Friday, November 21, 2008

Final Project

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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.