[Pt. II Proj.2] ~ Exercise Considering chance and serial music


Cage – Imaginary Landscape

Cage – Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano

Cage – First Construction in Metal

Cage – Number Pieces for Piano

Listen to three or four short pieces or extracts of Cage’s work and in your listening log, make notes on your thoughts and feelings about it. Does it fit with conventional definitions of music? Do you consider it music? Consider how you might define what constitutes a work of art, and what your own idea of music is. What elements have to be present to call something ‘music’?

My chances of considering the above mentioned pieces of music seem to be in direct proportion to the degree of chance and randomness influencing them. Basically, the more pattern and structure I perceive the more likely I am to perceive it as music. If my brain cannot superimpose any sort of pattern on the sounds, then I experience it as noise and I find it tiring. Out of the pieces above I had the most positive response to ‘Imaginary Landscape’ which I perceived as quite beautiful. I enjoyed the sonority of the sounds blended together and did find it quite trancelike and meditative. I could certainly perceive some Eastern influences. Whereas the third piece ‘First Construction in Metal’ I perceived as entirely random and irritating, save for a brief moment around 7-8 min where there seemed to be a looped pattern of playing. Even with the loose timing, my brain started hearing it as a rhythm after it had repeated a few times. Sonatas and Interludes for Piano fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum for me, with sections that I really liked and parts that I found laboured and tedious. I thoroughly enjoyed many of the ’Number Pieces for Piano’. I found the the drone like sounds quite mesmerising and contemplative. They had a calming effect on me similar to chanting. There is something primal or tribal about drones and long sustained vibrations that connects to me on a deeply instinctual level. In conclusion, my perception of what constitutes music and what is merely random noise seems to depend on the degree of randomness. Music influenced by chance, but then structured or repeated sufficiently to form a pattern I tend to really like. Whereas complete randomness just tends to irritate me.