Saturday, August 14, 2010

The music had slipped out

'The form was so open that the music had slipped out.'
That is Leo Black writing in BBC Music in the Glock Era and After about an unidentified work at the Kranichsteiner Musiktage at Darmstadt in the 1960s. Image is of a 1964 performance by Ben Vautier and Alison Knowles as part of the Fluxus Festival in New York City. Photograph is by Fluxus founder George Maciunas. Performance of Maciunas' Piano #13 (for Nam Juin Panik) here.

John Cage's experimental composition classes at the New York's New School for Social Research (topical link here) in the late 1950s contributed to the early development of Fluxus and he was later a neighbour of Fluxus founder Yoko Ono. This has meant that Cage's reputation is linked to the concept of 'anti-art' and his music is unfairly pigeon-holed as a 'difficult listen'. Which does not sit well at a time when 'easy listening' has moved from being a derided musical category to the turnkey solution to all classical music's problems.

Anyone who still needs convincing that John Cage's music is bigger than the meaningless pigeon-holes it is so often forced into should buy Brilliant Classic's new 3 CD set of his music for piano and cello. This starts with Cage's aptly titled Three Easy Pieces from 1933, progresses through his two piano transcription of Erik Satie's monodrama for voice and piano Socrates, and ends with his delightfully chewy 1978 Etudes Boreales. Incidentally, the sleeve notes say that Socrates, which lasts for just under 30 minutes, is Satie's longest work. But what is a 'work'? Is not Vexations, played as the composer instructed in its cycle of 840 repeats, a 'work'?

This new recording by pianist Giancarlo Simonacci and cellist Marco Simonacci received an advance notice here recently. Now, having heard the discs, I can only echo what I said in my previous post; this three disc set is a no brainer at around £8.99.

Forget all the divisive nonsense about difficult and easy listens. The music has not slipped out; it's simply a question of cleaning the ears of the musically educated.


* John Cage's First Construction (in Metal) is being performed at the late night BBC Prom on August 20 together with works by Cornelius Cardew, Howard Skempton and Morton Feldman.

New Facebook page here. This post is available via Twitter @overgrownpath. Photo via It's A Revolution. John Cage, music for piano and cello was bought online. BBC Music in the Glock Era and After by Leo Black ISBN 9780955608742 is published by Plumbago Books. Distribution is by Boydell & Brewer who supplied a review sample at my request. Boydell & Brewer also publish CageTalk, Dialogues with & about John Cage edited by Peter Dickinson. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

1 comment:

Pliable said...

A new 496 page book Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage by Kenneth Silverman is to be published in October 2010.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Begin-Again-Biography-John-Cage/dp/1400044375/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281804009&sr=1-5