The recent death of Merce Cunningham is still sinking in. Bear with me.
merce.org lists the following repertory composers:
Maryanne Amacher, Robert Ashley, Larry Austin, David Behrman, Pierre Boulez, Paul Bowles, Earle Brown, Gavin Bryars, John Cage, Andrew Culver, Stuart Dempster, Baby Dodds, John Driscoll, Brian Eno, Morton Feldman, Serge Garrant, Jon Gibson, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Alexei Haieff, Josef Matthias Hauer, Pierre Henry, Lou Harrison, Alan Hovhaness, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Ben Johnston, Norman Lloyd, Annea Lockwood, Alvin Lucier, Martin Kalve, John King, Takehisa Kosugi, Gordon Mumma, Conlon Nancarrow, Bo Nilsson, Pauline Oliveros, Emanuel Dimas di Melo Pimenta, Maxwell Powers, Michael Pugliese, Radiohead, Pat Richter, Erik Satie, Pierre Schaffer, Sigur Ros, Mikel Rouse, Igor Stravinsky, Ivan Tcherpnin, Yasunao Tone, Gregory Tucker, David Tudor, Ben Weber, Chou Wen-Chung, Christian Wolff, La Monte Young, and Walter Zimmermann.
It's a stunning list.
This is on top of the fact that to commemorate his death, today NPR played the music of his partner John Cage, complete with explanation of what people were about to hear and, even better, music presented without such mediation.
And an early Terry Gross interview replay asked Cage about how we listeners should handle multiplicity and as always, he succinctly and intelligently answered. I'll be mulling that one for awhile.
Earlier, the Gordon Mumma blog had a recent photo of that composer with Merce. See also Gordon's serious and innocent photo from 1953.
Finally tonight, MediaMonkey shuffled up John Cage's The Lord Descended (via William Billings) from his Thirteen Harmonies, as played by Roger Zahab.
The situation Cage faced in the Harmonies, however, was exactly the opposite of the one in Cheap Imitation. Where he adored the music of Satie, he had absolutely no connection to the four-part anthems of Billings and the others. If anything, he had something of an aversion to this kind of music. So he set out to do something that, in his words, “would let it keep its flavor at the same time that it would lose what was so obnoxious to me: its harmonic tonality.” Following the lead of Cheap Imitation, he tried the systematic transformation of the originals, in this case by removing notes from the different voices of the hymns. He struggled at first, trying to find the correct transformational tool. When it finally came to him – a system involving the extension and silencing of individual tones within each voice — he found himself delighted with the result
cpdl.org wiki text of The Lord Descended:
On cherub and on cherubim,
Full royally he rode,
And on the wings of mighty winds
came flying all abroad.
The "he" in "he rode" could be applied to all the artists mentioned above.
Still, I'm sad because it feels like modernism has died.
The group on their collaboration with Merce:
He also showed us, the next night, that discipline and focus can create the space for an unexpected moment, when something new can suddenly exist: such a contrast to the scripted world of rock.