"I went over to Germany, and I saw one millionth of a performance of a piece of music." John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats, Wolf In White Van) travels to Halberstadt to report on a John Cage concert that will last 639 years.
A bit over a year ago, Warp Record's digital music shop, Bleep.com, presented their guide to recorded* electronic music, spanning from 1930 to 2010 (also as a Facebook timeline, which apparently kicked the whole thing off). The overview of recorded electronic music was presented as a selection of 55 tracks, almost five and a half hours in full. Part of this presentation was a (now expired) promotional deal to purchase the collection of songs as a lot, but you can still read about each piece of music on Bleep and hear 49 of the tracks in a playlist on Grooveshark. There's more to hear and read below the fold. [more inside]
In honor of the 100th birthday of iconoclastic composer John Cage (previously), NPR asked 33 musicians about the effect Cage has had on their art. The Los Angeles Times has a tour of Cage's travels and experiences in his native city. MeFi's own speicus has a long and excellent essay up at newmusicbox.org about the performer-composer relationship Cage shared with pianist David Tudor (who premiered, among other Cage works, 4'33"). And if you've always wanted to play prepared piano and lack an instrument you want to fill with nuts and bolts, there's an app for that.
To celebrate John Cage's centenary, 10 pieces of music by 10 different composers have been created, inspired by 10 places close to the Royal Albert Hall. [more inside]
John Cage Unbound, A Living Archive is a multimedia exhibition created by the New York Public Library documenting their collection of videos, original notes and manuscripts of contemporary American composer and music theorist John Cage (1912-1992). "Cage believed that, following his detailed directions, anyone could make music from any kind of instrument" so the NYPL is asking visitors how they would bring his music to life, by submitting videos of their own interpretations of Cage’s work for possible inclusion in the archive. For more extensive collections of John Cage resources, see: WNYC: A John Cage Web Reliquary and Josh Rosen's fan page. [more inside]
Since the late '70s, Gordon Monahan has been making a career of extracting the unheard from pretty much anything he can get his hands on. Monahan's works for piano, loudspeakers, video, kinetic sculpture, and computer-controlled sound environments span various genres from avant-garde concert music to multi-media installation and sound art. Such pieces include long string installations activated by wind (Long Aeolian Piano, 1984-88), by water vortices (Aquaeolian Whirlpool, 1990) and by indoor air draughts (Spontaneously Harmonious in Certain Kinds of Weather, 1996). His work for electronic tone generators and human speaker swingers (Speaker Swinging, 1982), is a hybrid of science, music, and performance art, where minimalistic trance music based on the Doppler Effect contrasts with issues central to performance art such as physical struggle and 'implied threat'. John Cage once said, "At the piano, Gordon Monahan produces sounds we haven't heard before." [more inside]
Cathy Berberian (warning: auto opera audio!) was not your usual mezzo-soprano. Her vocal range was only exceeded by her range of musical interest (multi-YouTubage follows) [more inside]
Seattle-based German artist Trimpin makes sculptural musical instruments. He was profiled in a mini-documentary by Washington public TV station KBTC a couple of years ago. Here are videos of some other works of art he's created, Fire Organ, Liquid Percussion, Cello, Sensors and Record Players, Contraption at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, MIDI-controlled Player Piano and Sheng High. Kyle Gann wrote an essay by that placed Trimpin in the tradition of John Cage, Harry Partch and other avant-garde American musical inventors. The audio of a nearly hour and a half long 1990 interview with Trimpin by Charles Amirkhanian can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Another, more light-hearted interview in connection to his show at this year's SXSW, where a documentary about him premiered (trailer).
The P22 Music Text Composition Generator allows any text to be converted into a musical composition. This composition is displayed in musical notation and simultaneously generated as a midi file. The P22 Music Composition Font was proposed in 1997 to the John Cage Trust as an accompaniment to the John Cage text font based on the handwriting of the composer. The idea was basic and simple-every letter of the alphabet was assigned to a note on a scale. This would allow for any text to be converted into musical notation.
John Cage's 4'33" has been discussed previously on MeFi, but you might've missed the full orchestral version. [more inside]
"To play this motif 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities." Erik Satie's Vexations (previously) was more-or-less disregarded as an unperformable thought experiment, until John Cage staged an eighteen-hour performance in 1963. The event cemented Satie's importance in avant-garde music and his influence on a generation of artists. In 2006, several musicians and artists performed their own renditions.
Mesostics. John Cage invented this form of inclusion/acrostic poetry. Some examples by John Cage: Raphael Mostel, Mark Tobey, Marcel Duchamp, and Erik Satie. You can create your own through an automated mesostomatic process. Even cabbies have gotten in on the act.
No, I'm not sure how they get it to not devolve into a wall of feedback... though that'd be pretty rad too.
A Piano In A Gallery. David Cunningham (the guy behind The Flying Lizards! Wikipedia because the main at-least-quasi-official site's down, but while you wait 16 days for that, why not read this interview with Deborah Lizard for your FL Fix) and his new project... A Piano In A Gallery. No, he's not actually PLAYING the piano -- the visitors are. It's a sort of similar thing to both Brian Eno's gallery work with ambient tape loops on different time cycles, creating an ever-shifting collage of sound and David Byrne's recent Playing The Building. The room is mic'd, and the sound is run through a piano, and amplified, both bringing background noises to the foreground AND creating feedback-style loops, as those sounds are also run into the mics and so forth. So... if you happen to be in London.... [via WFMU]
American Mavericks: Fascinating radio piece about the ultra-modernist composers, narrated by Suzanne Vega. [more inside]