31 March 2009

It’s All Around Us

From an Internet exchange on Cage’s 4’33”

Yeah, I get the concept behind it. Very zen. I just wondered if folks got the giggles.

It would be fun to attend a performance to find out. I suspect that human nature more or less guarantees that 4’33” will always contain giggles, coughs, sniffs, shhhh’es, grunts, plus a creaking chair and a dog barking in the distance .....

I'm sure my stomach would start gurgling.

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, in a “performance” by the Great Noise Ensemble in Washington DC, in a concert devoted to modern music. The silence was so complete and so reverent, the only thing you could hear was your blood pressure and your pulse. I was tempted to say something like “come on, folks, we’re supposed to be making the music. Yak it up, for heavens sake”.
(Mark G. Simon)
Although I never met him (he did come to Buffalo in my time, for the première of Europera [5, I think], but I missed him), Cage seemed a relatively frequent visitant to the University at Buffalo back in the day. His sense of humor was frequently alluded to in a variety of anecdotes. A Canadian colleague told of a lecture Cage gave on one visit to the new North Campus, whose architecture is an aesthetic disaster. Cage stopped mid-sentence in his lecture (which he delivered in a classroom whose principal feature was cinderblock which had been painted over in a lurid tint of pale green), appeared to be listening carefully, and at last remarked, “You have a very musical HVAC system here.”

Today I reached a point of creative impatience. I want to compose the flute ‘overlay’ to the alborada which is the final (and indeed, largest) section of stars & guitars. And at least in terms of the raw material (notes, e.g.) the Sibelius file has caught up to the vertically-finished MS.

The harp accompaniment which will run through the alborada is in greater part a kind of thrumming . . . I’ve had it all plotted for several days, but have needed for the MS. to catch up with that schema.

I could just input that straight into Sibelius, and that would be arguably an economizing of effort. But I want to compose the flute ‘monologue’ on paper, with the harp there.

I could still economize the effort, input the harp accompaniment directly into Sibelius, and print it out with blank staves for the flute, and compose it that way.

But . . . there is still something ineffable which I derive from the process of manually scrawling the harp part, which will inform (and, I think, benefit) my composition of the flute ‘monologue’.

Where the impatience comes in is, I have now done with the harp accompaniment on the seven and a half pages of MS. taken up by the alborada.

(Happily, I rushed the labor, and it did not take me until dawn . . . .)


Cato said...

And by using old-fashioned paper first, your flute part may turn out differently: you may "seehear" something intriguing which the SIbelius program would not elicit.

Karl Henning said...

. . . and (separately), of course, Cage would never be a whit deterred by aesthetic disaster ; )