A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

Scriabin & John Cage's 4'33"
Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Nicole Scriabin at my Chickering



It is paradoxical that American Composer John Cage’s most famous work is probably his shortest. I was exposed to it on a summer day in 1995 on Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue) in New York City. I was walking with my friend David Morton when we noticed a congregation of people surrounding a very large grand piano. We stopped to observe. A man sat down and opened the piano lid. Then after some flourishes involving the cracking of his knuckles, etc he did nothing. I was too ignorant to think of timing the interval. I shortly after found out that he had performed Cage’s famous 4’33”.

My next exposure to the work was near the year 2000 when CBC Radio had the guts to put 4’33” in a program. What followed was a four minute thirty three second moment of terrible radio silence.

Randy Raine-Reusch a multiple exotic instrument player and composer is egging on his facebook friends to perform in as many ways as they can 4’33” at noon this Remembrance Day ( November 11). It is easy to perform this work if one aims, like Schenkman (read below) to not have cricket sounds. It is also easy as it can be played in one’s head with nothing but a good stop-watch or an iPhone. What is most interesting is that if you go to John Cage’s website here you can download an app with this famous work.

Marc Destrubé, our very own Vancouver virtuoso violinist/director (The Axelrod Quartet, etc) has a keyboard artist  friend, Byron Schenkman who has managed to transpose John Cage’s complex 3-part 4'33" to the harpsichord. Early on in this complex transposition, Schenkman, not always an inveterate purist, decided to omit the bird and cricket sounds when he played this work live (on his harpsichord) some years ago.

While I have never been able to listen to Schenkman play the Cage work I have heard him play the harpsichord many times.

Thanks to Raine-Reusch facebook posting I have given much thought today as to why I have never been tempted to purchase a good set of Koss headpones. I had that ambition in the early 70s in Mexico City. I had purchased as state of the art (then!) Acoustic Research transistor amplifier and I had no money to buy a pair of good speakers. I did without the good speakers (eventually purchasing with saved money a pair of Acoustic Research AR-3A units) and never fell to the temptation of the relatively cheaper but very good Koss headphones.

Like John Cage I like my music with ambient sound (except of course with those clicks that come from some of my older LP records). I cannot understand how technology (the portable kind) has made us (the older ones) forget and the younger ones not understand what they are missing in listening to good music traversing the length of a living room or even a kitchen.

The beauty of Cage’s 4’33” is that I can play it or listen to it anywhere and anytime. For Randy Reine-Reusch I send one today in which I imagine Alexander Scriabin’s grand-niece sitting at my Chickering baby grand while her famous great-uncle performs 4’33”.

I must point out as I write this that the ambient sound in my living room comes from the hum of the cooling fans of my nearby computer and the clicking of the keys on this keyboard. It is a marvelous experience, indeed. 

Addendum: For any sharpness fanatic noticing the decided unsharpness of  the photograph herein let it be known that I took it with a 50s vintage 6x9 inch format Geman box camera, a Gevabox with next to no focusing capability. The film used was the long  departed and extremely sharp Kodak Technical Pan film in the 120 format. Because of the very low ISO rating of the film  (25) I was able to use the bulb setting of the shutter and fire my sofbox flash during the exposure.





     

Previous Posts
Penelope (Sandrine Cassini) Again

Kind Of Blue

The Naked And The Veiled

The Right Equipment

Remembrance Day - One For Two

Lavinia Norcross Dickinson

Dana Moreno López - Self Portraits - Not Selfies

That Damn Hedge Again Electrically

Paul St. Pierre - 1923 -2014 - This Was Not My Ide...

Honest Politicians



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7/24/16 - 7/31/16

7/31/16 - 8/7/16

8/7/16 - 8/14/16

8/14/16 - 8/21/16

8/21/16 - 8/28/16

8/28/16 - 9/4/16

9/4/16 - 9/11/16

9/11/16 - 9/18/16

9/18/16 - 9/25/16

9/25/16 - 10/2/16

10/2/16 - 10/9/16

10/9/16 - 10/16/16

10/16/16 - 10/23/16

10/23/16 - 10/30/16

10/30/16 - 11/6/16

11/6/16 - 11/13/16

11/13/16 - 11/20/16

11/20/16 - 11/27/16

11/27/16 - 12/4/16

12/4/16 - 12/11/16

12/11/16 - 12/18/16

12/18/16 - 12/25/16

12/25/16 - 1/1/17

1/1/17 - 1/8/17

1/8/17 - 1/15/17

1/15/17 - 1/22/17

1/22/17 - 1/29/17

1/29/17 - 2/5/17

2/5/17 - 2/12/17

2/12/17 - 2/19/17

2/19/17 - 2/26/17

2/26/17 - 3/5/17

3/5/17 - 3/12/17

3/12/17 - 3/19/17

3/19/17 - 3/26/17

3/26/17 - 4/2/17

4/2/17 - 4/9/17

4/9/17 - 4/16/17

4/16/17 - 4/23/17

4/23/17 - 4/30/17

4/30/17 - 5/7/17

5/7/17 - 5/14/17

5/14/17 - 5/21/17

5/21/17 - 5/28/17

5/28/17 - 6/4/17

6/4/17 - 6/11/17

6/11/17 - 6/18/17

6/18/17 - 6/25/17

6/25/17 - 7/2/17

7/2/17 - 7/9/17

7/9/17 - 7/16/17

7/16/17 - 7/23/17

7/23/17 - 7/30/17

7/30/17 - 8/6/17

8/6/17 - 8/13/17

8/13/17 - 8/20/17

8/20/17 - 8/27/17