John Cage / David Tudor

Indeterminacy: New Aspect of Form in Instrumental and Electronic Music

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For this by now legendary lecture based on musical principles for speaker and instrumentalist recorded in 1959, the composer assembled enlightening and highly entertaining incidents from his experience and that of his friends ("My aunt said, I love this washing machine more than your uncle"), parables and stories from ancient texts, from secondhand sources (the wonderful story of going out of Amsterdam backwards) and from spontaneous insight (watching the people outside a window accompanied by the music inside). These now well-known stories and anecdotes were then arranged in quasi-random order and each was read at varying speeds to conform to the limit of one minute--thus, some proceed slowly with long silences, and others rush along, ignoring normal inflections to meet the deadline. Cage manages to do this with clarity and an amazing verbal skill based on an appealing non-projected calmness or centered-ness and a warm, peaceful voice. Each story is treated with equal import(ance), the complexity of their interrelation and meaning left to the listener. Simultaneously, Cage's instrumental works that use indeterminant procedures (Water Walk, Concert for Piano and Orchestra, Fontana Mix, etc.) are performed on piano and live electronics by David Tudor seated in another studio and not listening to Cage's voice. The indeterminant coincidences between the stories and music are constantly surprising and even shocking. Tudor's mastery of the conceptual and practical aspects of Cage's scores are breathtaking. At times, the voice even becomes obscured and that is accepted in this musical situation which attempts to replicate "nature in its manner of working," and the way thoughts, observations, and stimuli all intermix within the mind and also within daily living--the way that samsara (the physical world of causation and appearances) and nirvana (transcendent realization) are considered interwoven in most forms of Buddhism.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 46:05
2 44:17
blue highlight denotes track pick