• pico79

    Ah this is great. This especially:

    That meant carefully planning what the chance operations meant: he said composing by chance was a method of asking questions, and if the questions aren’t any good, neither are the answers.

    This should be stapled to the foreheads of god-knows how many would-be surrealists and dadaists and other chance-driven artists whose delight in the Random leaves a trail of bad art in its wake.

    For something a little more conventional (okay, a lot more conventional), I offer a kitschy but wonderful piece of patriotic Americana from the Civil War era. This is Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s “Union.” I could talk for hours about this piece and the hazy politics behind it – Gottschalk was born into a slave-owning family in New Orleans, didn’t formally release his own slaves, lived in the Caribbean for a while, then filed a renunciation of his Southern citizenship to return to the States, which may have been political but just as easily may have been driven by financial concerns (he couldn’t tour in the North otherwise), and composed this rousing piece as part of his new persona as a Union man, performing it live for President Lincoln. (Did he do a similar fantasia on “Dixie” a few years before? Shhhh… hide that one under the bed.)

    One interesting bit here is that you can see how the relative importance of certain songs has shifted in the last 150 years. The Star-Spangled Banner, which has a really lovely setting here, is only a digression. The real stars are Yankee Doodle and Hail Columbia, which are placed directly on top of each other (then flipped) for the big finale. Otherwise, prepare yourself for cannonades and fusillades and marches.


    • “Look, this thing has 88 keys and three pedals, what am I gonna do, not use them all?”

      • pico79

        The era of obnoxious virtuosi. You’d get what you paid for: maybe not great music, but great acrobatics.

        • Indeed. Also your comment on would-be chance artists is dead-on. Oh wait, double fucking news flash: chance techniques are not there to make your job easier.

  • I just listened to “Apartment House 1776” for the first time because of this article, and holy cow, this piece of music is beautiful. Thank you!

    • You’re welcome! One of the things Cage got/discovered is that sometimes you make sound/music more beautiful by stripping away its context.