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Western-Li Summerton

MUS 306
Listening Journal 4

John Cage Bacchanale

I recently saw a performance of modern dance set to minimalist percussion music by Steve
Reich, put on by the Oregon Ballet Theatre. This listening sample immediately reminded me of
exactly that. Cage uses of prepared piano gives a distinct percussive color to the piano. This in
combination with an unpredictable downbeat separates this music from earlier examples of
American music that we’ve listened too. Is prepared piano an originally American concept?
Though the idea of it is born of an American, it isn’t necessarily incorporative of American
idioms. I like to think that this is an example of Cage’s music being devoid of national overtones,
rather an originally Cagian thought.

John Cage Sonata V

It is interesting that John Cage, as someone that tries to breakaway from traditions, utilizes a
sonata form in order to showcase his use of prepared piano. In ways, it seems almost
hypocritical to do so. So I listen, and try to compare to something on the other end of the
spectrum, a Beethoven Sonata. In this listening sample, what is the exposition? What is the
development? What is the recapitulation? Furthermore, we attach so many different emotions to
or normalized Western harmony. What emotional reaction do listeners and performers receive
from this work, if any at all? The performer in this example showed no emotion during
performance, so perhaps emotion is not the goal of this music. Listening to these things makes
you question the meaning of music, is this more for the purpose of sound and texture
exploration?

John Cage Music of Changes

Nearing the end of this quarter, we begin to see that more questions around the purpose of
music are articulated, with no right answer being given. As discussed in class, the use of
chance in aleatoric music is a new concept for the ear, even if it was composed 60 years ago. It
makes me wonder how this concept can be applied to other tonal languages. If we applied this
language to dodecaphony, the general impression on the ear may the same as the effect of
Music of Changes. If an aleatoric principle was applied to a western harmony, we may see
pieces that tell ‘different stories’. When it comes to my personal opinion, though the music is by
chance, I would not be able to tell the difference between different paths the music may take
due to the unfamiliar tonal language.
Lou Harrison 6 Sonatas for Cembalo

Using this baroque instrument in flavors of other cultures other than European, Lou Harrison
provides a genre and color bend to our classical performance art. Again, as I mentioned with
Cage, it is interesting when artists provide a new sound with old instruments. I don’t think it’s a
bad thing necessarily, it provides a reminiscence of Renaissance music. Additionally, the use of
prepared cembalo gives a larger breadth to the instrument, there are different types of plucked
tones to bring life to the piece.

Lou Harrison Pacifica Rondo

You can hear the references to Asian Music immediately. But it’s not the same. As a half
Chinese half American, I’ve always had a mix of Eastern and Western music in the house. This
seems to use primarily Asian melodies, but sounds like it will directly modulate in ways the
Asian music might not. Additionally, the spacing of the percussion doesn’t follow the rhythmic
tropes that I’ve grown up with in Beijing Opera, or Chinese percussion ensembles. I hope to
listen to the full recording, as I find the mix of Asian melodies/harmonies with a European form
an interesting mix.