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John Cage: Concert for Piano and Orchestra

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James Saunders

on 14 March 2014

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Transcript of John Cage: Concert for Piano and Orchestra

Structure in music is its divisibility into successive parts from phrases to long sections. Form is content, the continuity. Method is the means of controlling the continuity from note to note. The material of music is sound and silence. Integrating these is composing.

Letter from Cage to Boulez, 4 December 1949.
Jean-Jacques Nattiez, The Boulez-Cage Correspondence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) 38.
Music of Changes (1951)
4'33" (1952)
Imaginary Landscape No.4 (1951)
John Cage
Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1957-8)

My favorite music is the music I haven't yet heard. I don't hear the music I write: I write in order to hear the music I have yet heard. We are living in a period in which many people have changed their mind about what the use of music is or could be for them. Something that doesn't speak or talk like a human being, that doesn't know its definition in the dictionary or its theory in the schools, that expresses itself simply by the fact of its vibrations. People paying attention to vibratory activity, not in reaction to a fixed ideal performance, but each time attentively to how it happens to be this time, not necessarily two times the same. A music that transports the listener to the moment where he is.

Richard Kostelanetz (ed.), ‘An Autobiographical Statement’, John Cage Writer - Previously uncollected pieces (New York: Limelight Editions), 237-47.
Online at http://home.att.net/~amcnet2/album/johncage.html
I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music produced through the aid of electrical instruments which will make available for musical purposes any and all sounds that can be heard. Photoelectric, film, and mechanical mediums for the synthetic production of music will be explored. Whereas, in the past, the point of disagreement has been between dissonance and consonance, it will be, in the immediate future, between noise and so-called musical sounds.
Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty miles per hour. Static between the stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them not as sound effects but as musical intsruments…If this word “music” is sacred and reserved for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century instruments, we can substitute a more meaningful term: organization of sound.
Cage (writing in 1937).
John Cage, ‘The Future of Music: Credo’, Silence (London: Marion Boyars, 1968),3-6.
People may leave my concerts thinking they have heard ‘noise’, but will then hear unsuspected beauty in their everyday life. This music has a therapeutic value for city dwellers.

John Cage, quoted in ‘Percussionist, Time (22 February 1943): 70. Online at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,774357,00.html?promoid=googlep
It is thus possible to make a musical composition the continuity of which is free of individual taste and memory (psychology) and also of the literature and “traditions” of the art. The sounds enter time-space centred within themselves, unimpeded by service to any abstraction, their 360 degrees of circumference free for an infinite play of interpenetration.
John Cage, Silence (London: Marion Boyars, 1968), 59.
The only thing, forgive me, which I am not happy with, is the method of absolute chance (by tossing the coins). On the contrary, I believe that chance must be extremely controlled: by using tables in general, or series of tables, I believe that it would be possible to direct the phenomenon of the automatism of chance, whether written down or not, which I mistrust as a facility that is not absolutely necessary. For after all, in the interpolations and interferences of different series (when one of them passes from durations to pitches, at the same moment as another passes from intensities to attacks etc….) there is already quite enough of the unknown. – I am a little afraid of what is called ‘automatic writing’, for most of the time it is chiefly a lack of control.

Pierre Boulez in a letter to John Cage, December 1952. Jean-Jacques Nattiez, The Boulez-Cage Correspondence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) 112-3.
1. Chance
2. Sound and Silence
3. Indeterminacy
3 - 5 - 6.75 - 6.75 - 5 - 3.125
Cage, J. (1968). Silence. London: Marion Boyars PressKostelanetz, R. (1988). Conversing with Cage. New York: Routledge.
Nattiez, J. (ed.) (1993). The Boulez-Cage Correspondence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nyman, M (1999). Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pritchett, J. (1993). The Music of John Cage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Thomas, P. (2007). Determining the indeterminate. Contemporary Music Review, 26(2), 129-140.
Thomas, P. (2013). Understanding Indeterminate Music through Performance: Cage's Solo for Piano. Twentieth-Century Music, 10(1), 91
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