Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ummm... So what now?

Now that the semester's ended, what going to happen to our blog? I mean, technically, I'm still stuck in the soundworlds game and am doomed to think about John Cage forever -and I know I'm not the only one. And besides, if we can't blog anymore, who am I supposed to talk to about moosak and sound pollution and techno and plagiarism and mushrooms? I mean, these are important things that anyone would benefit discussing, and I don't think that just because the class has ended, we should be deprived as students of our right to ponder such essential questions and receive valuable peer feedback. And let's face it, no one else is going to know what I'm talking about when I describe a soundscape as "low fi."

P.S. Sorry I never made my mushroom cupcakes. I'll be sure to bring them to the reunion party (and then make music with the cupcake tins afterward -Tim Daisy would be proud).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I'm Glad We Agreed That Plagiarism Was Okay

Okay guys, apparently, we only have to write ten blog posts. I wrote eleven. If anyone wants that extra post, they can have it. This is my least favorite post this year, so if anyone wants to claim it and help themselves get to that magic ten number, feel free. Remember, if you don't get ten posts, you get an automatic F in the class [citation needed]. And we don't want that to happen, do we?

Bidding starts at $6.99. Buy-it-now price is 14.99.

A Parting Word or Two From John Milton Cage

The following stories are random draws from Cage's work Indeterminacy:

My grandmother was sometimes very deaf and at other times, particularly when someone was talking about her, not deaf at all. One Sunday she was sitting in the living room directly in front of the radio. She had a sermon turned on so loud that it could be heard for blocks around. And yet she was sound asleep and snoring. I tiptoed into the living room, hoping to get a manuscript that was on the piano and to get out again without waking her up. I almost did it. But just as I got to the door, the radio went off and Grandmother spoke sharply: “John, are you ready for the second coming of the Lord?”

I was arguing with Mother. I turned to Dad. He spoke. “Son John, your mother is always right, even when she’s wrong.”

Monday, December 8, 2008

introspective retrospective


While I’m on the subject… if all plagiarism is cool… then I’m going to shamelessly steal from all of you…

So I guess I might just reflect on the FYS coarse like Daniel.
So I came into the class kinda feeling robbed, but after the first few classes I realized it was all for the best. One reason was the John Cage intrigued me, techno became involved in our class, and all in the class are pretty funny

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie-roll pop?

I'll admit, I hadn't really noticed it until this week, but we are truly a stimulus-addicted society. Thinking about it now, it just seems weird to play music while you're grocery shopping (maybe it's just me). You're stuck in an elevator for, what, two seconds, and they play you music. You're put on hold and they play you music over the telephone. It seems that they try to catch you in a situation you can't escape and pump out noise at you. we "plug ourselves in".

It is true that saying “like” all the time may make you sound like a “valley girl” or immature, but have you ever stopped to think about why and how that word has infiltrated our language and conversation. The word “like” is a filler – it’s used to fill those uncomfortable pauses of silence that inevitably happen in everyday conversing. We as a society have become so dependent on having a constant noise

While I recognize that music, for the most part, is about evoking emotion, I don't think we should limit music to only emotions. For these reasons, I think all forms of art, including music, are not defined by whether they evoke emotions or not. Art makes us wonder, makes us think how or why something is the way it is. Cage's music, though occasionally composed with purposelessness, is still music. As long as it generates some sort of reaction, a form of thought, from its listeners, it can be considered art in my opinion.

However, I do agree that, without having had the chance to develop personal preferences, this exposure to different types of music is rather irrelevant. If you don't have preferences to begin with, putting the i pod on shuffle doesn't mean anything.
"I believe the matter of music to be central to that of the meanings of man, of man's access to or abstention from metaphysical experience. Our capacities to compose and to respond to musical form and sense directly implicate the mystery of the human condition. To ask 'what is music?' may well be one way of asking 'what is man?'"

And so, I hate to burst your bubble, but it's not the end of the world. Noise has always been there and always will be. Silence isn't always golden (Sometimes it might be green or blue or red), though it often is. My point is, even though using sound as a weapon scares me, and even though I may not like all the "noise" created by new technology, I think we have bigger problems to deal with.

That isn't to say that you should totally give up your independent thought or opinion, but just merely accept that not every sound you hear you will like, and that the sounds/music that you like is not, nor will it ever be, totally the same as someone else's. So please.....relax.

"My deepest desire regarding contemporary music is to hear it all. Not successively, but all at once, at the same time. Everything together! But perhaps that's a perverse wish... Who knows if we'll do it even when we have the necessary technology? That technology doesn't exist yet? Well, long live the technology to come!

And it kinda seems like I wrote an awful lot, but this didn't really take me that long--like five minutes. I wouldn't like you all to think that I don't have anything better to do than write this, even though I don't.

--B.J.J.J. (Blog Jockey JJ)

meaning in shuffle?


I don’t usually think of myself as a superstitious person. In fact, I’m one of those people who make fun of stupid superstitions. You know, the people who just have to forward every single chain letter/text/ myspace/facebook message because they really believe something bad will happen to them if they do it. You think the mad axe murderer has so little to do that he is actually going to be under your bed because you didn’t forward it to enough people, really really? Or the people who will NEVER drink pop and pop rocks together because they truly believe it will make their stomach explode, really REALLY? (And I totally agree with Daniel, everyone should be able to plagiarize anything Jimmy does and/or says J).
But, when we talked in class about the iPod shuffle thing and whether or not it really was random, or whether people think it’s not random because they want to find meaning, I forced myself to think of all the places I look for meaning. I definitely do it when I put my iPod on shuffle. I will even go so far as to make decisions based on what my iPod shuffle tells me. And yes, I do even feel like it tells me things that I need to hear. OK, now you’re thinking that I am not only as superstitious and/or stupid as the chain letter person, but also possibly that I have serious mental problems. Fair enough. But maybe it is just part of human nature—to look for meaning in things. I want to believe that things have meaning. I mean, I am an English major so I should have known that I do believe that things having meanings. Otherwise how could I possibly be majoring in a subject known for doing just that? Finding meaning through symbols and themes. Even though, again, I don’t see myself as superstitious, (Well, actually, I’m starting to think that I’m super-superstitious but…) I do like to find meanings in everyday life: Well, that text didn’t send right away.. it’s a sign that I wasn’t supposed to send it. And, now that I think about it, isn’t religion just trying to find meaning in life? I have come to the conclusion that it’s only naturally human to find meaning in everyday life. And I think that this is different from being superstitious. Superstitions just don’t make sense. …. But my iPod does talk to me.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Today my mom was watching some movie about people meeting each other online, and I was tired of studying and sat down and begged to know what was going on. Almost immediately after I started watching it, in the course of these two people trying to talk to each other without revealing any personal facts about their lives, I Ching was mentioned.

After briefly considering how likely it was that John Cage wrote the script, I started wondering exactly how much of yourself you can keep out of your work or hobbies, and though we have talked about this in class it is still very much open to debate. Until the day we discussed how I Ching itself worked, I thought Cage simply assigned a note to each number and wrote down whatever got thrown. To learn that he had to interpret each symbol throws a new light on the matter. Exactly how personal can an interpretation be? We project our own experiences, our emotions, our opinions on anything we view, as much as we may try to be objective in a matter. The way we interpret a story relies on how we visualize the story and how it plays out.

Take, for example, "The Lady or the Tiger." For anybody who hasn't read the story, I don't remember it exactly, but in the end a man is put in an arena with two doors to choose from. Behind one door is a woman who will be forced to marry him if he chooses her door. Behind the other, a hungry tiger is waiting to maul him. His lover is in the crowd and knows what is behind each door. She indicates which door he should choose and he picks it. The end. We don't find out what was behind the door he chose; its up to the reader to decide. Will his lover watch him marry another woman, or would she rather see him die? There equal evidence in each direction, waiting to be interpreted to support one cause or the other. It all depends on how the reader interprets, and since there are no clues, this leads to the individual relying on his or her own experience and personality. What would you do? Cage doesn't pose us with moral dilemmas, and this story can't be determined by chance operations as it is designed to prove that our opinions influence the way we understand things.

Certainly, then, Cage's understanding of the I Ching was influenced by his preferences in at least a minimal way. It seems to be impossible to leave himself out of his work, if only that his philosophy of staying independant from the composition shines so brightly through to the music. This definite and supposedly strict guidelines he imposes on his compositions give a stronger character to his works than many pieces composed by artists trying to put themselves in their music. His music is almost immediately recognized by anyone with an interest in experimental music. Wouldn't that mean that he is strongly present in his music, rather than removed from it? Even more than his philosophy behind the music, it would stand to reason that by interpreting the I Ching, he put some degree of his own opinions into the notes in the composition.

Friday, December 5, 2008

So its like 2 in the morning and I'm bored out of my mind cause I'm wide awake, all my roommates are sleeping, and there is absolutely nothing on TV except for "A Chance at Love" which is a spin off of a spin off of a terribly overly dramtic show so I'll pass. Oh and I ran out of things to clean on my car, the entire engine bay is spotless though : ) so why not blog.

So I guess I might just reflect on the FYS coarse like Daniel. I too did would not have picked this class. In all actually I didn't relize we had to take this class, I even signed up for a different FYS and meet with him when I got my class schedule way back in may. What FYS did I sign up for you ask, wait drum roll (you''ll never guess) ........................................................................................ the automotive class (there wasn't a techno one). So I was all excited to be taking a class where I got to talk about cars the whole time with other people who might also love cars as much as me. I was super excited real talk, but once I meet the instructor and waited over an hour for him to find my schedule, which he never had, I found out that I wasn't in the class at all instead I was in the Honors seminar. Now I was pretty let down after that, I don't get to take a class just on cars really, really?

So I came into the class kinda feeling robbed, but after the first few classes I realized it was all for the best. One reason was the John Cage intrigued me, techno became involved in our class, and all in the class are pretty funny. I also found out the automotive class did very little car preformance talk but rather a lot of economics and social customs created by cars. So I would have had to sit in that class and not talk about or look at sexy 67' Shelby GT500 Mustangs or badass '69 Dodge Chargers with a Hemi, or a gorgeous '71 Chevelle SS with a 454 cu inch beast under the hood. No all these wonderful things would not be part of the class, and it would have been the worst torture imaginable to be in a car class and not discuss these important topics. Thats worse than drowning a kitten in my book.

So any way back to the FYS class. We learned a lot John Cage and got to hear some unique music and see some very unique characters like Sun Ra. We had a couple entire classes devoted to techno, which is almost as good as cars. The Vox Arcana was pretty sweet, I really liked Tim Daisy's drum preformance it was very Cage but still sounded good. Angelle got me and appartently Daniel as well completely hooked on Apocolyptica. Oh and I got to hear all of Daniel's humor, I laughed so hard so many times, he is easily the funniest person in the class. The heated dicussions over why Edward isn't a real vampire because he sparkles, which is a fact not just my opinion. And i can't forget the awesome movie Angelle, Jenna, JJ and me made, that was a blast. There are already rumors of Golden Globes and MTV Movie Awards nominations, and from what I hear Daniel has the best cameo award on lock. I will alays remeber a story from silence, the one with the dude on the hill with all the guys asking him why he is standing there and he simply says, "I just stand." That was funny but also pretty deep and kinda sums up how I try to live my life. I don't worry about what people think about me I just do random crazy things that I make me happy. Someone will always ask you why, like "why did you get your nipples pierced?" I enjoy asking back "why not?" To which most poeple respond, "cause thats crazy" To which I answer "Yep and thats the way I like it"

I havehad a blast in this class in so many ways, so I'd like give this FYS a perfect score of 5 mushrooms, 4 glowsticks, 3 members of Vox Arcana, 2 Daniels jokes, and 1 girly sparkling POSER vampire (cough cough Edward is a loserface cough cough) out of a pinneapple
Why a pinneapple you ask?
"I just stand"

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I must say, the video today was quite comedic; and although I'd rather not admit it, (Jimmy and I have been arguing about who's project will be better) I thought it was pretty funny and liked it a lot. I know how much Jimmy loves his car, so that part was especially funny. I've never seen Concord of the (Insert last word here)--sorry I don't remember what it's called, so that part didn't really make sense to me. However, the song was quite funny. I definitely enjoyed that too. Daniel's appearance was a splendid surprise. I'm pretty sure he deserves some extra credit for his hard work on TWO PROJECTS. (cough cough dr langguth cough cough)

I was thinking about the turn table presentation the other day. It reminded me of dances and class get togethers that some of my friends would DJ. I would walk over to say "Hi" and be amazed by all the technology involved (I'm a bit technolically retarded). I even helped them break everything down once, and I honestly have NO IDEA how DJs can keep all those cords and everything straight. It was sooo confusing, even for the easy stuff they had me do. Random, I know, but I was thinking about it and it just reminded me of when I helped them break everything down. It definitely gave me a whole new respect for them. That's some confusing stuff, let me tell you.

I don't want to compete with the length of Daniel's blog, so I think I'll cut it off now.

Note to Jimmy: Our project will still be pretty sweet. =]

An Introspective Retrospective on this FYS

Alright, this is the final blog post of the year, unless we have to do way more than I think we do. So I thought that I should do a little retrospective on the semester, because it seems like it made sense and anyway I couldn’t think of anything else to write about. Except to say that the video today was pretty awesome—almost as good as my project. I thought the voiceover work was particularly impressive. Anyway, good job everyone, and I’m sure that the rest of the presentations will be equally good if the presenters ever find time to do them.

Anyway, as to the whole retrospective thing, I don’t think that it’s exactly going to blindside anyone when I say that there is no way I would have chosen to take this course—I basically thought that John Cage is useless. And it’s not like I didn’t give him a chance—I downloaded Cheap Imitation to see what I was getting into. I listened the first thirty seconds, thought it was pretty awful, skipped to the middle to see if it’d get any better, which is didn’t, then turned it off while swearing eternal hatred of John Cage. Or maybe it was merely mild dislike.

I originally thought that John Cage was useless. However, after weeks of classroom discussions, dozens of readings (or was it? Maybe it was just one dozens), and fifteen weeks of thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that, well, John Cage is still useless.

That doesn’t mean that I’m sorry I took the course though—on the contrary, I’m glad I did. For one thing, if I hadn’t, that’d mean I wasn’t an Honors student and would have to pay for my education. (Does anyone else think it’s pretty stupid that Honors students have to pay a technology fee? I mean, technology at TMC is dreadful—it takes forever to log into any TMC computer. And the wireless Internet isn’t anything to write home about. And I’m paying three hundred dollars for that? That should be changed). But as I was saying, Honors=good, and I’d have taken pretty much any course for all that money, even if it was something like “Kitten Drowning 101.”

Not that I’m comparing this FYS to killing kittens, that sort of came out wrong. I honestly think that this class (unlike Cage) was useful. (And I’m not just saying that to get an A, although I would if I had to). I really don’t like the way “classical” (for want of a better word) music has gone in the 20th century, but it’s still good to know about. It’s like learning about Nazis in history—you might not like what happened, but it’s still important to know.

Now I just compared this FYS to Nazis— maybe that wasn’t the best example. It’s more like, I don’t know, reading about how the Yankees won like five straight World Series in Fifties—I don’t like the Yankees, but I’m still interested in learning about them. Maybe that’s better.

And I’ve got to say it’s interesting how Cage inspired so many other artists. I always kinda figured he was just sort of in his ivory tower composing his little avant-garde pieces, and it turns out he seems to have inspired every other musician out there.

And I’m glad to have gotten the chance to see Vox Arcana. To be honest, I didn’t expect much—but I enjoyed their performances much more than I thought I would—in fact, I hardly booed at all. Seriously, though, I did enjoy their work—I’m probably not going to rush out and buy some, but if I’m ever in Chicago or whatever and everyone’s like “hey, let’s go listen to some avant-garde jazz”, Vox Arcana will definitely be at the top of my list.

Oh, and thanks to this class, I discovered Apocolyptica, which I probably misspelled, but I like their music.

Oh, and I won Soundworlds without cheating hardly at all.

And the in-class discussions were pretty interesting. I mean, they should have been—we’re kind of the smart FYS, let’s face it, and it’s hard to get an interesting discussion going in Stats or Accounting, and the people in my Economics and Intro to Business classes are quite frankly rather stupid and boring for the most part. But still, I enjoyed the in-class discussions, and thought they added a lot to the class.

But we should have done more sound mapping.

By the way, this didn’t take me all that long to write, just so you all don’t think I spent like an hour on this, because this is a bit on the long side.

So, final grade for this class: five John Cage mushrooms =} =} =} =} =}. (Okay, that’s basically blatant plagiarism, mushrooms were Jimmy's idea, but didn’t we agree that plagiarism wasn’t a bad thing? And anyway, you can’t improve on perfection, which is what the whole mushroom thing is). Unless I don’t get an A, in which case it maybe gets one.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

To get away from personal tastes, you must first have them

Just wanted to comment on the point that Dr. Lannguth brought up in class regarding our "sonic democracy." With the advent of the i pod and downloadable music, people are listening more and more to a wide variety of artists and genres, and this is a good thing, I think. Exposure is a good thing. There are even cell phone programs you can sign up for where the company will send you a random bunch of songs every so often, regardless of what you say you like. However, I do agree that, without having had the chance to develop personal preferences, this exposure to different types of music is rather irrelevant. If you don't have preferences to begin with, putting the i pod on shuffle doesn't mean anything. Knowing what you like and then intentional choosing something else is what Cage was all about. Had he taken an apathetic view towards sound and music, his own compositions wouldn't have meant much.
I experienced the importance of a developed personal preference when I choreographed and performed my dance for the last project. To be perfectly honest, I hated it. It was awkward and irregular and confusing, but the point is that I felt something. If I had no preference in dance style or technique at all, doing that dance would have been just like doing any other kind of dance, but because I knew what I liked (and consequently learned what I didn't) doing that Cage-inspired dance meant something. Hating it is much better than being apathetic, and I think that's the problem with a "society on shuffle." No one has developed personal preferences to begin with, no one takes the time to become interested and involved with any particular genre of music, and so the sharing that occurs means much less and the experience of "exposure" carries much less weight.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I've been meaning to get on here for quite some time now and post a blog. But somehow I always manage to get sidetracked. It's been a really long time, so I'll probably touch on a few older ideas or things that happened a while ago in class.

Firstly, I'd like to comment on the reactions of our peers to Tim Daisy's Vox Arcana. I thought it was very rude of some of them to snicker, laugh at and mock the group while they were performing. Even after the performance in some of my classes when the teachers asked students what they thought of the music, people were saying it was horrible and the worst thing they had ever heard. I was personally offended at first. However, after thinking about it for a while I understood where they were coming from. I remembered the first time I had heard experimental music. I had judged it just as they had. However, I was quiet about my judgements and decided to give it a chance. I learned about it and actually came to like it and appreciate it for the artform it is. Vocally putting down what someone does is just plain rude in my opinion. I think they could have kept their thoughts to themselves. I sure hope the members of Vox Arcana didn't hear them, it's very disrespectful and shows Thomas More in a bad light.

Okay, I'm done ranting about that. This blog WAS a bit longer, but I spilled hot cocoa all over my laptop and it shut off so I had to come up to the student center to rewrite it and didn't feel like typing it all again. yay. hahah...

P.S. The red font was for AIDS awareness, which was Monday (when this post was actually started) it's Tuesday. I needed a fun color and I kept seeing red everywhere so I decided to use it. =]

I really enjoyed Mark's and Daniel's projetcs today, though they both seemed to start with the same idea their final projects were pretty different. Mark's seemed to flow pretty smoothly and had a large amount indterminacy because he used his whole musical library. I also really enjoyed all the artists he played, they were all great bands. I haven't heard Creed in like 3 years and it was nice to hear them again. So based on hs smooth transitions, delightful music selection (even though he had no control over it), and the large potential of variability I would like to give Mark's final 4 out of 5 John Cage Mushrooms.
=} =} =} =} (those are supposed to be mushrooms, about as close as I could get anyway)

Daniel's project took a different approach. Daniel hand picked 50 songs which all had equal chance of appearing in the final project, but only 15 would make the cut. As you would assume the competition was fierce with lots of back stabbing and double crossing by some songs, especially Mozart, to ensure they would make it through the eliminations. Ok thats not really true but I enjoy the dramatic effect. While Daniels hand picked his 50 songs he went beyond his own personal tastes to included artists; such as Sun Ra, Bob Dillion, and the G man himself John Cage; he really does not like and really kinda hates on the list. So while his list was shorter, Daniel went beyond his personal tastes, which is very Cagian, and he posted it up on the blog so thats good for some bonus pionts cough cough Dr Langguth cough cough. So for that I give Daniel's final 4.5 out 5 John Cage Mushrooms.
=} =} =} =} = (notice the half mushroom)

Finally I want to give anyone how is out on the blog tonight/tommorrow a slight sneak peak of Angelle, Jenna, JJ, and my final project. It has techno, I know I'm sure your both stunned and excited (I mean me and techno who would have guessed?), and covers a lot of the random discussions we have had in class, and then there is just some other randomness thrown in. I don't know if anyone has read Kurt Vonnegutt, but if you have our thought process for the film was a lot like his writing style, any random thought was used and ellaborated to its maximum. So I'm not trying hype it up but I'm going to pre-emptively give our final project 6 out of 5 John Cage Mushrooms cause its probably the funniest short film ever, atleast to me it is, and I'm the critic here so I'll do what I want.
=} =} =} =} =} =} Real Talk

P.S. John Cage is a G

Putting In My "Two Cents"

This topic of whether or not music should be influenced by personal preference has been going on since the very start of this class. I thought I’d put in my “two cents” for the last time on this endless discussion topic. In life, almost all human actions have a subconscious level of personal preference to them. From when they’re little, people choose to be right-handed or left-handed because they have more control in one hand and would rather use that one. More people are outside on sunny days than rainy days because being dry is preferable to being wet. Many people marry because they would rather have a life-long companion than live a lonely life.

Often times humans do things in life because of their own personal choices, but remain unaware of this. How is music any different? When I am driving I automatically flip the station to something I want to hear, sometimes without even realizing what I’m doing – almost as if my body is programmed to fulfill my desires. So in music, why would a person want to entirely separate personal relations from the music. A human cannot be complete without a soul, how can music be complete without some form of connection between the artist and his masterpiece? When the artist adds his feelings into his music, he gives life to the “soul” of his work.

Naturally people have always been drawn to the idea of finding a purpose or reason for everything in life. Buddha spent years of his life to discover why there is suffering in this world. John Cage appreciated the Buddhist beliefs, and yet the core of that religion results in a man looking for a purpose – a connection in life. That is what the listener does when he hears music. He looks for that relationship in which he can find understanding and be able to develop some form of attachment with the artist and his music. Music must contain personal additions because without them, there is no purpose as to why someone should listen to it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Final Project

Watch Final Project in Entertainment Videos | View More Free Videos Online at

Okay, most of you are probably thinking "Boy, I'd love to know what Daniel's FYS project will be" pretty much 24/7. Or pretty close. Or maybe only if you have an insane fixation on me. But still, if you want to hear my project, here it is, in video form, even though the video part only lasts for like thirty seconds, and then it's just sound. Trust me, this is great stuff--I can't believe I'm just giving it away for free here.

I randomly selected songs, and randomly selected the order, then put them together uses Apple's GarageBand. (Isn't Apple great?). And I tried to choose songs from a wide variety of genres, so if you hate a song and wonder how my taste in music could possibly be that bad, I probably didn't like that song that much anyway. And a clip of 4'33' is the third selection, so your speakers aren't broken when you get about forty-five seconds in. (Actually, it's not like anyone's going to get that far into it, but still).

Anyway, enjoy, and I'd like to remind Dr. Langguth that putting this on the blog for everyone to enjoy or hate ought to be worth an extra five points at least on my final grade.

Yeah, minor detail. Apparently the video won't load, at least after 13 seconds. Blogger video sucks. I'll find some way to post it, or maybe I'll decide it's too much trouble, but it's the thought that counts. And those 13 seconds are pretty amazing.

UPDATE: I finally got it working, which was a lot harder than it sounds, given that pretty much every idiot on the Internet seems to spend most of his time posting awful music videos and clips that were too stupid for America's Funniest Home Videos. Really don't know why I bothered, considering you all will have to get to hear it in class eventually, but it sort of became a pride thing, like Ahab chasing his white whale. Well, maybe not quite like that, because I didn't spend that much time on it. And I'm pretty sure Ahab died, so maybe that isn't the best comparison. Forget the whole thing.

But getting it posted was a priority, just not a very high one. And I did, but only after a trying it like four different ways, because I live out in the country and HughesNet is really awful. You see the commercials on TV, everyone's like "oh, we love HughesNet, it's so great" it's really not. It's really slow sometimes and you can't upload videos very well, and when I finally got it posted on YouTube it was too long (11 minutes?) and MySpace kept timing out (and they wonder why they're losing people to Facebook) and eventually Veoh had it and now it's up for all the world to see, expect probably nobody will, which makes the whole thing a waste of time. Except now I've got a Veoh account. And at least now you've got the choice of not hearing it, and I always say life it always about choices.

BTW, the artists in order are: Bob Dylan, Sun Ra, John Cage (4'33"), Cole Porter song covered by John Barrowman, Pavarotti, Garth Brooks, the Eagles, Rogue Traders, Johnny Cash, Elvis, Mozart, Radiohead, George Strait, Scissor Sisters, and Johnny Cash again.

And it kinda seems like I wrote an awful lot, but this didn't really take me that long--like five minutes. I wouldn't like you all to think that I don't have anything better to do than write this, even though I don't.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Few Thoughts from Cage

The following quotes are taken from Cage's For the Birds (Marion Boyars, 1981). They seemed to me to be relevant to our current discussion of postmodern mash-ups, electronic music and culture, copyright, etc.

"I believe in particular that all the thoughts of all 'cultures'--in the ethnological sense of the term--and all the experiments ever attempted and ever recorded are going to come together, unite, and intermingle. They will form a climate with scarcely any focus. Thus you'll be able to use it differently each time. Repetition won't exist any more."

"My deepest desire regarding contemporary music is to hear it all. Not successively, but all at once, at the same time. Everything together! But perhaps that's a perverse wish... Who knows if we'll do it even when we have the necessary technology? That technology doesn't exist yet? Well, long live the technology to come!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One Good Thing About Cage

I’m reading Timequake, by Kurt Vonnegut, and Vonnegut’s narrative style reminded me of John Cage. It’s a sort of random stream of consciousness narrative—he combines events from his own life with a fictional story with the even more fictional stories of an imaginary author within his story. And sometimes, he randomly makes observations about life. His narrative style is nonlinear (of course) and a little confusing, but somehow, you can always figure out what he’s saying. The book really isn’t all that good (I think it’s supposed to be biting social commentary, but criticizing nuclear weapons, violence, and television has been done so many times as to be staggeringly unoriginal), but it’s always interesting, and I think that John Cage would enjoy it.

Reading Vonnegut, it seems to me that there are quite a few artists (using art in its broadest sense, to mean author, musician, etc) who I like who were influenced by Cage, which is interesting, since I really don’t much like Cage himself. I’m not a huge Radiohead fan, for example, but I recognize that they are a talented band and definitely have some Cagean elements in their music. Ditto techno—I don’t really like it personally, but many people do, and it was heavily influenced by John Cage also. Even the Beatles (who I like, I guess, but not as much as many people—for me, their music is good but not great) were, if that article Dr. Langguth posted is correct, inspired by Cage.

It seems to me that the lesson here, if there is one, is that it is possible to dislike an artist but appreciate his imitators. As far as I’m concerned, the world could do without Cage’s music. (I was talking to some friends about Cage, and one said that Cage’s story is a bit like the “Emperor’s New Clothes” story—in other words, that Cage wasn’t that important but academic types keep looking for talent that isn’t there. Debatable, but interesting). But I enjoy some forms of art that wouldn’t have existed, or would have existed differently, without Cage. So while I dislike John Cage, I do at least appreciate many of those he influenced. So perhaps Cage wasn’t as big a waste as I thought he was—he had at least some good effects.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Beatles and John Cage

Please have a look at this article from today's Guardian. 

Friday, November 14, 2008

I agree with Angelle. After reading those poems -especially The Tables Turned- I was hit with a sudden urge to abandon my worldly obligations and run around in the woods, or splash in s stream, or frolic in the fields like they do in The Sound of Music. Actually, being an avid tree hugger, I get that urge a lot and don't get to act on it often enough. In fact, I don't think people in general act on it enough and that this is the cause of many of society's problems. Many people feel like something's wrong if they aren't doing something productive every waking hour, or if they do take a moment to do nothing, they feel guilty about it. I certainly do. We need someone, some authority telling us it's ok to drop the books, take off your wristwatch and go be "one with nature." Maybe, if we believed this to be ok, if we could not feel so guilty about not being productive 24/7, we wouldn't have so many people paying to talk to therapists once a week. Maybe people wouldn't be so stressed all the time. Maybe marriages would be saved, relationships salvaged, and children loved. Maybe...
It's comforting to know that some of the people viewed as having accomplished so much have, in their way, simply done nothing and been ok with it. I mean, Martin Luther King and Gandhi- how much more revolutionary can you get? And -here's my tree-hugger side coming out again- perhaps if we spent more time experiencing nature, rather than sitting in the isolated bubble we call society, where we write about and analyze and worry about nature, we would appreciate and value her all the more. I read something once about people in Sweden, or some such majestic place in Europe, having a greater appreciation for and value of their nation's national resources and landscapes because they spend so much more time outside than we do. Maybe there's something to that. We in America drive our cars around worrying about off-shore drilling and global warming thinking of what we can constructively do about such dilemmas, when maybe we should simply take a walk in the woods ( a pastime requiring no use of fossil fuels or emission of greenhouse gases) and do nothing. I might just help the situation.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The inquisitive mind... and no I was not on drugs when I wrote this,

just half asleep and trying to write/think in a truly Cage inspired form. 
Also, some of these random thoughts came to me in class and have previously been adorning the
edges of my notebook.

The goal to not have a goal: This has a purposeless purpose. But not having a goal and finding a goal in your non-goal is to over-think the matter completely. 

"not working=knowing. Working=not knowing"--John Cage
Therefore, I should not work if I am to know and in working I find that I can now no longer know what it is that I should know in order to complete the work.

Life?... I have no idea what that means. Destiny?... I have no idea what that means. Truth, Beauty, Death, Birth, Religion, Science?.... I have no idea what they mean.  
Music?... Cage had no idea what it meant.

If when reading a book one finds that they are amused and that the text is easily understandable, does that mean it is not a good literary tool for education? Must something be confounding to really get us to think? Or does not thinking actually give us a stronger aesthetic experience?

What are you trying to do?

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie-roll pop?

We are not so infantile as some may believe. We don't constantly need our hands to be held out of guidance and restriction....., but rather out of companionship.

John Cage suggests that if you are bored then you should continue what you are doing until it is not boring. I have a different guide.... it is not the I-Ching, but it does come in book form. It is called Fold a Banana. If you are still reading this you have probably become bored and therefore I urge you to go pick up a copy of this exquisite little book. Who could not love something that suggests you "throw a tomato into a fan", "fight vampires", "take a bath with your clothes on", and "appreciate everything", apart from, of course folding a banana. 

The Hokey-Pokey. that's what it's all about.

a poem?:             standing in wait
    Wake, to find oneself
   The hallway goes
    on         and on
  reaching final destination,
a station
for transporting up up
and down.
BEEPDING-the elevator
door opens and my
face walks out 
carrying a bandage
for my soul.

 Is this the end?....

                                 TO BE CONTINUED...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Changing my mind?

I feel like maybe I've been a little harsh at times in my judgement of Cage. What bothers me the most I think, is that so many people try to view him as some kind of creative genius when he seemed to me just to be curious about our preconceived notions of music. I still don't agree with many of his ideas, though I can understand his thought process. I feel he was raising questions rather than coming up with answers, and when viewed in that light, his ideas take on new meaning for me. Recently, his idea of changing one's mind has struck me. Before it had seemed a bit preachy, but now it's more of an openness rather than a forced action. In truth, I have changed my mind multiple times about Cage. Originally, I felt he had so many insightful and, at times, genius things to say, but then I began to realize some of the flaws and errors of these same ideas. Even still, I found that I liked his unique sense of music and silence, but still reverberated back to my endless frustration with his methods. So in changing my mind repeatedly, I have found that I've gotten nowhere, which is exactly where I'm meant to be, right?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Finding A Connection

After reading the poem The Tables Turned, I felt like dropping everything and running through the fields like in The Sound of Music. Unfortunately this is not a realistic idea, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hold value or worth. After watching Vox Arcana with our fellow FYS classmates, it seemed as if they thought you either had to completely love the music or hate it. It seems that the general society seems to act this way in general toward experimental music. Really extremes are not meant to be taken. The artist creates his work knowing that it will not be liked by all, but he creates his work because he hopes that even people who are not his greatest fans can find some connection or appreciation toward his art.

The excerpt we read in class titled The Ultimate Object, started with making connections between the philosophies of Cage and Zen Buddhism. Like experimental music, religion is something that everyone does not entirely agree with, but they can find some form of connection. How many of us call ourselves Catholic, but do we really attend Mass every Sunday or at the least for Holy Days of Obligation? In our culture it is acceptable to say you are a follower of a certain faith, yet not agree with or follow all of the religion’s ideals. This is the same idea with experimental music – the artist is not asking for everyone to love his every project, but to get what you can out of his art.

While driving in the car today I passed an open grassy area and instead of feeling the urge to frolic in the fields, I spent a moment appreciating nature.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Techno and Cage

The techno presentation was fun and really informative. Who knew how complex techno really is? Since techno primarily consists of repetitive beats and rhythms, it was a surprise for me to find that actually a DJ mixes two songs that are in the same time signature and going at the exact same speed. That’s incredible! Like we mentioned in class, when a DJ makes music it is a form of art like any other. A DJ differs from Cageian style in that a DJ works to make his art appealing to his audience; he desires seeing other people enjoying his art and looks for sounds that he knows his audience will enjoy. Cage did not care what his audience thought; he felt people should have an appreciation for all sounds.

Despite this difference, a DJ does follow the ideas of Cage in that when he performs a live show he exhibits the idea that the music will sound different with each performance. This is very interesting because DJ’s always seem to be so composed and prepared. It’s their job to play the catchy tune that everyone is familiar with and to bring out the desire to dance. In a live performance it allows the DJ to step out of the normal comfort zone and make raw music like Cage did.

Incorporating the sound of human breathing and vacuuming into his mixes shows that techno values all sounds. The Dj’s latest piece, the one including the breathing, reminded me of the Satie piece that Cage made. Cage took Sati’s piece and just made it a couple octaves higher. The latest techno piece made by the DJ was an arpeggio raised up a couple octaves and repeated over and over again. I was really surprised to find such similarities between techno and music by Cage.


I too thought that the DJing was very interesting. I knew about some of the different types of music at clubs and raves, but I did not know them by name or how they were connected or similar. I was surprised to hear that his record label was international. When I went to France, each year, we went to a club for a party at the end of the trip. It was a teen hang out, but techno over there is probably one of if not the most popular types of music listened to. Then, when I went to Amsterdam at our banquet, we had a DJ and he did a lot of similar things and used similar music, but you could tell the difference. But the place that I heard the most difference in techno music was when I was in Italy this year at a club with the team. It was completely different style and beat but you could see a little connection to other types of music. But, it was so big in Italy that when they played music for the big matches during the warm ups, techno was all they played. In the states, they played more hip hop than anything. So it was interesting to now know the different styles that I had heard but never knew too much about. Hopefully this coming summer if I get to go to England, I will be able to listen to that kind of music and be able to compare it to the others also. But, now I definitely do have a greater appreciation for DJ s because there is no way I would be able to do everything they do.
And Penny, I agree Jimmy should DJ for us one day.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Well, At Least I Used Ironic Properly (I Think)

Does anyone else think it’s a bit ironic* that John Cage criticized American involvement in Vietnam, and was taken seriously, at the same time he praised Mao Zedong was his work in China? However you feel about Vietnam, America was fighting a set of brutal dictators who were allied with the Soviet Union and mercilessly crushed any dissent. You could say that American involvement in Vietnam was unwise, but it’s not like we were fighting a group of enlightened people here—the Viet Cong were as brutal a lot as any such group of the last century.

Mao, on the other hand, was basically the Chinese version of Adolf Hitler, except he killed many more people. So well done, Cage—on the one hand, he was dead set against a war that may have been stupid but was morally defensible, on the other, he wrote books praising a mass murderer.

And how are those predictions about how we’d have Mao Zedong to thank if we have everything we need for survival looking? More people than every before in human history are fed and clothed and doctored. What did China do to help? And would Cage still want America to have the “Chinese sense of society?” Yeah, I’ve been really envying the people of Tibet. (Although maybe oppressing New Mexico just a little wouldn’t hurt).

Maybe Cage didn’t know about Mao’s massacres—but he should have, since other people didn’t have much trouble figuring it out. Mao’s brutality was common knowledge among informed people by the time Cage wrote “How to Improve” in 1971. And if Cage drifted away from Mao, he never condemned him; instead, Thoreau became the new object of his admiration.

Could you imagine a former Nazi becoming Secretary General of the United Nations? Or George Wallace getting widespread black support?** But people seem to have no trouble at all swallowing the idea of someone who admired the most bloody dictator of the 20th century as a moral thinker. In my opinion, Cage’s admiration of Mao basically negates whatever moral credibility he might have had.

*Actually, I’m pretty sure that I’m using “irony” correctly here. Even if the whole world uses the word incorrectly, I’m holding the line. Someone needs to stick up for proper usage.

**Okay, maybe I need better examples, since both of those things actually happened, but those were about the most improbable things I could think of. Anyway, I doubt anyone is going to read this far, so I don’t even know why I’m throwing this footnote in here. This post pretty much peaks with the (probable) proper use of “irony,” and by the end of the first paragraph people will grasp the main point and go off to check their Facebook, unless they happen to be Angelle or Penny, who either don’t have Facebooks or have them but I don’t know about them so they’ll probably do something more productive. And I guess Dr. Langguth probably doesn’t have a Facebook either. But anyway, you get my point, except you probably don’t because you probably didn’t get this far.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Techno, God's greatest gift... well except for Jesus

If you couldn't tell I was a little excited about the techno preformance today. I love techno because I always feel so excited and energy packed when I hear it. Its the perfect party music. You just can't sit still when it comes on, and there is no dance style, just random motions (kinda cageian). That being said it was very interesting to see how techno is mixed by a DJ. Its a lot harder than it looks. You have to be very good at listening and focus on track seperately. You also have to know all the details of every song. I can understand why it would take years of practice and exprience to get good at DJ ing. But if you could perfect it, DJing would be the most fun job ever. He seemed very good at it. He played a solid variety of techno but it seemed a little slow for my taste. I enjoy the faster up beat techno. I really want to hear all the various forms of techno. Club, rave, european, they are all different but have their own benefits. Techno in Europe is HUGE, and its one major reason for me to vist there sometimes. I sure a european techno rave would be an exprience like no other. I have always wanted to go to a rave of some type just to exprience a large group all getting crazy to techno. I was surprised that his music and his label was literal world wide. From Japan to Europe, its just crazy. All in all it was a pretty exciting, and informative presentation.

Techno Show and Tell

I'll be the first to say that I thoroughly enjoyed today's crash course in techno music and disk-jockeying (that's what you call it, right?). I hadn't realized how little I knew, both about DJ-ing (?) and techno/electronic music. In fact, I'll admit I knew absolutely nothing and wasn't aware of that fact until he came in and started throwing around all this jargon that I couldn't make heads or tails of. Acknowledging that I knew nothing going in, I was really impressed with the process and how music is created from preexisting music. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that, when first staring out, he choreographed and mapped out all that he did, all the songs that he played. I mean, it's not like knowing how to play an instrument and then just following sheet music, but it's different than jazz improvisation too. Obviously, he's got to play for an audience and cater to their tastes, but he's got to keep it interesting while keeping everything in sync. I don't blame him for not just "going with the flow" right away. It's definitely something you've got to get good at.
I thought it was cool that he does a lot of field recording to find new sounds. Techno and electronic music in general allows you to be free of the limitations of traditional instruments, but also opens up the whole world to be turned into music -and not just in the Cagean sense. You gather sounds from anywhere, but then you can manipulate them on the computer, accentuating the parts that are interesting and toning down those elements that aren't desirable, or that simply don't "jive" with everything else. It's amazing how sounds could potentially be gathered from all over, but then put together in such a way so as to maintain a sense of unity. The same thing is done with different existing records. I mean, if you can make Jessica Simpson sound good, that's talent.
It was also interesting to note that techno and experimental music is more popular in other parts of the world. It's disappointing, really, because electronic music opens up so many more possibilities to music. But I guess that's telling of our culture's ethos. We don't like change, we're comfortable with conventions, and we could build on those conventions forever... and we do. Having pen pals in other countries (France, Senegal, Germany, and Australia) you really do get a sense that the rest of the world is more open to new and different possibilities. Personally, I think it's because of the size of the United States. If other countries were in closer proximity to US citizens, we would undoubtedly have to be more open to other cultures, especially if those cultures were dramatically different from ours. This openness to other cultures would almost have to transcend into other areas, so it's really no surprise that in Europe -where the distance from the center of two countries speaking different languages is comparable from the distance between the center of Ohio to Kentucky- people are generally more open to new ideas.

P.s. Who else thinks that Jimmy should become a DJ and play something for us?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vox Arcana

I thought both the work shop and the night performance were really interesting. I like Angelle, would not have recognized the pieces as being the same in the night performance if they had not said what the title was. I thought that was very neat because it fit Cage perfectly. Yes, there are some parts of the songs that remain constant, but the other parts will never be the same piece twice. I could definitely see where each of the three had different parts that were very Cagian in themselves. But, they were so different, if you did not know anything about Cage, you would think they were playing the wrong songs because they did not match up at some points.
When my parents went to the night performance, they actually asked me if it was supposed to be the way it turned out. They did not understand it in the least. I tried to explain it to them about different things like why Tim used the different objects on the actual drums themselves, but they never got it. They, like the students at the workshop in the back, were very close minded about the performance so they did not get an opportunity to understand and enjoy the experience. They thought that since it was not traditional style music, that it was not thought out before the performance, or one of them was messing something up. They did this when in fact each of the three were playing it as "perfectly" as one can play impromptu music. Even though some people did not want to understand it, those of us who either understood it, or at least had an open mind about it and wanted to try to understand it, enjoyed the performance, and asking them questions about subjects we have been studying this semester. Like a few of my friends who went to the workshop and had no idea what they were doing, they asked me afterwards to explain and then they actually enjoyed all of the music they had just heard.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Commentary on the Vox Arcana Performance

In class we talked of how someone once recognized Cage and told him how he had seen him in the game show displaying his knowledge of mushrooms and in his performance of Water Walk. The man told Cage he was a genius, but he should really just stick to mushrooms. I love the fact that Cage took no offense and thought this was hilarious. I guess that is the type of attitude one must have when delving into the unfamiliar territory of experimental music. Within the group Vox Arcana, I noticed the same sort of attitude amongst the members. The clarinet player even mentioned how they could play music that everyone wanted to hear, but that is not the purpose of their band. The band members accepted that not all people enjoy their music, but like Cage they took no offense. This is what prompted me to ask my question about whether or not they tried to incorporate humor into their performances as Cage did in Water Walk. From Tim Daisy’s easy-going personality, I felt comfortable that it would not be taken offensively. Tim Daisy said that he understood that some things in the performance, like his facial expressions and movements, were funny and that it is okay to laugh if one finds something funny. This way in which the group interacted with the audience very much reminded me of how Cage wanted people to react to his performances.

The thing I found most interesting is how the music varied from the morning to the evening performance. If Tim Daisy hadn’t introduced the piece with the Croatian title at the evening performance, I would not have thought that it was the same song we heard in the morning. I could pick up some familiarity when they played the little repetitive tune that, I assume, was specifically written in the music; but the parts of improvisation were so incredibly different. Vox Arcana’s music was very Cageian in that every performance was different.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Overdue Thoughts About Friday

I know I’m not a big fan of all music experimental, but I actually enjoyed the Vox Arana concert last Friday. I mean, I wasn’t running out and telling my friends about it, and I’m not going to be buying any CDs, but I’m not wishing that I had those hours of my life back either, and felt I learned some things. So it was, overall, a good experience.

A few observations.

I thought that everyone asked good questions, except me because I didn’t ask one which probably says something about my artistic sensibilities. I thought the whole discussion about Vox Arcana’s differences with Cage about taste in music were interesting, and I liked the question about how VA (I’m tired of typing “Vox Arcana”) incorporated music into their concerts like Cage did.

If I had asked a question, I would have asked “Despite the similarities between your compositions and Cage’s, what, in your opinion, is the primary way in which you depart from the Cageian ethos?” But I didn’t ask it because it would have made me sound pretentious and annoying, and I didn’t think of it till later anyway. Besides, I think someone already asked it. So it’s probably a good thing I kept my mouth shut.

I couldn’t help but notice how the band was dressed. I don’t know what I expected, but they seemed to go for the “college professor” look. Except for the celloist, who looked like he was playing a Russian peasant.

Of the pieces they played, I liked “Silver Fence”, though they really didn’t have to play it twice (during the workshop, then later), and that one piece Angelle (I think) mentioned in class, though I have absolutely no idea what it was called. But it was closer to mainstream music than anything else we’ve listened to this year, so maybe that will ring some bells.

Nobody outside our class really had many good questions, did they? I mean, I didn’t ask a question, so maybe I’m not one to talk, but still, is “do you do this for a living?” really the best the rest of the FYS’s could come up with?

I was talking to someone after the workshop, and she was all like “that’s not music, that’s just noise.” That surprised me, because VA is the most mainstream stuff we’ve listened to all year. Unless you count Dylan, and I don’t, because that really wasn’t for our Cage course.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

They Just Aren't as Cultured as We Are

I must agree that the workshop on Friday was totally cool. I was so neat to see these people who actually put into practice all (or most) of the things we've been talking about this semester -and I must agree that I was pretty impressed that they all seemed to be experts on Cage and experimental music themselves. I loved having the opportunity to ask them how they do things, like, whether they write in the composition when they use the cowbell or pie pans and when they stop. It makes sense they way that Tim Daisy said he implements those tools, not writing down a play-by-play, but having a set mood or sound for those few measures. I was actually surprised when he said that other composers write in precisely when they do things like that.
I also have to agree that the performance was made even more interesting by the reactions of the rest of the audience. I listened in on some conversations afterward just to see what other people though of it. I'll admit I was disappointed with some of their comments, but then, I supposed everyone can't be as cultured as our FYS class... I think it's good that the band members are aware of this, though. They even said that, yeah, they do this for a living, but they can't do just this. They'll admit that they have to do more conventional jazz too, because -like we saw- lots of people just don't get it. I thought it was pretty telling of this attitude when the clarinet player was talking about manipulation of the audience. He said that they know they could manipulate some of their sounds to make them more appealing to the audience, but it's not always about what the audience wants (which is a pretty bold statement for someone who makes his living as a musician, I think). Though he said that he doesn't always agree with Cage's never wanting to force an emotion on someone through music, he seems to hold the same ideas about music being for its own sake; not for the musician, not for the audience, but music for music's sake.
I was pretty bummed out that I couldn't go to the concert on Friday night (work gets in the way of everything!) but I was glad I was able to ask all -or most- of my questions. I didn't realize I had so many until the clarinet player pointed it out (then I thought I'd better stop, or risk being too obnoxious). Overall, I think that one piece -for all you Croatians out there!- that meant "explore" was my favorite. Oh, and I made chocolate cake today. Maybe I'll make music with the pan later...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tim Daisy's Band

Tim Daisy's band today was pretty good. I wasn't sure how much of an influence Cage had on them but after the first song it was very apparent. I really liked all the different sounds he made with his prepared drums. It was crazy seeing all house hold stuff he used. I thought the paint brushes made a pretty cool sound. I was thrilled to see the cow bell, but I must say I needed more cow bell. It was very Cageian the way he pick stuff up, used it for a few seconds, and then tossed it aside; and if something fell off it didn't matter. I was also interesting to see some of the expressions on people's faces. Most people were completely surprised and befuddled by the preformance, but all the people in our class were just like, "Oh, its a Cage preformance". I was also surprised at how knowledgable they were about Cage. I expected them to know about him and his music but they seem more like complete experts. They also had a pretty good sense of humor and understood that some poeple had no idea what was going on. I really enjoyed the preformance, it was something completely different. I sure the concert tonight will be even more interesting, maybe some prepared cello?

Tim Daisy's Vox Arcana Today

Tim Daisy's new band is playing for us here at Thomas More today. I have added a link to an article from a Lexington blog that discusses Daisy and the music of Vox Arcana. Note the John Cage reference.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Random Thoughts

I’m excited to see Tim Daisy’s band play on Friday because I have always loved to watch people incorporate improvisations into their performance. Probably this is because I can’t do it myself. Well, I’m not sure if I can’t, but I can never think of anything to play when the opportunity presents itself. Improvisation is random and unprepared; it’s like a musical stream of consciousness. In a sense, it goes against Cage’s idea of having music written beforehand and then performing, but in a sense it also follows Cage’s idea of chance operation. The musician may not roll a die and specifically follow all of the chance operation processes, but the musician is leaving it up to chance when he plays whatever sounds come to mind.

When we watched Sun Ra’s performance, I couldn’t really tell what was improvisation and what was composed and practiced because it all was a big jumble of noise. Even though I heard it as a loud jumble, when I concentrated my focus on individual noises I thought of something interesting. To me, it sounds as if Sun Ra’s music is a large jumble of the unknown, as is space. We don’t exactly know what’s out there, but we know that it’s packed with a lot of different “stuff”. The music of Sun Ra contains several different instruments in his arkestra which could be symbolically the “stuff” in space. When you pick out each instrument or sound in the music, you find that each seems to express a different story or emotion that is unknown to the listener. The listener is interested because the music carries a sort of mystery in that it seems odd or foreign to the ear. This similar to space in that each object is unique and there are many fascinating details about space objects that we do not fully understand yet. People take an interest in space because of our unfamiliarity; it perks the curious mind.

Whether it’s improvisation or composed, I have respect for any musician who will walk the line and express themselves through the sounds of music.

Not From This Planet

When we started discussing Sun Ra and his style of music, I thought, like many others, he was insane. But then once I started thinking about it I realized I had seen a band that was cosmic before but I could not remember who it was or where I had seen them. Then the other day it hit me when I was talking to J.J. I had actually been to what was basically an outdoor club in Italy, and the band that night was like Sun Ra in a way. I am not sure what they were singing about because it was in Italian, but what they looked like I do remember. They had a "rocket" made of I think plastic, that they walked out of onto stage to make their grand entrance. Then each one was introduced and they walked out. They all looked like they were a part of Star Wars gone wrong. The lead singer had on a space helmet that lights went across the front on. He also had on a funny looking shiny cape, and when he sang he used a synthesizer so it sounded like he was in fact from space. The guitarist also had on a really funny cape and he had on a helmet that I am not sure what it was supposed to be it just looked really odd. He also had on space boots and shiny silver gloves. The drummer had an alien mask on, a shiny pink space suit, and bright yellow gloves and shoes. Then they started playing. It sounded kind of like some of Sun Ra's stuff but it was more traditional melody meets cosmic sounds. You could pick out a sort of melody with a certain rhythm. The instruments and mics must have had some different equipment with them so that it made each one sound differently during different parts of each song. It sounded kind of like the songs from Star Wars, but not as cool and more bazaar. It made you wonder if they had had a few too many drinks before getting up there. So when this was brought up I thought it was really funny because I thought that band was just some really strange group, but I guess they aren't the only ones. But just imagine Star Wars gone wrong, but also it was in Italian so it sounded even weirder.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Connoisseur of Birdsong

Okay, so I'll admit I was a little let down initially when I heard the "legendary song of the nightingale" in class. Emmy had shared her recording of the robin, and I thought that was very pretty, so when I heard we were going to listen to the song of the nightingale, the bird that English poets have showered with praise for so many years,... I guess I thought I was going to be blown away. My initial thought was, "Ugh, I think I liked the robin better," but then after awhile (and especially after hearing the second track, with the two male nightingales "serenading" each other) I realized what all those English poets must have been talking about. If I had to sit and listen to the robin's song for, say, three hours straight, I think I would eventually loose my mind and rip all my hair out. The robin's song is rather repetitive, with many of the sounds it makes being very similar to one another. Though initially not as "pretty," -as I put it before- the song of the nightingale is much more varied, with lots of different and interesting sounds and patterns. All in all, I guess on e could say that the nightingale has much more "range" and much more talent, as bird singers go. I can't help but wonder if this has anything to do with its capacity for memory being greater than that of the robin's -or perhaps it's repertoire is just more expansive, so the chances of repeating patterns too often are minimal.
After hearing the songs of the nightingales recorded from different areas (Greece and the Netherlands, for example), I did start to wonder if certain "dialects" or popular sounds could be found among birds of different regions. I know they're migratory birds, and so they could probably pick up different songs from birds in other areas, but I'm sure that there's no big "show and tell convention" to which all nightingales send ambassadors to share and collect new songs. Birdsong is learned, and so it does stand to reason that songs from the same species would vary. Perhaps this would be most clearly seen through species of different areas that do not migrate, or that migrate to different areas. For instance, do the starlings brought to America sing the same songs that the starlings in Europe do? Would a group of migratory birds pick up the songs of another species while they're on their vacation? Are there popular patterns of song in certain parts of the world? And, most importantly, does anyone know of a bird anthropologist to whom I could pose such questions?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cage is getting to me

It’s weird for me to think of birds having preferences. I’ve never had pets and I’ve really never been able to understand why people think that they can think. And yet, surprisingly to me, I really liked the idea of birds liking to sing. Not just singing for mating purposes, or for territorial purposes. Singing because they really like to sing. It makes me think that music is an even more primal part of us than I was thinking. I like the idea of music transcending thought and, even, species. I have an immediate bad reaction to things like the Manifesto for Silence because I love music and I think it is a natural, healthy, human thing. People have always understood music.
Why is it that we all enjoy listening to certain beats, that some sounds put together we can agree are beautiful?
Why is it that some music, without words can express emotions that we all basically agree on? What is it about sounds that are sad or happy?
Why could any untrained ear that is not totally tone-deaf tell that a minor chord is sad and a major chord is happy? I think we’re getting at something profound here, but I’m not sure what it is. Is it God?
Is it religion? Is it just, as Hartshorne proposes, aesthetics?
What does aesthetics mean? My first reaction is that this is a shallow idea.
I’ve heard that babies react to seeing a beautiful person. Babies can tell the difference between a beautiful and an ugly person. This distinction is not learned. I was and still I am a little unsettled by this information. Even babies are that shallow?
But maybe aesthetics goes deeper than that. Hartshorne says that having intelligent conversation is an aesthetic activity. I think I need to look that up. Aesthetics--Of or concerning the appreciation of beauty or good taste. I don’t think that helped. The question is: what in the world is beauty or good taste? And does this word extend to more things than just the physical, the visual?
If it does, then maybe I agree. Morality is not enough; I agree well enough with that.
Because morality, many times, turns into a list of things one is not permitted to do.
Do not sin.
But then again, there are sins of omission.
Which ones are sins? This is all starting to sound like the difference between music and silence. Which ones are sins? I think I’m starting to get to nothing—reading Cage for that long out loud must have unhinged something in my brain.
If aesthetics is our number one goal: staying interested, being pleased with life, loving the life we are living right now, not one in the near or far future; I think all of the rest would fall into place. If we love life, if we enjoy it at its deepest, at its simplest then we will act morally, in order to preserve this state.
Do not kill. That would deny us the aesthetic of life. Do not lie. That would deny us the aesthetic of truth. Do not have any other gods before the one God. That would deny us the aesthetic of divinity. Isn’t there an aesthetic in the divinity we choose to believe in? Should we be constantly questioning ourselves, asking if what we are doing has an aesthetic value? Is everything else purposeless? Or is purpose exactly what we want to stay away from? Should we be learning only if we find it beautiful, not for any purpose? Does that not bring us happiness but only economic security? Why live if you do not enjoy? But what should you enjoy? Aren’t there things that are not beautiful which are still interesting, which are still worth knowing about? Did I just reach nothing by coming full circle? But isn’t a circle beautiful?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Please Look at Today's "Overgrown Path" blog.

There is a post relating to Cage and Satie on today's "On an Overgrown Path" blog (see Cagelinks). Please read it sometime before Friday's class.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Shallow Observations

I can’t say I’ve ever really heard anything like Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing.” The first part was kinda funny, in a “is he serious here?” kind of way, and I which I thought represented Cage at his best. In fact, I’m convinced half the reason Cage became so well known is his persona—if most people tried to say “I have nothing to say, and I am saying it”, they would simply be ignored, but when John Cage murmurs “I had nothing to say…and I am saying it” in his softly comforting voice, it almost sounds profound instead of like something from an especially zany Douglas Adams character.

Anyway, the first part was funny. The second part, not so much. Repeating the whole “we’re getting nowhere” thing was funny at first, then became a bit boring, then became maddening. I kept trying to guess when Cage would decide enough’s enough, but no, Cage just soldiered on. Now I know what brainwashed POWs go through. (Not literally, that’s just poetic license, but you get my point). I guess Cage was trying to say that “getting somewhere” isn’t always the most important thing, and I guess he made his point. Although I do think the “getting nowhere” idea became a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

I liked the ambient music—it added atmosphere without anyone (I think) really noticing it. I’m not sure what it was intended for, but it would make excellent furniture music.

Cage became famous for thinking outside the box. Which is a good thing, I’m all for it, we need original thinkers—but I would like to see something more. It seems like most of what he said could be translated to “I’m thinking outside the box here”—I mean, what does “I have nothing to say and am saying it” mean? And yeah, I know 4:33 was supposed to show the value of silence—but it also showed the value of self-promotion. It seems, at least to me, that Cage wasn’t above dressing self-promotion in high sounding words.

But then, I’m not Cage’s biggest fan, as you might have noticed, so maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe he was really the next Ralph Waldo Emerson. (Not to sound like I hate everything, but yeah, I don’t like Ralph Waldo Emerson much either. Or maybe it’s Thoreau. Or both. Now we’re getting nowhere).

And I really think that thirty sided dice are just overkill. I mean, how high do dice go? Fifty? I felt like I was rolling a bowling ball or something.


I really understand what is meant by ambient music now, after listening to that Deep Listening music during class. I thought it was enjoyable to listen to, but also found it rather easy to ignore when other things were going on. I could easily tell when it stopped while changing songs though, but that was the only point in time that it actually disrupted my attention from the class. For some reason, even though I wasn’t paying attention to it, I noticed and even missed the music for those few seconds, around 20, between songs (and at the beginning of each, which started off at an inaudible level). This makes sense though; I would imagine that it would be impossible to create something that’s supposed to enhance the environment but won’t be noticed when it’s gone. In other words, you can’t really complain about the music distracting you when it isn’t there. Yes, the music distracted me when it wasn’t there; I’ll admit it, but, just so you know, I’m not crazy; everyone else is.

Lecture on Nothing and The Themes

The lecture on nothing was both humorous and thought provoking to me. He would randomly put funny things into it splitting up the very thoughtful sections of his lecture. The parts where he repeats the same things over and over many times, were funny at first, then brought forth questions. When I heard it the first time, I thought about what he was saying literally. I thought about how he has a point about the fact that being where we are is not what is annoying, but it is when we want to be anywhere else but where we are that is annoying. The second and third time it repeated, I kind of laughed because i thought he was just making the point that he was in fact, going nowhere. The next time it was repeated I was getting irritated and wanting to sleep like he was suggesting. The rest of the times it was repeated, I at first listened to the music, then I just started just listening to it becoming in a sense a single entity. The lecture just became a part of the background music that was playing.
One of the themes in the handout caught my attention because of how I related it too today's class. It says boredom plus attention equal becoming interested. That was very true with the lecture on nothing. After a while, I got bored with the repetition, then once I paid attention to the background music and how that sounded with the lecture, I became more interested in the connection of the two sounds. One other theme that related was highest purpose equals no purpose. So, the lecture on nothing had a very high purpose because it did not really have a set purpose in and of itself. It's only purpose was what ever purpose the listeners seemed to get out of the lecture after it ended. On the same level, the last theme is goal is not to have a goal. Cage definitely accomplished this one in the lecture by purposely not having any set goal what so ever. Some things in life should also not have a goal. We should do it just because.

Life through the "Ears" of Cage

When you repeat a word over and over again, the word will begin to sound strange and meaningless. I thought the lecture on nothing was interesting because I felt as if Cage was inviting us to experience life through his “ears.” To him all sounds are fascinating. This is not the case for everyday people. We zone in to only what we want to hear and disregard all the rest. This lecture on nothing forced us to listen to Cage’s words and when he started to repeat them over and over again, the listener begins to feel a separation from the words and their meaning. This disassociation was what Cage was trying to convey. Words, too, can be sounds; but since we’re always intent on their meaning we never actually stop to appreciate their unique sounds.
Cage also made another statement that was very Zen. It focused on the now; on the presence of being. We are so busy going about doing all the things that we have to do that we never stop and just be, or stop to do what we really want to do for that matter. After the mantra-like repetitions, the message feels monotonous and it is hard to remain focused on the unchanging sentences. For me I did tend to become sleepy, but I resisted the urge to fall asleep because we were in class and being attentive is expected from a student. Cage says “If anybody is sleepy, let him go to sleep.” This follows his Zen idea of being. Sitting there quietly listening to the words is one state of being, but naturally if you are getting “sleepy,” don’t resist nature; simply enter into another state of being: sleep.
Cage was an interesting man in the respect that he liked to think out of the box. If everyone was thinking one way, why not think another? If everyone relies on emotion and feeling to determine decisions, why not rely on chance operation? I found it entertaining listening to Cage’s unconventional thoughts in the “Lecture on Nothing.” It gave me the opportunity to “hear” through Cage’s ears and experience something I take for granted every day, the sounds of words.

The Something in Nothing

Today's Lecture on Nothing began to make me think that, perhaps, in saying nothing, more can be said than by anyone attempting to say something. In content and/or in length, it is much more open to speak about nothing than to write about anything else. When talking with no particular goal in mind, the thoughts are fleeting and disjointed, continuing for minutes before the speaker or even the listener realizes that nothing has been said at the same time that many things have been mentioned.
We are told in essays, theses, and in life in general, our thoughts and arguments must be well-structured and focused. When writing a focused essay, suddenly we are restricted to one and only one line of thought, giving as much detail as possible in that direction of thinking. In other words, we are writing about something. Writing or talking without thought, freeform, letting ideas occur when they occur, is identified as rambling. Not talking about anything. Talking about nothing. And yet thoughts still occur, ideas are still conveyed, but they are not dwelled upon or investigated in further detail. Simply because thoughts are mentioned and left in the dust as other thoughts occur in rapid succession, it is thought that you are talking about nothing. But something is in the speech: many, unrestricted somethings. Though not extensively detailed, so many somethings occur, so many idle observations and simple ideas are noted, that it could not possibly be said that a rambling, particularly John Cage's Lecture on Nothing (which I see as rambling), contains nothing, nor that rambling is a negative thing. But now I'm rambling, and unlike Cage, I am trying to stay slightly focused.
I felt that this lecture proved that there is no such thing as Nothing, in the same way that Cage proved there is no such thing as silence. Perhaps there is no particular goal (though I think there is), and therefore the lecture does not travel from point A to point B, but rather circles around itself, getting nowhere. Even so, so many thoughts occur that it could not possibly by any stretch of the imagination contain nothing. Sure, many of the observations are meaningless or obvious, but they are still present, and while they are present, nothing cannot exist. When I say that I believe there is an actual goal in this lecture, I am saying that John Cage had this explicitly in mind. In the same way that he proved sound is always present and therefore silence cannot exist, he used his Lecture on Nothing to demonstrate that something is always there to be thought or observed, no matter how simplistic, and therefore, nothing cannot exist.

A Blog on Nothing

Well Cage is somewhat fascinating with his obsession with simplicity. It seemed to me that Cage just rambled in a stream of consciousness manner for nearly 20 pages. I'm not saying that a bad thing by any means. The first few pages are filled with Cage's delightful wit. Such interesting lines as "Its like an empty glass, nothing but wheat, is it corn?" I enjoyed all Cage's little witticisms in the first few pages.

The middle section where Cage just repeated himself for five pages was crazy. When it first repeated I laughed a little, but then it just kept repeating and repeating. I couldn't help but feel annoyed and I wished it would just switch to something else. After about two pages of repetitive words I tried to focus on the background music that was playing. That kept me entertained for awhile but the repetitiveness was almost over powering. I don't mind repetitive beats or lyrics in music, but just hearing the same words being read aloud over and over bugged me. I really didn't understand what Cage was getting at until we talked about how if you listened to the words as sounds instead of words its not annoying.

I also enjoyed that Cage told the story of the man standing on the hill again. Its a simple yet profound story. The man just stands on the hill just to stand there. No real reason, he is just doing it to be doing it. I think that is one of the best ways to live life at times. Just do whatever for no real reason. Spontaneousness is so much fun and keeps life interesting. The man's reply to the question of why he is standing on the hill, "I just stand" reminds me of a similar experience I had. A wise man once asked me, "Why is a rainbow pretty?" I couldn't think of any real answer and the wise man told me, "It just does".

Friday, October 3, 2008

Cage on Recordings

What Cage says about not caring for records really doesn't surprise me. It seems that he saw -or is it heard?- music or sound or noise as a natural phenomenon, an occurrence, if you will. It goes hand in hand with the Zen stuff. You have to be in the moment and experience the sound as it happens. Accordingly, if you aren't there when it happens, well too bad for you. The record serves as a sort of cheap replacement for those unlucky people not there to witness a sound being heard. It's just not the same;kind of like going to see your daughter's ballet recital and watching it on video tape because you missed it. There's a big difference in the experience. I remember my mom used to tape my ballet recitals and, well, I loved to watch them afterward because I never got to see myself during the performance, but no one else ever cared to go back and watch the tapes. After the performance, who wants to see a recording?
This attitude toward recordings reminds me of what Cage said about contemporary or modern music. It's only contemporary as it's happening and after that, it's not new anymore. If it's already happened, it's in the past, and if you missed it, again, too bad for you. Does this mean that you can never have a recording of truly contemporary music? I guess it's like having a recording of improvisation; it's like having it second hand. And it really takes the novelty out of improvisation. Think about it, if you listen to that CD of improvisation say, five times, you could know it by heart. Kind of defeats the purpose of improvisation, doesn't it? I wonder if Cage would have agreed that a low-fi world -that is a world in which sounds are detached from their sources- isn't the most desirable thing. I would appear that one gets more out of a listening experience if one is witness to the cause and effect that produces the sounds heard. You see the drummer raise the drumstick, you see it come down, and you see it hit the drum (or perhaps in Cage's world, the coffee can or grand piano, or trampoline or whatever) at the same time hearing the vibrations produced. The experience has been allowed to run its natural course and you have had -in the words of John Dewy- "an experience." You miss out on that with a recorded sound.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Easy to say, hard to mean, impossible to prove

Whats wrong with a little bull shit? I mean how often do you say something you mean a 100%. How often do people say, "I'm starving" or "I could eat a horse" when they are just hungry. Exaggerations are part of our culture and one of the easiest things to exaggerate are our feelings for other people. Have you ever thought things like, "I care for that person so much I would take a bullet for them", but given the situation of someone pointing a gun at that person would you really be able to sacrifice your life to save theirs. Its easy to say that. The same principles apply to our expression of love. I believe those three little words "I love you" have been tossed around to the point they are next to meaningless. Have you ever told someone you loved them and not really meant it. I have and if you really think about it you probally have too. If you really love someone world would be a much smaller and more sad place without them. Its someone you miss after not seeing them a couple days and when you do get to see them again your so happy you get to hang out with them and you dread having to leave them again. Its someone you would trust no matter what. Its someone you really would take a bullet for. You can love in varying degrees but I think to truely 100% love someone you need all theses things. In this sense I really only truely love four people. Now if you only told people who you truely 100% loved that you loved them then a lot less people would hear "I love you", and thats not really a good thing. Even though you don't mean it to the fullest extent of the word love doesn't mean you shouldn't say it. You may be bull shitting your feelings a little the world would a boring and lonely place without people bull shitting about love. Its nice to hear that someone loves you and its even better to hear a ridiculous exaggeration of someone's love for you, like "I love you so much I would walk a thousand miles just to be with you". But in the end telling someone those 3 simple words "I love you" is easy to say, hard to mean, and almost impossible to prove.