Last week I played John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1957-8). If anyone liked it, or hated it, that’s on them.
I got the score last spring, and studied a variety of recordings. My favorite is this recent performance by Vicky Chow and loadbang, with Gelsey Bell, Drew Blumberg, Nicole Camacho, and Victor Lowrie. I like the balance of sincerity and humor here, which seems connected to the spirit of the notation.
And this is a piece about notation: eighty-some different systems of it, with a big key in the front. I took a tip from David Tudor and made myself a performance edition, which meant going through the score page by page and writing out a legible version that I could play from more readily. I decided to make this part of my morning ritual: with that first cup of coffee, a page of Cage. I did this every day for a couple of months.
Tudor’s interpretations of Cage’s music from this era are virtuosic in execution. I decided not to try and impress anyone with the technical aspects of my performance. I left out as much as was necessary (according to Cage’s instructions, which allow for any amount of the written material, horizontally and vertically) to make the playing comfortable, surprising, (maybe?) musical. Mine was a virtuosity of discipline and attention. I dedicated myself to that daily page and did the best I could with it.
Then I put it with the group, tried to have fun and encourage others to do the same. Our performances ran about twenty-five minutes. We played it a couple times in rehearsal and then again on stage in Keller Hall. We executed it faithfully and at least somewhat joyfully, I'd say. There were parts I liked better than others, which is strange, when you think about it. If I enjoyed or disliked the experience, in any way: that’s on me.
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• January: Wyoming and the Open
• February: New Mexico and the Holes
• Coming Up
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• Crossroad Blues