Dear Huff Post …

Have you seen the leaden snark about new music that recently passed for a column on Huffington Post? Penned by composer Daniel Asia, it was ostensibly about John Cage’s centenary year celebrations, but was really just a rehash of reactionary vitriol against experimental art.

Aren’t we yet tired of attacking those whose aesthetic viewpoints differ from our own? Can’t we composers all just get along? Apparently not. My reply to Huff Post follows below.

____

With all due respect to Daniel Asia, it is very easy to write an essay excoriating a dead man and griping about centenary festivals: both are easy targets. It is not so easy to create a body of work that outlives you and continues to provoke thought. John Cage’s music may not suit Professor Asia, but it certainly engaged audiences throughout the world in 2012.

I wrote about several of the events and came away with a very different impression (from that portrayed in the article above) of Cage’s music and the music of those who admired him. Much of it I found invigorating, stimulating, and yes, often entertaining.

Sincerely,

Christian Carey
Assistant Professor of Music
Westminster Choir College,
Princeton, NJ.

First Solo Release on Bandcamp

All proceeds from the sale of “Gilgamesh Suite EP” will benefit Locrian Chamber Players’ next concert season.

“‘Gilgamesh Suite ‘is a newly composed work based on selections from incidental music I contributed to the play ‘Gilgamesh Variations,’ produced at Brooklyn’s Bushwick Starr Theatre in 2011. Written to commemorate the 2012 John Cage centenary, its touchstone work is ‘Sonatas and Interludes.’ Instead of creating a trope on Cageian compositional practices, I focused on incorporating the rich sound palette of the work’s prepared piano into the play’s eclectic and highly gestural aesthetic.

The suite, composed for Locrian Chamber Players, is scored for flute, prepared piano, harp, and string quartet. The sixth movement embeds ‘Locrian Flourish,’ a work commissioned by the ensemble for flutist Diva Goodfriend-Koven, as an extended cadenza.” – Christian Carey

credits

released 09 December 2012
Locrian Chamber Players: Conrad Harris and Miranda Cuckson, violin; Daniel Panner, viola; Greg Hesselink, cello; Roger Wagner, bass; Diva Goodfriend-Koven, flute; David Broome, prepared piano; Lynette Wardle, harp. Artistic Director: David MacDonaldMusic by Christian Carey, published by File Under Music (ASCAP).
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

Recorded August 24, 2012 at Riverside Church, New York.
Locrian Chamber Players (locrian.org)

Mastering: Robert Thomas (retmusic.com)
Artwork: Tyler Carey

For scores, parts, and more information about Christian Carey, please visit www.christiancarey.wordpress.com

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Arts at the Park Celebrates Cage (Concert Review)

Concert Review: John Cage Centennial Celebration

Arts At the Park -Park Avenue Christian Church

September 29, 2012

 

By Christian Carey

 

2012 has been chock full of celebratory events marking John Cage’s centennial year. There have been a number of performances in Mr. Cage’s honor, several of them including his Sonatas and Interludes (1948) for prepared piano; there have also been a steady stream of new recordings and reissues of this work. What fascinates me is the durability of the piece, which withstands numerous interpretations; alongside a pliability in which each performer can supply an individual take on the piece. This is not so remarkable when one is considering a piece by a canonical composer, say, a sonata by Beethoven. But when one considers the dampening and percussive character brought out by the piece’s requisite preparations, the variety of interpretations seems striking.

 

Vicky Chow’s performance of Sonatas and Interludes at the Cage Centennial Celebration on the Arts at the Park series shared yet another way of performing the piece. Chow’s attention to details of dynamic nuance included delicately shaped hairpins and fastidious attention to the numerous markings in the score. The pianist also reveled in the gamelan-like textures that the preparations produce, gearing her articulations to render the maximum amount of percussiveness from the instrument. Thus, this was a Sonatas and Interludes that provided delicacy balanced by a zesty tang: an impressive and engaging performance.

 

Composed in 1978, Etudes Boreales is one of Cage’s pieces created using chance operations; its title comes from Cage’s use of a star chart from the Atlas Borealis as a chance element to determine some of the registral parameters of the work’s piano part. It may be performed either as a solo cello piece, solo piano piece, or as a duo for both instruments. Cellist Jay Campbell presented a solo version in which he inhabited the work with intensity, negotiating wide leaps and angular lines with pinpoint placement.

 

Supply Belcher’s book The Harmony of Maine (1794), a collection of part-songs in the vein of Billings, Read, and the other “Yankee Tunesmiths,” is the generating material for Cage’s Some of the Harmony of Maine (1978). The piece requires an organist and three assistants – one for each manual of the organ tasked with changing stops for the organist (sometimes rapidly!). Paul Vasile, along with three dutiful deputies, gave a short talk about what the audience would hear – quite an unconventional composition, especially when compared with service music – and then forged ahead. The piece’s frequent shifts between tunes from the book and stop combinations created a resplendent display of the timbral capabilities of the organ at Park Avenue Christian Church. And while their fragmentary deployment would cause one to struggle to pick out the tunes, Cage’s Harmony retains some of the grandeur and rhythmic swagger that exemplifies Belcher’s music.

27’10.554”, a piece for solo percussion, was played by Payton MacDonald to close the concert. One of Cage’s earliest chance pieces, its structure is derived from a poem by Lao Tzu. Instead of specifying which instruments to use, the battery of instruments is divided into wood, metal, skins, and “others,” creating the possibility of numerous interpretations of the piece. Thunderous drumming, thrown objects, crashing cymbals, and snippets of playback from a recording of a soprano singing were interspersed with moments of silence (made all the more palpable by the saturated musical passages).

 

Like the other pieces on the program, 27’10.554” demonstrates Cage’s penchant for taking materials, or enabling performers to choose them, and placing them in unexpected contexts: screws inside a piano, a cello leaping through a star chart, Supply Belcher played with a kaleidoscope of sounds, and a Lao Tzu poem banged out on percussion instruments. Besides the composer’s ingenuity, what makes the music work is due in no small part to the dedication and imagination of its interpreters, which was abundantly evident here.

Tilbury plays Cage (CD Review)

John Cage

Sonatas and Interludes

John Tilbury, piano

Decca CD

Part of a reissue program by Decca and DG, which will feature 50 recordings by 50 different artists of important works from the 20th century, this new edition of John Tilbury’s excellent 1975 recording of John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes is also a welcome addition to the spate of Cage centenary releases. Known for his performances of New York School composers, Cardew, and his work as an improvisor, Tilbury is an ideal interpreter of this piece. His performance is an incisive one, embracing both gamelan-like percussive elements imbued by the preparations as well as the classically proportioned organization of the works’s proto-sonata structure (when composing the piece, Cage was thinking of Scarlatti’s sonatas rather than Beethoven’s).

The sound has held up well, imparting a warm LP era vibe without lacking in detail. The close-miked quality of the recording makes some of the effects created by Cage’s preparations all the more apparent. It’s like sitting next to Tilbury while he plays, rather than hearing a more muted effect further out in the hall.

If all of the reissues in this series return to us elusive treasures such as this recording, we are in for a trove indeed.

Cage: 100 Waltzes (Concert Announcement)

A DVD of Cage's 49 Waltzes. Kevin James aims to up the ante!

Even in the midst of myriad celebrations of the John Cage centenary, composer Kevin James and his newly formed [kāj] (pronounced Cage) ensemble is organizing one of the more ambitious and unusual celebratory offerings.

100 Waltzes culls audio from field recordings at 147 New York City locations. It was inspired by Cage’s own 49 Waltzes for the 5 Boroughs, a score that stipulates incorporating familiar waltzes into an aleatoric composition. You can see video of James’s creative process at work below.

Event Details

August 21, 22 and 23 at 7:30pm

DiMenna Center, Mary Flagler Cary Hall,

450 West 37th St., New York, NY.

Tickets ($20 general or $30w/reception ticket, $10 students or $20 w/reception ticket)

www.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 925-285-3611.

Thursday: John Cage Day at MoMA

I’ve been greatly enjoying Third Coast Percussion’s new CD/DVD release on Mode. John Cage: The Works for Percussion 2 captures some of Cage’s early music in which he assisted both in the development of the percussion ensemble but also formulated a musical aesthetic in which rhythm took primacy over pitch; “noise” became a welcome part of music’s sonic spectrum. Third Coast’s rendition of the Constructions (particularly the First Construction “in Metal”) and their beautifully filmed, lighthearted yet earnestly delivered version of Living Room Music are can’t miss contributions to the spate of Cage releases in his centennial year.

As luck would have it, we still haven’t worked out that “cloned reviewer” thing. On Thursday, August 9th, I’m heading up to the Berkshires to Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music. Down here in New York at MoMA, Third Coast are the featured performers for the museum’s “John Cage Day.” At 6:30, they will perform a set in the Sculpture Garden that features the New York premiere of Renga: Cage: 100, a group of short (5-7 seconds) pieces commissioned by Third Coast to celebrate the Cage centennial. Works by Augusta Read Thomas, David Smooke, Paul Lansky, and many others are fleetingly featured!


8/24: Locrian Chamber Players Celebrates Cage Centennial

On Friday, August 24 at 8PM, Locrian Chamber Players celebrates the John Cage centennial with brand new works for prepared piano and ensemble by Christian Carey and James Bunch. The piano in these works is prepared to the specifications of Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes.

Program

  • Georg Friedrich Haas de terea fina
  • Caleb Burhans Contritus
  • Caleb Burhans Escape from New York
  • Christian Carey Gilgamesh Suite*
  • James Bunch Permanent Emotions*
  • David Macdonald New Ostinati*

* World Premiere

Riverside Church

10th Floor Performance Space,

91 Claremont Avenue,

New York, New York 10027

Directions - North of W. 120th Street – One block West of Broadway

Subway: 1 Train to 116th

Ph: 212-870-6700

(Church’s homepage)

free admission