Thursday, July 1, 2010

when John Cage was young (reading Silence)

In 1937, John Cage at 24 or so talked about his thoughts about the future of music at a meeting of a Seattle arts society. He mainly argued that an art center should have been equipped with sound recording and processing devices to make music or "organization of sound" by using noise. What initially inspired him to use noise to make music was rather new technology in making film than observation of environmental sound. He shared interests in common with Surrealists or Futurists, and what's more interesting is that he at that time wanted complete control over noise by using new technology. Criticizing some of new electronic musical instruments mimicking traditional one, he predicted the past dichotomy between dissonance and consonance would shift to a dichotomy between musical sound and non-musical sound. And the expansion of musical material as such was understood by him as an extension of Schoenberg's idea of twelve tone system. Twelve tone system was for him primarily equalization of materials. And Cage was eying participating in creation of dance, theater, and film.
Perhaps he wanted to create some kind of integral art. He was not satisfied with using of noise only as sound effect in film making. He wanted to bring more elaborated structure made of noise into film. I think he wanted to transform dance, theater, and film into a new form. I wonder why no one calls Cage Wagnerian (I've often heard that one criticizes a composer who creates theatrical pieces with his own texts and sometimes a sort of choreography and stenography, calling him Wagnerian).
Later on he renounced the idea of complete control, but what led him to this renunciation was his egalitarianism. He wanted to treat controlled material and uncontrolled one equally.
There appears to be a strangely optimistic naivety in his idea of connection between how music is made and what music express (or political implication of how music is made). I know some people connect egalitarianism with twelve tone system, but I don't think Schoenberg thought twelve tone system was politically correct because it treated each and every tone equally.

I've written a small atonal (vaguely twelve tone) piece, by the way.

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