Monday, September 05, 2022

He Blinded Me with Silence: John Cage 110

John Cage - In an Imaginary Landscape (excerpt)

Suddenly it's September, as we start to say "so long" to summer with the first post of the month.

And what better way to begin it, than with perhaps the most appropriate and visionary composer ever to be born on Labor Day?

Today's honoree, in the final analysis, might be one of the ten most innovative soundsmiths of the 20th century, and there's no doubt he put in mad work.

For it was he who did maybe the most to free music from the strictures that had existed since forever, and to make sound itself, in all its forms, acceptable to think about as music.

His organizing principle, as it were, was silence.

Probably the work for which he is most known -- 4'33" -- is four minutes and thirty-three seconds of it, with the composition taking on the sonic characteristics of whatever sounds are floating by at the time it is being performed.

A revolutionary figure who helped usher in the anything-goes aesthetic ethos of the 1960s and beyond, he helped foster ideas that came, in time, to define what was and is allowed in what we refer to as Music.

He was also one of the world's foremost experts on the subject of mushrooms.

One of his many ideas -- common today as applied to a variety of instruments, but unprecedented when he invented the concept -- was a "prepared piano": a piano with all sorts of unusual objects attached to its strings, to make it a kind of standalone percussion orchestra.

My personal favorite thing of his is his proto-ambient piano piece "In a Landscape," composed in 1948 in tribute to Erik Satie and a tremendous influence on millions of musos ever since.

To mark what would have been his 110th birthday, I have done a little thing I feel is true to the spirit of his work, that came out better than I could have imagined.

It's pretty self-explanatory, but given the guy's fascination with the Chinese oracle tool called the I Ching, I decided to emulate that grid with a 3D, 8x8x8 creation I think you'll find very beautiful.

So here's eight different versions of the tune, all time-corrected to be eight minutes long, and slowed down 800%... simultaneously.

John Cage
"In an Imaginary Landscape"
("In a Landscape" x 8, at 800%, for two pianos, two marimbas, three harps and two ondes Martenots)

01 In an Imaginary Landscape

Total time: 1:06:39

Michael McHale, Alberto Rosado - pianos
Alex Wier, Mark Boseman - marimbas
Hélène Breschand, Floraleda Sacchi, Valérie Milot - harps
D.K., C. Atease - ondes Martenots

8 different 8-minute versions of John Cage's "In a Landscape," played simultaneously, and slowed down 800%
that is, with the organizing principle of his "Imaginary Landscape No. 4" applied to them
conceived and created by EN, August/September 2022, in honor of the 110th birthday of John Cage
312 MB FLAC/direct link

OK? I'll return in a few days with another milestone b'day, this time of someone who's very much alive, or at least isn't dead 30 years.

Not that John Cage will ever die, having blinded me with silence.... and pailed me in mycology! Enjoy the silence, you all.--J.

9.5.1912 - 8.12.1992