexible and unwilling to correct their assumptions by learning about the actual facts.
    I think that's a perfect metaphor for the human condition: "judge, blame, attack first and find out (may be) after".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Marchant View Post
    I think that's a perfect metaphor for the human condition: "judge, blame, attack first and find out (may be) after".
    In my opinion, John Cage was a very superficial composer; which is actually using too strong a word as "composer" to describe him. His was a sound/noise experimentalist appealing to fringe group listeners, and perhaps to some university music students and professors trained in understanding the mechanics of sound void of emotions. Anyone trained in music these days could come up with the level of nooise and label it as music as he did, but to bring that to a level which the old masters did, which was certainly something that Cage never did (either because he didn't care to and or lacked the talent anyway), was his greatest shortfall. Like his music, there was nothing particular deep about his "philosophies". Intelligent listeners will ultimately judge for themselves what his output meant in the context of different cultures and time, and likely conclude that his music is about as relevant at best, the few minutes of life's precious moments wasted upon by listening to it.
    Last edited by HarpsichordConcerto; Nov-19-2010 at 23:22.

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