Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cage a Birdwatcher?

So we've been talking about birdwatching in my environmental ethics class, and I've concluded that if Cage wasn't a mushroomer, he'd definitely be a birdwatcher. In fact, a birdwatcher seems even more fitting for cage, because they make noise -or music. I'm sure if he'd turned more of his attention to birds, they would have worked their way into his compositions. He'd be like a Messienne, only a bajillion times better, because he's Cage. Or maybe not. I mean, birds like to learn new songs and are copying off of one another all the time and they inevitably incorporate some sort of pattern into their music. Definitely not indeterminate enough for Cage. Yeah, they're probably real egotistical too, like Beethoven. I can just imagine a robin or something tweeting out it's' hallelujah chorus, forcing its emotions upon you. Yeah, it's better that Cage was a mushroomer. Mushroom s have a much more limited influence over one's compositions.
I did hear an interesting piece on the radio a few days ago. They were talking about these birds who incorporate song into their mating rituals, and how it functions throughout their entire relationship. Apparently, the male birds have commitment issues and try to cheat on their wives be singing to other girl birds. When this happens, the wife actually interrupts his courtship song to keep him from hitting on the other girl birds! Ha! I thought it was funny...
Oh, and just as a side note, I bought my dad a book on mushroom identification for his birthday. He wants to go out mushroom hunting just like Cage (he just doesn't know it yet).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Harlem Renaissance Meets John Cage ( "nice to meet you")

So I found out this morning exactly why they were interviewing the drummer from Roots the other day. Roots is playing in an upcoming Cincinnati festival and it sounds really Cagean to me. Langston Hughes once wrote a poem called Ask Your Momma, and wrote it to be performed to music. Well, there's this opera singer (I think) who's going to sing the poem and Roots, as well as an entire orchestra, and a couple of guys on laptops will be providing the music. The laptops are for sampling, and they're even going to play recordings of Langston Hughes reading the poem and singing. They're combining, classical, and hip hop and jazz, and blues, and -well, you get the picture. It's sure to be reminiscent of Variations VII (without the blender and turtle tank)!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Science Nerd Relates to Hip Hop Artist!

So, I was listening to NPR yesterday (a radio station chosen intentionally, not by chance operations, I'm afraid) and they were interviewing Ahmir Thompson (aka Questlove), the drummer from Roots. Now, I'd never heard of this guy, or of Roots, but he was talking about sampling and mixing and hip hop, and I never would have thought that I would be one to understand a word of what this guy was talking about... but I did :) Oh, and when he started rattling off names of other artists like, DJ Spooky, I got really excited (I'm a dork, I know). Anyway, he said that when he first got started in high school, his friends would ask him to ply mixes that had already been done by other DJs. I thought that was funny. If you copy someone who used other people's work in the first place, is it any more illegal than the former copyright infringement? I suppose it is. I mean, if you copy a copier, you're doing it verbatim, rather than making a collage out of others' work.
But one must ask... what would Cage say? If a disc jockey plays something using other people's work to make something different -that is not quite the same as the original- then why can't people play something note for note that resembles something else, but sounds slightly different. But where does one draw the line? Just how different does it have to be? I mean, if I sing a song, and then you sing the same song, it's not going to sound the same. And if I sing the song, and then sing it again, it won't sound exactly the same. Inevitably, there will be some sort of variation, however slight. One performance in one moment in time can never be recreated unless it's been recorded (and then it's a recording, not a performance). So, technically, I should be able to sing Dolly Pardon's I Will Always Love You and be able to call it my own, because Dolly couldn't''t possibly make her performance sound just like mine ( not that she would want to, but that's beside the point). Whitney Houston's version is very different from Dolly's -so much so that I would prefer Whitney's over Dolly's. If I can like one more than the other, then why does Dolly hold the copyright? I would definitely buy Whitney's version before I'd buy Dolly's (nothing against Dolly, but like I mentioned, that's just my preference). It's like trying to own a joke. Maybe I wrote it, but tell it horribly, and someone else tells it better. Naturally, it will become their joke, because no one wants to hear it from me and everyone loves to hear this other individual tell it. But I digress... (wonder what Cage would think about ownership rights of jokes...)