John Cage: Music of Changes (1951)
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Published on Jul 22, 2012
______________John Cage 100 (1912-2012)__________
John Cage (1912-1992): Music of Changes, for piano (1951). Dedicato a David Tudor.
Book I (New York, May 16, 1951)
Book II (New York, August 2, 1951) (start at 4'04'')
Book III (New York, October 18, 1951) (start at 22'48'')
Book IV (New York, December 13, 1951) (start at 33'27'')
David Tudor, pianoforte.
The title Music of Changes refers to several different meanings. One of them is the Chinese oracle book I Ching, the Book of Changes. Another, more personal reference is the change in Cage's compositional language.
Cage composed the music using I Ching chance operations, in order to create differrent charts for various parameters in the music: tempi, dynamics, sounds and silences, durations and superimpositions. With these charts he created a composition, using a conventional manner of notation with staves and bars, where everything is notated in full detail. The piano is played, not only by using the keys, but also by plucking the strings with finger nails, slamming the keyboard lid, playing cymbal beaters on the strings, striking the keyboard lid etc. Pedalling is also notated in full detail.
The notation is proportional, where 1 inch equals a quarter note. The rhythmic structure is 3-5-6¾-6¾-5-31/8 and is expressed in changing tempi, including the use of accellerandos and ritards.
This work may be seen as the first result of Cage's voyage into the world of composing by chance. For Cage this was a necessary step, in order to give up individual taste and memory and also the traditions in art. This development came as a result of his studies with Gita Sarabhai (Indian philosophy) and Daisetz T. Suzuki (Zen Buddhism) in the late fourties and early fifties.
Chance here, is part of the moment of composition though. The actual result and the performance of it are completely determined, something Cage was to give up soon in his later compositions.
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