Roman Catholic Nuns in Full Habit May Enter Without An Appointment.
Occupant is a Heathen Chinee. Missionaries at this door will face the Dowager Empress and another Boxer Rebellion. Please do not disturb 11.00 am to 2.00 pm. Missionaries – never.
Among the memorials and tributes to Merce Cunningham, I’ve seen yet another pithy quote from Morton Feldman which I didn’t know about before. I don’t know where this one comes from, but it’s in a description of the unusual way Cunningham often worked with artists and composers he knew well.
His works may have a score, but it’s made separately from the choreography; the same can go for the set. Elements meant to work together in performance are created independently by a cohort of trusted collaborators. Composer Morton Feldman explained the process like this: “Suppose your daughter is getting married and her wedding dress won’t be ready until the morning of the wedding, but it’s by Dior.”
There’s a rumor Merce’ll stop. Ten years ago, London critic said he was too old. He himself says he’s just getting a running start. Annalie Newman says he’s like wine: he improves with age.
— John Cage, “Where Are We Eating? and What Are We Eating? (Thirty-eight Variations on a Theme by Alison Knowles)”, 1975.
If I’m asked to name the greatest gigs I’ve been to, the first one that comes to mind is the performance of Merce Cunningham’s Ocean at the Roundhouse in 2006. Now I’m kicking myself for not going out of my way to see more of Cunningham’s choreography – it’s highly unlikely the time it would have taken was better spent.
Merce Cunningham died yesterday at the age of ninety. As a music snob I’ve always thought of him first as John Cage’s partner, but even then neither Cage’s life or work can be considered independently of Cunningham’s. It seems like there are so few artists of their kind these days, who are so truly fearless and adventurous, and less interested in grandstanding over how “provocative” and “radical” they claim themselves to be.
Just last month Cunningham announced his plans to preserve the legacy of his dance company and his work. Hopefully his death did not come too soon for these plans to be carried out.
What about my symphony No. 3? I forgot to write…simple, like that–therefore recently, I commissioned Ken Friedman to write my Symphony No. 3.
For beings from the planets of the Sirius system, “everything is music, or the art of co-ordination and harmony of vibrations. . . . The art is very highly developed there, and every composition on Sirius is related to the rhythms of nature . . . the seasons, the rhythms of the stars.”
— Karlheinz Stockhausen, Towards a Cosmic Music, 1989.
Other snippets of vitally important information then came to me through a couple of revelatory dreams. Crazy dreams, from which it emerged that not only did I come from Sirius itself, but that, in fact, I completed my musical education there.
— Karlheinz Stockhausen, in Mya Tannenbaum, Conversations with Stockhausen, 1987.
One thing I forgot I wanted to talk about when mentioning Alvin Lucier last month was his starring role in George Manupelli’s Dr. Chicago trilogy*. I first heard about these films only last year, over at Renewable Music, where Daniel Wolf suggests that Lucier is the composer with the most prominent film career.
(Possible runner up, Erik Satie in Entr’acte. John Cage makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in Maya Deren’s At Land, and almost had a part in La Dolce Vita, but didn’t.)
I’ve only seen short excerpts from each film, on YouTube and Manupelli’s website. They look like a mixture of cinéma vérité, awkward improvisation, and flights of deadpan absurdity. A lot of that last element comes from Lucier’s portrayal of the nefarious Dr. Chicago as he flees with his meagre entourage across the United States into Mexico. His Chicago combines the feckless insouciance of Nick Riviera with the calculating amorality of Burroughs’ Dr. Benway deprived of a budget.
* “There was also a fourth film, Dr. Chicago Goes to Sweden, but Manupelli got pissed off at a film festival in Toronto and drove around town with the only copy of the film unreeling out the window of his car.”
In addition to their main piano business Boyd also had a sideline in theatre box office ticket sales. Perhaps this relates in some way to them supplying pianos to theatres and this being a natural bolt on service they could offer to the theatres and the public?
When I saw the phrase “Box office for all theatres”, I thought it was mid-century adspeak meaning that theatre owners could pack in the punters if they have a piano; but maybe that turn of phrase was too American to make sense to the English.
More details about these recordings, and access to other materials, can be found at radiOM.org.
For those of you who asked if I was alright after Wednesday’s post: much better now, thanks. To summarise: the idea for a piece I was working on proved to be impossible. From working on that first idea a second, different but related idea for a piece came to mind. Work on this second idea progressed and expanded until it became thoroughly confused and unworkable.
In the last few days I’ve figured out an alternative way of going about realising the first idea, and have nearly finished it. Then I have the second idea to go back to. I’m trying to remember who said that every good idea is really three ideas – I usually think of it as the other way round, where I need at least three ideas put together to make one good idea. The last few days seem to have demonstrated a perverse corollary, that any half-assed idea can be broken down into multiple half-assed ideas.
Anyway, England are 2 wickets down and 219 runs behind Australia going into the last day at Cardiff, so I’d be feeling pretty good in any case.
I’m beginning to doubt whether the new way of making music (computers, synthesisers, MIDI sequencers giving instant feedback of what you’ve just done) is such a great idea after all. Hearing every little thing go wrong, time and time again, has the effect of grinding down your confidence and your will to finish the thing you’re working on. There’s too much room for experimentation, tempting you to drift away from your original thoughts, leaving you lost in a maze of dead ends.
Perhaps it is much better to write and finish a piece in blissful ignorance and only then, upon hearing the first rehearsal, realise how badly it stinks. At least then you could identify and fix only what is broken, to justify all your efforts so far.
I try to have an idea of what I want to achieve before I begin, but lately I’m finding that these ideas are neither solid nor clear enough before I start working, and I lose my way.
Also, The Ashes have started so I can’t give anything else my undivided attention.