Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Joey Ramone (and Others) Do John Cage

John Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. He was also a pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments. Some of his compositions include playing 12 radios at once tuned to different stations (Imaginary Landscape No 4), sitting at a piano for four minutes and thirty-three seconds and playing nothing (4'33"), and a piece that used the sounds of shells and water (Water Music). Here is the composer playing an amplified cactus and other plants with a feather. One critic likened the experience of listening to John Cage's music to chewing sand. Having experienced a performance of a Cage program at MoMA one summer and watched as someone slapped different locations on a closed piano with their hands, I'd say silly could be another description. Some of his more conventional music can be beautiful if challenging. The pleasures tend to be rather subtle and his pieces lengthy. Cage does not write songs.

Explaining his art, Cage suggested that music as traditionally practiced is a sound—an art of space rather than time a la Duchamp—that is self-consciously manipulated to "speak" to us." "I don't need sound to talk to me," Cage would say. Cage was influenced by the work of Anton Webern, Marcel Duchamp, and James Joyce. A 1950 performance of Webern piece so enchanted him that immediately thereafter all his compositions would be composed by chance using a process that included the I ChingCage said he never knew what a piece of music would sound like until it was finished. For more, Wiki explains

In addition, Cage was also an avid and pre-eminent amateur mycologist, a collector and consumer of mushrooms. Some of his very short fungal stories here.

Joey Ramone was, of course, one of the Ramones, a punk rock singer, songwriter, "counter culture figure," and the visual definition of lanky.

Joey Ramone along with Debbie Harry, Jello Biafra, David Byrne and others take turns at interpreting the wiley work of Cage. Hear them and download here.

Debbie Harry, In Just-Spring
Jello Biafra and Eugene Chardbourne, Overpopulation and Art

The day after my post went up, Open Culture posted this "surprisingly moving performance":

Thanks to the Facebook page Music Lovers for the referral.

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