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John Cage’s 4’33” performed on a refrigerator
07.18.2016
09:20 am
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When John Cage started out on his career as a composer he was all for noise—for creating “more new sounds.”

In 1937, Cage developed his ideas about noise in an essay The Future of Music: Credo in which he said:

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.

Noise was the spur. Cage wanted a “revolution, a healthy lawlessness.” He thought this possible by “hitting anything”—tin pans, rice bowls, iron pipes, whatever came to hand—something he later demonstrated on the TV show I’ve Got a Secret in 1960.

Not only hitting, but rubbing, smashing, making sound in every possible way.

All this changed when Cage met musician Gita Sarabhai in the 1940s who told him:

The purpose of music is to quiet and sober the mind, making it susceptible to divine influences.

It was a major epiphany for Cage. It changed his ideas about “noise” and led him to pose the question why do humans compose music? He said he was “embarrassed” by his search for new sounds and by 1948 had conceived of an idea of creating a piece of music called Silent Prayer consisting solely of “uninterrupted silence” performed for about three or four-and-half minutes (the length of most “canned muzak”) the ending of which “will approach imperceptibility.”

Cage realized silence was as important as sound in composition—but silence shared only one characteristic with sound—time. Silence can not be described in terms of pitch or harmony but only in duration of time. This led—by one composition and another—to his composing 4’ 33” in 1952.

This wasn’t the first time Cage had used silence in his music—his Duet for Two Flutes from 1934 opened with silence. Similarly in his Sonatas and Interludes (1946–48) and Waiting (1952) silence was integral to their musical structure. The idea of “silence” had been percolating in Cage’s mind for some time.

4’ 33” was first performed by pianist David Tudor at a recital of contemporary music at Woodstock, New York on August 29th, 1952. It was performed in three parts of 33’, 2’ 40” and 1’ 20”—each section timed by use of a stopwatch. Tudor indicated the beginning and end of each part by closing and opening the keyboard lid.

Hear 4’ 33” performed on a refrigerator after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.18.2016
09:20 am
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Brutal death metal version of John Cage’s avant garde classical work 4′33’’
05.09.2016
09:05 am
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Here at Dangerous Minds, we’ve hipped you to the death metal version of “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease, as well as the death metal version of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from Mary Poppins, but this right here may be the ultimate “death metal version” of all time.

Depending on who’s doing the talking, John Cage’s 4’33” is either a brilliant minimalist classical masterpiece which challenges the very definition of music, or the greatest musical in-joke of all time, or a pretentious load of horse-shit devised to make you feel dumb because you “just don’t get it.” It’s probably, to varying degrees, some vivid combination of the three.

The band Dead Territory have created their own wickedly unique take on Cage’s vision, and quite frankly it’s one of my favorite performances of this groundbreaking piece of music.

To those of our readers unfamiliar with the piece, I’d rather not spoil it by explaining it before you take in this BRUTAL death metal rendition of the work. The wikipedia page devoted to the controversial 4’33” has plenty of information on the piece, its background, and critical reception.

Without further ado, the absolutely sickest rendition of 4’33” to date. Top this, Internet…
 

 

 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Finally, the death metal version of ‘Grease’ we’ve been waiting all our lives for
Mary Poppins goes all death metal: ‘A spoon full of glass helps the hate go down’

Posted by Christopher Bickel
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05.09.2016
09:05 am
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Watch P-Orridge, Moog, Moroder, Can and many more in the electronic music documentary ‘Modulations’


 
Iara Lee’s ambitious 1998 documentary Modulations: Cinema for the Ear tries to fit the entire history of electronic music into 73 minutes. It’s a good try, and it’s worth watching for its crazy array of interview subjects, who range from Genesis P-Orridge to Karlheinz Stockhausen, and for its snapshots of 90s dance cultures around the world. From the point of view of a person who studiously avoided glowsticks and pacifiers during this historical moment, it’s interesting to look at these scenes from the remove of two decades: compared to today’s apocalypse culture, the millennium’s end-of-the-world styles seem quaint, fun, almost utopian.

Though there’s a lot of emphasis on contemporary house and techno, Modulations is a survey of the history of electronic music that takes in everything from the Futurists’ noise experiments to jungle. It keeps up a dizzying pace, and doesn’t let you look into any of these artists, movements or scenes too deeply, but what a cast: legendary producers Giorgio Moroder and Teo Macero, musique concrète pioneer Pierre Henry, Robert Moog, members of Can, and John Cage are among the dozens of figures who get screen time. (Yet no Wendy Carlos?) If you want more of this stuff, there’s a CD soundtrack and a book tie-in.
 

 
via Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

Posted by Oliver Hall
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08.21.2015
10:20 am
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Joey Ramone sings John Cage (and it’s awesome)
01.13.2015
10:45 am
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I’m far from an expert on John Cage, but of the works of his I know, I find “The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs” to be among the loveliest. Since it’s short, simple to perform, and its haunting melody is easier on the listener than a lot of other 20th Century classical music, it’s one of his most oft-performed works, as well, and YouTube is full of fantastic versions. Cage composed it in 1942, limiting the vocalist to three notes and further instructing him/her to sing in a flat affect, avoiding vibrato. The musical accompaniment was written for a piano with the lid shut on its keys, the pianist directed to make percussive taps with his/her fingertips and knuckles in various places on the piano’s outside, including the bottom. This video shows that process quite clearly, and here’s what the notation looks like:
 

 
Musicologist Lauriejean Reinhardt had much to say in her illuminating essay on the history and meaning of the piece. (If this stuff doesn’t interest you and you just want to hear the Joey Ramone rendition, skip all the way to the end, no one has to know.)

Cage composed “The Wonderful Widow” in response to a commission from the soprano Janet Fairbank (1903-1947), whom he had met during his brief appointment at the Chicago Institute of Design in 1941-1942. Fairbank was an ambitious amateur singer from a wealthy family with close ties to the Chicago arts community … Endowed with modest vocal abilities, Fairbank nevertheless endeared herself to critics and advocates of modern music by her tasteful and intelligent performances and her tireless promotion of contemporary music.

Her interest in Cage proved prescient, for the Carnegie Hall recital that occasioned the setting of “The Wonderful Widow” coincided with the composer’s now-famous concert at the Museum of Modern Art, an event that placed the young Cage at the vanguard of modern music.

Evidently given free reign to prepare the song’s lyrics, Cage selected the paean to Isobel from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, a passage that not only gave him a theme, and some lines to lift directly, but also the piece’s title. Frankly, I find the sparseness of Cage’s interpretation a relief from the difficult density of Joyce. From Reinhardt again:

Cage’s song text, condensed and rearranged from Joyce’s original, only intensifies the lyrical dimension of the passage, for it highlights both the sylvan imagery with which the child is described (“wildwood’s eyes and primarose hair,” “like some losthappy leaf,” “like blowing flower stilled”) and a number of key alliterative phrases (“in mauves of moss and daphnedews,” “win me, woo me, wed me, ah weary me!”) that give rise to the passage’s lilting lyricism.

Compare Cage’s lyrics below to the passage from Joyce here.

night by silent sailing night,
Isobel,
wildwoods eyes and primarose hair,
quietly,
all the woods so wild
in mauves of moss and daphne dews
how all so still she lay
‘neath of the white thorn,
child of tree
like some lost happy leaf
like blowing flower stilled
as fain would she anon
for soon again ‘twill be,
win me, woo me, wed me,
ah! weary me
deeply,
now even calm lay sleeping
night,
Isobel,
Sister Isobel,
Saintette Isobel,
Madame Isa Veuve La Belle.

 

 
The 1993 compilation Caged/Uncaged - A Rock/Experimental Homage To John Cage features contributions from punk and artrock figures like Lee Ranaldo, Arto Lindsay, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Elliot Sharp and Ann Magnuson, and is available to hear and download for free on the wonderful UbuWeb. And on that comp, “The Wonderful Widow Of Eighteen Springs” was performed—stunningly—by Joey Ramone. The timbres of his voice are somehow perfect for this song. It may be that I find the familiarity of his singing comforting, but I think this completely dusts some (SOME) versions by trained operatic singers. It sounds like the percussion is performed here on regular drums instead of a closed piano.

I resignedly anticipate opprobrium from the purists.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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01.13.2015
10:45 am
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Ornette Coleman, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, John Cage and Sonny Rollins in superb sixties jazz films

Roland
 
The three short films below are all phenomenal documents of a seminal period in American modern jazz avant-garde experimentation captured candidly, directly, and thrillingly through the superb filmmaking talents of British documentary visionary, Dick Fontaine. Currently head of documentary direction at the National Film and Television School in Great Britain, Fontaine boasts a long career in which he’s created nearly 50 films. Starting out as a researcher for Manchester’s Granada Television, Fontaine is credited with making (in conjunction with the Maysles brothers who later directed Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens) the first British film that employed direct cinema techniques with 1964’s Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!, a Granada audience hit that captured the Beatles’ first visit to the United States. Music and musicians have been a constant theme in Fontaine’s work, another fine example being 1984’s Beat This! about the golden age of hip-hop in New York City. 

Fontaine, himself a musician, clearly understands the power of the on-the-spot creative process. Each of the short films below are vibrant portraits of the artist in the act of making music and include what are perhaps some of the most intimate behind-the-scenes moments ever filmed for some of these frontrunners of the avant-garde all gathered with hand-held cameras and sound equipment. Think jazz versions of Don’t Look Back.

For the sake of chronology, let’s start with 1966’s David, Moffett and Ornette, which captures alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman, bassist David Izenzon and drummer Charles Moffett as they travel to Paris to record the lush soundtrack to an obscure Belgian film called Who’s Crazy?. The performances in Fontaine’s film, which often take place in front of Who’s Crazy? as it is projected for the trio are nothing short of gorgeous, and interviews and candid footage with the band members reveal their reasoning for taking on what was a majorly controversial way of performing at the time. In particular, the interviews with Coleman that address race, sexuality and poverty are so relevant and alive that any serious student of his music simply has to watch this. The soundtrack to Who’s Crazy? on which Coleman plays alto sax, violin and trumpet, was released in 1966.

 

Who’s Crazy? (1966)
 
The next film is called Sound?? from 1967. I’d be doing it great disservice by describing it as anything short of importantly badass. The piece, a collaboration between highly influential multi-instrumentalist musical madman, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and avant-garde sound artist John Cage, explores the very nature of sound and music itself as the piece shifts between the two pioneers. Kirk does his thing. He plays onstage with three saxophones at once, and a flute and a whistle. He hands out whistles to the audience at one point and calls for a participatory “blues in the key of W.” He plays with animals at the zoo. The footage of a performance at Ronnie Scott’s in London is incendiary. Cage, for his part, is interspersed throughout the film reading rhetorical questions in a variety of city locations about what it means to make music. If music is just noise, can anyone do it? What’s the point in making it? “Sounds are just vibrations,” Says Cage, “why didn’t I mention that before? Doesn’t that stir the imagination?” The whole thing, if nothing else, certainly stirs the imagination. I really can’t do this justice in a blog post. Just watch it. It’s great.
 

Sound?? (1967)
 
The final of the three films, 1968’s Who is Sonny Rollins?, is a more somber affair. It’s a searching portrait of saxophonist Sonny Rollins, who, as the film states, recorded his first record in 1948 and had by 1959 become one of the most important and influential jazz performers in the world. He then summarily quit playing publically. Rollins returned to live performances and recording again in 1962, but by 1968 he was on a second performance sabbatical. He was, to hear Rollins tell it, fed up with the debauchery of the club scene which he simply says “kills off a lot of people.” Rollins and compatriot Paul Jeffrey are filmed improvising on the Williamsburg Bridge, a place where Rollins loved to play, incorporating the sounds of trains and other environmental noise. Rollins and Jeffrey explain their philosophy of freeing music from the club in more candid interviews and Rollins is filmed in a variety of outdoor locations while he explains his musical journey. It’s another fine piece of filmmaking. I’ll be damned if it’s not Charles Moffett (who started out as a trumpet player) who makes another appearance in Who is Sonny Rollins? when Rollins visits a music classroom in Harlem. It would make sense as the two did collaborate on a number of occasions.
 

Who is Sonny Rollins?
 
David, Moffett and Ornette and Sound?? were released on DVD as simplyDavid Moffett & Ornette despite the fact that both films are included on the disk. 

In 2013, Fontaine released a new film about Sonny Rollins called Sonny Rollins: Beyond the Notes in conjunction with Rollins’ 2010 80th birthday performance at The Beacon Theater in New York.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Ornette Coleman: Dancing In Your Head For Decades
‘Beat This!’: Must-see document of Hip Hop’s golden age with Malcolm McClaren, Afrika Bambaataa
Sonny Rollins, Ken Nordine, Was Not Was and Leonard Cohen together on late night TV

Posted by Jason Schafer
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01.12.2015
12:39 pm
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Listen to John Cage’s 4’33”—on Auto-Tune!
12.30.2014
01:41 pm
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Somebody had the genius idea of applying the glorious technology of Auto-Tune, previously most associated with the likes of Cher, T-Pain, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne, to John Cage’s iconic “silent” composition 4’33”. Reports Matthew Reid, uploader of the YouTube video, “I performed John Cage’s 4’33’‘, treated the recording as a found object and re-mixed it in autotune. Let the debates begin.”

Amusing as it may sound, in the execution it’s pretty close to Cage’s original intent, as far as I can tell. 4’33” was always about ambient sound, not silence, and siccing Auto-Tune on it seems right in line with the general agenda.

If you click on the video and find it boring, well, that’s on you. You knew going in that it no instruments are played, right? Here’s a look at the score (yes, 4’33” has a score). “Tacet” is Latin for “It is silent.”
 

 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
John Cage: 4’33” (Vuvuzela cover version)
Nicolas Cage does John Cage’s 4′33″

via Lawyers, Guns & Money

Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.30.2014
01:41 pm
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Frank Zappa, John Cage, Patti Smith & others celebrate William S. Burroughs at the Nova Convention

Nova Convention
 
In 1978, after many years of living in London and Tangiers, William S. Burroughs decided to return to his home country. For a small group of artistic weirdos, this was a significant event, and a convention was held in his honor at the Entermedia Theater from November 30 through December 2, 1978, on Second Avenue and 12th Street in New York City (it’s no longer there). Much earlier, it had been announced that Keith Richards would be on hand, but after his heroin arrest in Toronto, his management calculated that it would not be wise to appear at a festival honoring the legendary deviant drug addict William S. Burroughs. Frank Zappa was enlisted to read the “Talking Asshole” section from Naked Lunch. Patti Smith, who wore “a glamorous black fur trench” in the words of Thurston Moore, objected mightily to having to follow Zappa and had to be placated by Burroughs confidant and organizer of the convention James Grauerholz, who explained to Smith that Zappa’s appearance was a last-minute necessity and not intended to show Smith up. You can listen to Smith’s contribution, in which she addresses Richards’ absence, here. At the “event party” for the convention, the musical performances included Suicide, The B-52s, and Debbie Harry and Chris Stein from Blondie. The inclusion of The B-52s is most fascinating, as they hadn’t even released their first album yet.
 
William S. Burroughs
 
Other participants included Terry Southern, Philip Glass, John Cage, Laurie Anderson and Allen Ginsburg. You can read a writeup of the event from the December 4, 1978, edition of the New York Times: “Of the other performers, Mr. Burroughs himself was the most appealing, and this had less to do with what he was reading than with how he read it. Although he has created some enduring characters, he is his own most interesting character, and he was in rare form, sitting at a desk in a business suit and bright green hat, shuffling papers and reading in his dry Midwestern accent.” An LP and cassette documenting the event were released in 1979 and they fetch top prices today at Discogs.

According to Ted Morgan in Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs,
 

The Nova Convention took place on November 30, December 1, and December 2, 1978, with the principal performances being held on the last two days at the Entermedia Theater, on Second Avenue and Twelfth Street, which had in the fifties been the fabled Phoenix Theater. Attending were an odd mixture of academics, publishers, writers, artists, punk rockers, counterculture groupies, and an influx of bridge-and-tunnel kids drawn by Keith Richards, who made the event a sellout.

-snip-

Saturday night the Entermedia was packed, largely with young people waiting to see Keith Richards. There was a small hitch, however, which was that Keith Richards had cancelled. He was having problems as the result of a heroin bust in Toronto, and his office convinced him that appearing on the same program with Burroughs was bad publicity.

But the show had to go on, and the composer Philip Glass, playing one of his repetitive pieces on the synthesizer, was thrown to the wolves. The disappointed kids who wanted Keith Richards shouted and booed. Then Brion Gysin went on amid cries of “Where’s Keith?” and found himself hoping that the riot would not start until he had done his brief turn.

In a last-minute effort, James Grauerholz had recruited Frank Zappa to pinch-hit for Keith. He volunteered to read the “Talking Asshole” routine from Naked Lunch. But as Zappa was preparing to go on, Patti Smith had a fit of pique about following him. James did his best to make peace, saying “Frank has come in at the last minute, and he’s got to go on, and he’s doing it for William, not to show you up.” Patti Smith retreated to the privacy of her dressing room, and Zappa got a big hand, because that’s what they wanted, a rock star.

 
From July 1 through July 13, the Red Gallery in London is putting on an exhibition dedicated to the Nova Convention. The exhibition is curated by Thurston Moore and Eva Prinz; Moore, who was present at the event in 1978, supplies a short piece called “Nova Reflections” to the exhibition catalogue; here are some snippets of that:
 

What I remember of the Nova Convention, in my teenage potted reverie, was a palpable excitement of the importance of Burroughs’ return to NYC. He had been living and working in London for some time, and before that, was residing in Tangiers. My awareness of the poets and performers on the Nova Convention bill was obscure, but I did realise everyone there had experienced a history in connection to the man. The poet Eileen Myles performed, and I have a hazy memory of what she has since reminded me was a polarising moment that night: She and a femme cohort came out on stage and performed the so-called William Tell act where in 1951 Burroughs tragically sent a bullet through his wife Joan Vollmer’s skull, killing her instantly. According to Eileen she was hence persona non grata backstage, and frozen out from the coterie of avant lit celebrities shocked at her “reminder” performance.

-snip-

Glass’s idiosyncratic high-speed minimalist pianistics was natural, gorgeous and sublime. Zappa came out and read a Burroughs excerpt “The Talking Asshole” which seemed appropriate and was mildly entertaining. Patti hit the stage in a glamorous black fur trench, purportedly on loan from some high-end clothier. She rambled on a bit, brazenly unscripted, testing the patience of the long night when out of the audience some fan-boy freako leapt on stage and bequeathed her with a Fender Duo-Sonic guitar. She accepted it cooly and before long was gone. And we stumbled into the 2nd Avenue night.

 
In his catalogue piece, Moore leads with an anecdote about photographer James Hamilton, whose astonishing pictures of rock icons are collected in the book (Moore was intergral in putting that book together as well) You Should Have Heard Just What I Seen. Hamilton was covering the event for the Village Voice, and while it’s not stated as such, presumably many of Hamilton’s photographs, are featured in the exhibition.
 
Here’s Timothy Leary, Les Levine, Robert Anton Wilson and Brion Gysin engaging in “conversations” about Burroughs’ work:

 
And here’s Frank Zappa reading “The Talking Asshole” from Naked Lunch:

 
Preview video of the “Nova Convention” exhibition at the Red Gallery:

 
via {feuilleton}

Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.30.2014
12:31 pm
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Surrealist masters, dada directors & avant-garde all stars in ‘Dreams Money Can Buy’


 
Dreams Money Can Buy is a 1947 anthology film made by artist/author Hans Richter and collaborators like Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Leger, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst and others. There is music from John Cage, Paul Bowles and a number by scandalous bisexual torch singer Libby Holman and popular African-American singer Josh White (who was later caught up in the “Red Scare” and black-listed) on the original soundtrack titled “The Girl with the Pre-Fabricated Heart” that plays during Leger’s segment.

Richter’s goal was to bring the avant-garde out of the museum and into the movie house and the results, predictably, are rather unique. Certainly Dreams Money Can Buy must have been a stunner at the time and it still is. With no spoken dialogue, the plot, such that there is one, revolves around a man who rents a room where he can peer into the mirror and see people’s dreams. He sets up shop and we meet his clients and see their interior lives in the dream sequences. As you can imagine with the above list of collaborators, the film is a dizzying treat of audio-visual creation.
 

 
Marcel Duchamp’s contribution “Discs” is especially interesting. Here we see Duchamp’s famous Rotoreliefs in action, with a “prepared piano” soundtrack performed by John Cage. [I was once offered a box of glass and wood reproductions in miniature of Duchamp’s kinetic sculptures—at a good price, too—and like a fucking idiot I passed on it].
 

 
Below, Dreams Money Can Buy in its entirety on YouTube. If you want to watch with the original soundtrack, it’s here. The “modern” soundtrack in the version embedded below was recorded by The Real Tuesday Weld and is pretty faithful to the original music. This is one of those films that demands to be screened outside at night under the stars. You can buy the DVD (which has both the original and modern soundtrack) here.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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05.21.2014
04:38 pm
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Famous composers doing normal shit
04.14.2014
10:25 am
Topics:
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1114copyard.jpg
 
Whether it’s Aaron Copland raking the leaves in the yard, John Cage picking mushrooms, or Prokofiev playing chess, these photographs show famous composers in their everyday life doing normal everyday shit.
 
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Claude Debussy having a picnic with his daughter.
 
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Sergei Rachmaninoff flies a kite with friends.
 
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Sergei Prokofiev plays chess with violinist David Oistrakh, while another violinist, Liza Gilels watches on.
 
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Caroline Shaw kayaking on the Hudson River.
 
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John Cage picking mushrooms.
 
Via Composers doing normal shit
 
More composers doing normal shit, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.14.2014
10:25 am
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Remembering Cathy Berberian, the hippest—and funniest—lady of avant-garde classical music
03.14.2014
02:02 pm
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Cathy Berberian was an American mezzo-soprano vocalist based in Italy. She was known as a proponent of both avant garde and contemporary vocal music, moving during her career from debuting one of John Cage’s major works, his “Aria with Fontana Mix” composition in 1958, to covering Beatles songs. Cathy Berberian was an opera diva who never took herself too seriously and she was probably the hippest lady in classical music of her day, a sort of spiritual predecessor to Laurie Anderson in certain respects.

Born in 1925, after attending Columbia University, Berberian received a Fulbright scholarship in 1949 to study music at the Milan Conservatory where she would meet her future husband, the great composer Luciano Berio, who would write music for her during their marriage (you might say they were collaborations considering how integral her contribution is!) and afterwards. His Requies: in memoriam Cathy composition premiered the year after her death of a sudden heart attack at the age of 57 in 1983. It’s interesting to note that when she passed, Berberian was to sing “The Internationale” (ala Marilyn Monroe) on TV in Rome to Karl Marx on the anniversary of his birth. That’s the sort of performer Cathy Berberian was. She just didn’t take it all that seriously, and yet, she took her artform very seriously indeed. Pompous, she wasn’t, although she was the most celebrated vocal recitalist of her time spent on Earth.

Sylvano Bussotti, Hans Werner Henze, William Walton and even Igor Stravinsky works for Cathy Berberian’s distinctive voice. She’s even name-checked in the Steely Dan song “Your Gold Teeth” on Countdown to Ecstasy: “Even Cathy Berberian knows / There’s one roulade she can’t sing.” (There’s the answer to that Trivial Pursuit question!) Of his multifaceted wife, Berio said “The versatility of her mind was astonishing.” Aside from her great vocal gifts, she was also a gourmet chef, a fashion model, a collector of pornographic porcelain and she translated Jules Feiffer and Woody Allen’s work into Italian with Umberto Eco.
 

 
But for all of her high-falutin’ musical and intellectual pedigrees, Cathy Berberian was equally known as someone with a wicked sense of humor. Her Revolution album of Beatles covers is a unique and quirky collection indeed, but she really ties together her pop and avant garde inclinations beautifully in her own composition, “Stripsody,” a short vocal piece where she uses comic book exclamations and sounds (Words like “Boing!” “Vrrop vrrop” appear on the sheet music) to get the point across, sounding very much like a humorous version of Cage’s Fontana Mix combined with Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot’s “Comic Strip.”

Here’s a performance of her infamous “Stripsody”:
 

 
More Cathy Berberian after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.14.2014
02:02 pm
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Cage Against the Machine performs John Cage’s 4’33”
12.11.2013
10:21 am
Topics:
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John Cage
 
The patience that John Cage’s 1952 composition 4’33” asks of us and the apparent absurdity it entails—these things instill a desire to either lampoon it or (on the other hand) wax philosophical. I’ll resist both temptations and simply invite you to hit play (there’s a couple minutes of footage of the musicians gathering before the piece begins).
 

 
As a special bonus, here’s the Nic Cage version:

 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
John Cage: 4’33” (Vuvuzela cover version)
Nicolas Cage does John Cage’s 4′33″

Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.11.2013
10:21 am
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Happy birthday John Cage!
09.05.2013
11:57 am
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John Cage, the musician, musical theorist, artist, composer, philosopher, avid mycologist, writer and one of the leading lights of the 20th century avant garde was born on September 5, 1912. Cage’s iconoclastic approach to music—and everything else he did—is neatly summed up in this short comment:

After I had been studying with him for two years, [Austrian composer Arnold] Schoenberg said, “In order to write music, you must have a feeling for harmony.” I explained to him that I had no feeling for harmony. He then said that I would always encounter an obstacle, that it would be as though I came to a wall through which I could not pass. I said, “In that case I will devote my life to beating my head against that wall.”

Superb! I hate to admit it, but I’d rather read John Cage than actually listen to his music. Like most people, the only song of his that I can sing in the shower is “4′33″ although I have a shelf full of his books, books about him and anthologies of his interviews.

I do have a slightly funny John Cage anecdote: Sometime in the mid-1980s, Cage, along with Winona Ryder and several other cultural notables, was photographed for an ad campaign for The GAP. These black and white ads were in magazines and on bus shelters in major cities. New York was just plastered with them at the time (Sadly I can’t find Cage’s ad on Google Images).

Part of the pay, apparently, was a rather large GAP gift certificate and on a day that I happened to be in a GAP store on Seventh Ave and 23rd Street—and had literally just passed his ad on the way into the store—John Cage decided that he was going to spend his. I heard him explaining this to the employees—that he had $1000 to spend—and could they please assist him spending it? They at least seemed to recognize Cage from his GAP ad, if not his actual achievements and the staff was happy to help out the cool old guy in the ad.

Cage didn’t stay long because he seemed to know exactly what he wanted. I recall that he walked out with a winter corduroy coat, a big stack of black “pocket tee” shirts, some denim shirts and some blue jeans. His style of shopping was extremely utilitarian. He left nothing to chance…

Below, the fascinating ‘American Masters’ documentary on John Cage, ‘I Have Nothing to Say and I Am Saying It’:
 

 
Below, a seldom-seen cable access program with Cage with his friend, writer Richard Kostelanetz. The pair discuss James Joyce and more:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.05.2013
11:57 am
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Nicolas Cage does John Cage’s 4′33″
04.17.2012
10:59 am
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I have nothing to say about this.
 

 

Posted by Tara McGinley
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04.17.2012
10:59 am
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Dreams Money Can Buy: Surrealist feature film from 1947

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Dreams Money Can Buy is a 1947 film made by artist/author Hans Richter and collaborators like Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Ferdinand Leger, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Paul Bowles, Max Ernst and others. There is a number by scandalous bisexual torch singer Libby Holman and popular African-American singer Josh White (who was later caught up in the “Red Scare” and black-listed) on the original soundtrack titled “The Girl with the Pre-Fabricated Heart” that plays during Leger’s segment.
 
Richter’s goal was to bring the avant-garde out of the museum and into the movie house and the results, predictably, are rather unique. Certainly Dreams Money Can Buy must have been a stunner at the time and it still is. The plot, such that there is one, revolves around a man who rents a room where he can peer into the mirror and see people’s dreams. He sets up shop and we meet his clients and see their surreal interior lives in the dream sequences. As you can imagine with the above list of collaborators, the film is a dizzying treat of audio-visual creation.
 
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Marcel Duchamp’s contribution, “Discs,” is especially interesting. Here we see Duchamp’s famous Rotoreliefs in action, with a “prepared piano” soundtrack performed by John Cage. [I was once offered a box of glass and wood reproductions in miniature of Duchamp’s kinetic sculptures—at a good price, too—and like a fucking idiot I passed on it].
 

 
Below, Dreams Money Can Buy in its entirety on YouTube. If you want to watch with the original soundtrack, it’s here. The “modern” soundtrack, in the version embedded below, was recorded by The Real Tuesday Weld and is pretty faithful to the original music.
 

 
Thank you Vanessa Weinberg!

Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.17.2012
11:01 am
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When John Cage met Sun Ra
05.25.2011
02:27 pm
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Rarely heard live recording of a John Cage and Sun Ra performance from 1986. It was recorded at Sideshows by the Sea, the last surviving freak show along the Coney Island boardwalk. A carnival barker and a snake lady hawked the show outside and there was free pizza served, too. Can you imagine?!?! This concert took place on June 8th and pressed as a limited edition LP the following year.

Tyler Fisher writes on Sputnik Music:

Due to variety and musicality, Sun Ra heavily defeats John Cage on the performance. He opens the concert with a huge, furious, dissonant keyboard performance. The crowd cheers wildly and the spacey synthesizer sounds jump all around the range of the instrument and jump around in styles just as quickly. Elements of jazz flow in and suddenly a huge, orchestral sounding chord will overpower the recording instrument. The synth voices change frequently from a typical square lead voice to a bell sound to a synthesized voice. Sun Ra uses his range of voices perfectly, creating a heavy, metallic sound at some points which makes an even more frenzied sound to the already insane harmonic structure. He manages to jump from the most beautiful chords to the most dissonance in a matter of seconds. His first appearance goes on for 7 and a half minutes, garnering tumultuous applause from the audience. He later closes out the first half of the performance with a much more eastern tinged movement. Just when his playing couldn’t get any darker, he spends most of the second half making ambient, creepy noises. Much in the manner of the Mars Volta, he goes off without any sense of time or rhythm, creating whatever comes to mind. However, he lets the ambience slowly build into huge, crashing chords of either beauty or dissonance. Everything is going somewhere.

John Cage is just the opposite. His performance is much simpler. He merely steps up to a microphone and makes strange vocal noises. Cage’s voice sounds akin to an aging Johnny Cash. However, Cage never steps over saying more than 3 or 4 syllables at a time. He takes minute breaks before starting another few indistinguishable syllables. Of course, he relies on his “chance music” theory to get away with the minutes of silence. Sure, it’s a profound and intriguing idea, but it just gets old after a few minutes, especially when the recording buzzes in the background due to the quality. In truth, Cage is reciting excerpts from one of his poems in some strange language, known as Empty Words IV. However, who knows what he is saying? Luckily, Sun Ra saves the performance on the second half by filling in where Cage leaves silence. He fills with light, dainty keyboard lines way up high on the keys. He lets Cage have the show, not doing much of anything, but neither Cage still does less than Sun Ra. Cage proves a better composer and philosopher than a performer. Regardless, the crowd eats everything up, probably being mostly young, profound college kids themselves.

You can download John Cage meets Sun Ra at Adventure-Equation.

Read the back of the album cover, here.
 

 
Via WFMU’s Beware of the Blog

Posted by Richard Metzger
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05.25.2011
02:27 pm
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