Tuesday, September 04, 2012


Tomorrow, Sept. 5th, would have been John Cage's 100th birthday. Perhaps the most monumental figure in experimental music history, Cage and his legacy are being explored all over the world right now - tho, we here in L.A. can crow that we birthed the guy. The pieces on this album do go back to his early years, 1939-1943, to be exact. And what wonderful pieces they are, ranging from prepared pianos - pianos with stuff stuck on the strings - merrily plinkety-plunking away ("Amores"), to what could be African tribal music played on kitchen implements ("Double Music," featuring fellow California maverick Lou Harrison), to the haunting female vox of "She Is Asleep." "Imaginary Landscape no. 2" is scored for "tin cans, conch shell, ratchet, bass drum, buzzers, water gong, metal wastebasket, lion's roar and amplified coil of wire."  It's all performed with verve by fine French folks the Helios Quartet.

Cage's conceptual breakthoughs were still a few years down the road, but, on a purely musical level, these works clearly established him as a stunningly original talent. His place in history was already assured, and this was just the warm-up.

John Cage: Works for Percussion (1991)

Second construction [1940] (7:29)
Imaginary landscape no. 2 [1942] (5:22)
Amores [1943] (9:43)
Double music [1941] (4:39)
Third construction [1941] (10:06)
She is asleep [1943] (11:40)
First construction (in metal) [1939] (10:03)

New to Cage? There are a number of other great albums out there (that I won't post here because they are either in print or shared on other blogs) that I highly recommend:

"Indeterminacy" (1959) - Zen stand-up comedy; this is where Laurie Anderson got her schtick.

"Williams Mix" (1953) and "Fontana Mix" (1958) - deftly edited sound collages, ages before sampling/hip-hop/mashups, etc; and far more complex.

"In A Landscape" - more early works for gentle pianos; ambient music starts here (bonus points for, on one track, using a toy piano)

"Radio Music" (1956) - does what it says on the tin - performers "play" radios, and no other instruments.

There's plenty more, but that's off the top of my head. So...how are you celebrating?  Getting together with friends to put on 4'33" ? I'll try to make it to one of these shows - anyone gonna make all 24 hours of Satie's Vexations?


Dirk Bill said...

One of my favorites! I actually got to see him perform once, and it was everything I expected. This link, however, is "denied by the uploader" whatever that means.

Dirk Bill said...

Denied? We don't need no denials! Thanks again for the re-post, Fab.