REVOLUTION:The Cage Century - Compete Program Notes
For our John Cage CD release concert on May 25 in Chicago, we created several versions of the program book, each containing different information about the works performed. Decisions about what information was contained in each book was made using chance operations similar to those Cage used in composing much of his music.
We have included the complete program notes below for those who would like to read them in their entirety. Enjoy!
“Percussion music really is the art of noise and that’s what it should be called.”
John Cage (1912-1992) was one of America’s most significant and influential creative minds. Composer, musician, inventor and philosopher, he created the nation’s first touring percussion ensemble, invented the prepared piano, and brought everyday sounds and actions into the concert hall.
- Cage’s father was an inventor who designed the Peace Keeper, a 75-foot submarine that was an important addition to America’s military just before World War I.
- As a young man, Cage met German-American abstract filmmaker Oskar Fischinger, who imparted in Cage the idea that all objects have a spirit dwelling within them, which can be liberated by drawing forth sound from that object.
- In addition to his artistic accomplishments, Cage was one of the world’s greatest mycologists (mushroom experts). In 1959, he won 5 million Lire on an Italian quiz show with mushrooms as his specialty subject.
(works with an * appear on Third Coast Percussion’s new CD/DVD)
Second Construction (1940)*
-All three constructions follow a micro/macro structure, where the large scale and small scale follow the same proportions. Second Construction is 16 sections of 16 bars, divided 4-3-4-5.
-This is one of the earliest uses of the prepared piano. By inserting objects in the strings, Cage turned the piano into a miniature percussion orchestra.
-Cage later came to speak ill of this piece, regretting its use of traditional ideas like a fugato and repeated thematic material.
Credo in US (1942)
-Written just 7 months after the strike on Pearl Harbor, Cage’s satirical collage offers an honest portrayal of America, devoid of the idealized patriotism that dominated much American music composed at that time.
-Cage’s first work to incorporate a radio. The presence of the radio automatically brings into the work an element of the time and place the piece is being performed.
- For the radio, the performer is instructed to avoid news programs at times of national emergency. For the phonograph recordings, the performer should “pick some classic. E.g., Dvorak, Beethoven, Sibelius, Shostakovich”
Radio Music (1956)
- For 1 to 8 performers, each with a radio. Each player’s part consists of a list of radio frequencies to tune to in order, within the allotted time span.
- The radio frequencies in the part were determined via chance operations.
- The resulting combination of radio broadcast speech, music and white noise will be virtually free of the composer or performer’s control.
-Cage’s first piece for percussion does not specify instruments and uses straightforward eighth-note based rhythms.
-We are performing the first 3 movements tonight. You can create your own version of the 4th with our app for iPhone and iPad (search app store for “Third Coast Percussion”)
-We will be performing the first movement on wooden objects and resonant metals, the second entirely on metals, and the third on the remnants of a de-constructed upright piano
-A Renga is a form of Japanese poem composed collectively by multiple poets.
-We’ve asked 100 composers to each compose approximately 5-7 seconds of music. The submissions are ordered via chance operations.
-This performance features a preview, including 53 of 100 composers who will eventually contribute to the piece.
Third Construction (1941)*
-The square form for this piece is 24 sections of 24 bars each, but each player’s part divides the 24 differently, creating overlapping, dovetailed musical lines and sections.
-Player 1: [2-8-2-4-5-3] Player 2: [5-3-2-8-2-4] Player 3: [3-2-8-2-4-5] Player 4: [8-2-4-5-3-2]
- Despite the unconventional instrumentation, all of the music is meticulously notated, using traditional staves and complex polyrhythms (quintuplets, septuplets, nontuplets, etc).
Please join us on July 12 in Millennium Park for electronic and acoustic music by Paul Lansky, David Skidmore, Clay Condon, and John Cage.
“Percussion music is revolution. Sound and rhythm have too long been submissive to the restrictions of nineteenth-century music. Today we are fighting for their emancipation. Tomorrow, with electronic music in our ears, we will hear freedom.”
-John Cage, Goal: New Music, New Dance, 1939