Sharing a New Discovery for Band

Here’s my first try at a little musicology! Retired music teachers and those “shut-in” due to COVID-19 (which is almost everyone) can take some of their free time to “dabble” in a review of famous contributors and contributions to our music history…

Quick! Can you name one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, a pupil of Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg, who was also instrumental in the development of modern dance?

Hint? Here’s his picture.

John_Cage_(1988)

John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) was an American composer, music theorist, artist, and philosopher. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. — Greene, David Mason (2007). Greene’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Composers. p. 1407

Cage was a pioneer of the prepared piano, an acoustic keyboard instrument with its sound altered by objects placed between or on its strings or hammers (see above photo), for which he wrote numerous dance-related works and a few concert pieces.

What may not be as well known was John Cage’s intense study of Indian philosophy and Zen Buddhism in the late 1940s, which led him to focusing on the concept of aleatoric or “chance-controlled music,” which he started composing in 1951.

The I Ching, an ancient Chinese classic text decision-making tool, which uses chance operations to suggest answers to questions one may pose, became Cage’s standard composition tool for the rest of his life. In a 1957 lecture, Experimental Music, he described music as “a purposeless play” which is “an affirmation of life – not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living.” — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cage and https://johncage.org/

The “Classic” from John Cage’s collection

John Cage 4' 33"

Pianists and musicologists are familiar with the original Peters edition of one of his most notable works, titled 4′ 33″ (for its length), as well as his free use of exploratory and unconventional instrument types, equipment alterations, and groupings. John Cage was indeed most prolific with an exhaustive number of varied compositions to his credit, spanning his 80-year life:

From his Apprenticeship Period 1932-1936

  • Greek Ode for voice and piano (1932)
  • Three Easy Pieces (1. Round in A minor, 2. Duo in G major, 3. Infinite canon in F minor) for piano (1933)
  • Three Songs for voice and piano, (1932–33)
  • Sonata for Clarinet (1933)
  • Three pieces for two flutes (1935)
  • Quartet for any four percussion instruments (1935)
  • Two pieces for piano (1935?, revised 1974)
  • Trio for three percussionists (1936)

From his Modern Dance, Prepared Piano, and Transition to Chance Period 1937-1951

  • Music for Wind Instruments (wind quintet – 1938)
  • Bacchanale for prepared piano (1938)
  • Imaginary Landscape No. 1 for two variable-speed phonograph turntables, frequency recordings, muted piano and cymbal (1939)
  • First Construction (in Metal) for six percussionists and an assistant (1939)
  • Second Construction for four percussionists (1940)
  • Third Construction for four percussionists (1941)
  • The City Wears a Slouch Hat for narrator and six percussionists (1942)
  • Credo in Us for four performers with various objects (1942)
  • She Is Asleep: 1. Quartet for percussion, 2. Duet for voice and prepared piano (1943)
  • Ophelia for piano (1945)
  • Prelude in A minor  for flute, bassoon, trumpet, violin, cello and piano (1946)
  • In a Landscape for piano or harp (1948)
  • Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano (1946–48)
  • Suite for Toy Piano (1948)
  • A Flower for voice and closed piano (1950)

Sample First Chance Works 1951-1958

  • Sixteen Dances for flute, trumpet, 4 percussionists, piano, violin and cello (1950–1951)
  • Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (March No. 2) for 12 radios, 24 performers and a conductor (1951)
  • Music of Changes for piano (1951)
  • Seven Haiku for piano (1951–1952)
  • Waiting for piano (January 7, 1952)
  • Music for Piano 4–19 for any number of pianos (1953)
  • 26’1.1499″ for a string player (1953–55, finished in 1955)
  • Music for Piano 21–36, 37–52 for piano solo or in an ensemble (1955)
  • Speech 1955 for news reader and 5 radios (1955)
  • 27’10.554″ for a percussionist (1956)
  • Radio Music for 1 to 8 performers using radios (1956)
  • Winter Music for piano (1957)
  • For Paul Taylor and Anita Dencks for piano (1957)
  • Fontana Mix for tape (1958)
  • Aria for voice (1958)

Sample Happenings, Theater Music 1959-1968

  • Sounds of Venice for television set (one performer) (1959)
  • Water Walk, a work for a TV show for one performer with a variety of objects (1959)
  • Cartridge Music for amplified sounds (1960)
  • Music for Carillon No. 4 for electronic instrument with accompaniment (1961)
  • Variations II for any number of performers and any kind and number of instruments (1961)
  • Music for Piano 85 for piano and electronics (1962)
  • Variations III for any number of people performing any actions (1962)
  • Electronic Music for solo piano (or any number of pianos) with electronics (1964)
  • Rozart Mix, tape loops (1965)
  • Variations V (1965)
  • Variations VI for a plurality of sound systems (1966)
  • Variations VIII no music or recordings (1967; revised 1978)
  • Assemblage for electronics (1968)

Samples of Return to Composition 1969-1986

  • HPSCHD for 1 to 7 amplified harpsichords and 1 to 51 tapes (1967–69, accompanied with Program (KNOBS) for the listener, an instruction for playing back the recording of the piece)
  • Cheap Imitation for piano (1969; orchestrated 1972, violin version 1977)
  • Bird Cage for 12 tapes (1972)
  • Etcetera for small orchestra, tape and, optionally, 3 conductors (1973)
  • Exercise for an orchestra of soloists (1973, based on Etcetera; second version completed in 1984)
  • Etudes Australes for piano (1974–75)
  • Some of the “Harmony of Maine” for organist and three assistants (1978)
  • Etudes Boreales for cello and/or piano (1978)
  • Hymns and Variations for twelve amplified voices (1979)
  • Ryoanji for double bass, trombone, oboe, voice, percussion, small orchestra (1983; parts added in 1983–85, and an unfinished cello part survives from 1992)
  • Selkus2 (1984)
  • ASLSP for piano or organ (1985)
  • Haikai for gamelan ensemble (1986)

Sample Number Pieces and Other Late Works 1987-1992

  • Twenty-Three for 13 violins, 5 violas and 5 cellos (1988)
  • Five Stone Wind for three performers with clay drums, electronics and unspecified instruments (1988)
  • 1O1 for orchestra (1988)
  • Four for string quartet (1989)
  • One2 for 1 to 4 pianos (1989)
  • Three for three recorders (1989)
  • One7 for any sound-producing object (1990)
  • Scottish Circus for Scottish folk band of any number of musicians and any instruments/voices (1990)
  • Twenty-Six for 26 violins (1991)
  • Twenty-Eight for wind ensemble (1991)
  • Muoyce II (Writing through Ulysses) for speaker and tapes (May 1992)
  • One11 for solo cinematographer (1992)

New “Bandstration” by John Cage

SmartMusic library

We are happy to announce a fairly recent discovery, a unique musical “find” for band directors, the first of which is a new adaptation of his work 4′ 33″ available for middle to high school concert band (full instrumentation, listed below) and a reduced, surprisingly easy-accessible arrangement for elementary band.

The music can be ordered from number of publishing houses, including C.F. Peters Corp., Sheet Music Plus, and J.W. Pepper.

Cage arrangement for band in SmartMusic

Smartmusic (MakeMusic, Inc.) added the newest edition of 4′ 33″ to its music library, labeling it “concert” and “contest” genre at the “medium easy” level with options to practice, perform, and assess individual instruments from within the score, including:

  • Flute
  • Oboe
  • Bassoon
  • Clarinet
  • Bass Clarinet
  • Alto Saxophone
  • Tenor Saxophone
  • Baritone Saxophone
  • French Horn
  • Trumpet
  • Trombone
  • Euphonium T.C.
  • Euphonium B.C.
  • Tuba
  • Mallet Percussion
  • Percussion
  • Timpani

John Cage printed band arrangement

An even more simplistic elementary band version, with a recommended two minutes performance time, is published by Classical Arrangements for Young Bands.

Take time to explore the amazing life and music of John Cage. You won’t be sorry!

PKF

 

Bibliography

 

© 2020 Paul K. Fox

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