Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Structure In Cage’s Music Or Rather The Lack There Of

The in-class film, I Have Nothing to Say and I am Saying It, was filled with fascinating viewpoints, perplexing art forms, and comical commentaries by Cage. I’ve heard some avant-garde music before, and have even performed a few pieces with the NKU orchestras, but never before have I witnessed such irregularity and lack of structure as what is present in John Cage’s music. The avant-garde piece we performed was written by Philip Koplow specifically for a choir and a string orchestra. I remember the non-vocal music did not always coincide with the vocal music which made entrances and rests very difficult. What pulled us through was the fact that each section (Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Cello, and Bass) played together; so if you were lost as an individual, all you had to do was follow your section to find where you were supposed to be playing.
In terms of John Cage’s avant-garde music, it seems rather difficult because he does not seem to write for sections. Rather, each individual reads different music and plays different parts. In the video, he told one woman that if she became lost in the music she needn’t worry because she would be the only one that knew. In contradiction to this, the scene where the Asian woman is performing the piece on the Holocaust states that Cage’s pieces are random, but must be performed with precision and accuracy. Maybe it depends on the piece of music? I don’t know, but I do question why he would write music if it did not necessarily have to be followed. Possibly I have just been beaten over the head with training in classical music, and missing notes or an entrance usually takes away from the piece. There is definitely never a flawless performance, but the goal is to hit every note.
The explanation that makes the most sense to me deals with Cage’s over-all favorite concept: chance operation. In relation to this, I can only assume that he hoped that every piece came out as he had written it, but in allowing other people to perform his work left the “chance” that the piece could come out differently from what he had initially intended.

No comments: