John Cage – 4’33”
Performance at home – listened via noise cancelling headphones
This has to be the most bizarre piece of music that I have ever listened to in my life. Should music be written as “music” as it did not distinguish itself as music to me. I was sat here really straining to listen to any sounds. I did detect a faint humming, some slight noises possibly musicians moving in seats (if there were any musicians there and something being dropped. I was waiting patiently for something to make a musical sound and there was nothing. It is not music, to me it isn’t, I almost felt like I was in an exam room where there is silence except for the scribbling of pens on paper, and the ticking of the clock as it counts down the hours to finish. I have absolutely no idea why any composer would choose to do this and I was left feeling let down. I guess I would certainly call it a talking point!!! not for me I am afraid.
Exercise – Considering chance and serial music
The pieces I have chosen to listen to are
🎼Twopieces :Quite Fast
This is not the sort of music I like. I listened to these 4 pieces with an open mind. My initial thoughts were, what on earth is going on. it feels very unpredictable and as I was listening to it it reminded me of the noises small children make when they discover things make a tune and they are all banging and crashing about the pieces at the same time with absolutely no idea of what they are doing. No key signature or timing, just doing what they want to do.
Is it music? Yes it is, probably not in a conventional sense but it is rhythm and beats and yes it is music. It is not my kind of music though. These pieces just don’t give me any feeling, they just seem like a noise if I am honest The only one which made any sense to me was Nocturne. It seemed to have more of a structure to it, timing, a key signature. I may be wrong but it felt more conventional than the other three pieces I listened to. As long as there is a beat and a rhythm and some kind of sound I think it qualifies as music. These pieces are music in their own way. In a more serial piece you can hear a timing, more of a feel of the piece with performance directions and instruments used. For me I need to have that form and understanding in music. The key signature, the time of the piece, maybe even an explanation of the idea behind the piece. I do feel that this does help to understand the piece. The John Cage pieces do not have that for me. They are just noises, all except Nocturne which felt much more structured and I felt more of a connection to that particular piece. Random sounds and instruments do nothing for me.
You can gain emotional impacts from music with understanding the concept of how its was created as everyone will react differently to different themes, instruments, timing. Just because I am not moved. by the John Cage pieces does not mean someone else will be, they may find some more meaning in them. The music I have listened to so far and have commented on. I can see that I am more influenced by works which have a defined system, which follow musical rules (and maybe breaking them along the way too). I do believe emotion in music is caused purely by the instruments and how they are directed to perform, whether it be by key signature or performance directions. With chance music you do not know what you are going to be listening to and you are taking a chance on liking the piece but it can deliver an emotional impact to some. I think you have to find what appeals to you. I do not like John Cage, but I may like some other chance piece that comes my way because it is the way in which the instruments are used which will ultimately decide who feels what emotion. Instruments and the way in which they are used ultimately decides how you feel and each person is different. I like the knowing what will be next and what instruments wlll be performing but on the other hand a chance piece you may not know what is being used. It is up to the individual person to feel that emotion.
Chance and serial pieces are both intended to affect the listener in some way, both methods rely on the instruments conveying a feeling to the listener but listeners react in different ways to each piece. Where the pieces differ is a chance piece will likely not have the rigidity of timing and key like the serial and this can affect how people feel and more than likely it will change on hearing the piece each time because of the way it can be performed. With a serial piece you know what you are getting and your personal responses are yours and yours alone. Everyone reacts differently to every piece of music they hear.
As I have said earlier, there pieces did not appear to me , I only found Nocturne of any interest as I felt that was more of a serial piece and it had more feeling about it. I am not a fan of John Cage and his chance music, I felt it was out of tune, unbalanced and uncomfortable to listen to.
Shostakovitch and Politics
🎼Symphony No 5 in D minor Op 41
This starts off very dramatically and builds up using the brass section in full force which is very effective. The whole of the first movement seems to be very dark until the conclusion of the first movement where a gentle flute and woodwind brighten an otherwise dark section of the pice. The second movement is much gentler, sounding more optimistic and purposeful and less fraught. The third moment continues withe the gentler sound, with fluttering strings complimented by the percussion until the brighter light notes move into deeper. The movement ends with gentle notes from I think a harp closing the movement beautifully. Bang straight into movement four and now we have the austere Russian sound, the gentleness is gone and replaced by a heavier sound which gives a menacing a fearful feel and it becomes almost like a march and the decidedly funereal. There is a triumphant end with the timpani, brass and strings and it sounds magnificent,