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MUAR 211 Lecture Notes - Aleatoric Music, Prepared Piano, Extended Technique

Music-Arts Faculty
Course Code
MUAR 211
Jerry M.Cain

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April 2nd, 2013
John Cage (1912-1992)
o Guru of avant-garde
o important & influential American avant-garde composer, philosopher, author,
lecturer & visual artist
o student of Arnold Schoenberg (who invented atonal music) at UCLA
o Schoenberg required his students to dedicate themselves to music
o influenced by sounds/spiritual teachings of non-Western cultures (percussion
music, sounds of Indonesian gamelan, teachings of Zen Buddhism, etc.)
o highly regarded teacher & student of Buddhism
o didn’t invent percussion ensemble, but important composer of it
o important early composer for percussion ensemble referred to it as “all-
sound music of the future.. because all sounds are acceptable to the composer
of percussion music
o inventor of prepared piano (type of extended technique for piano) insert
objects between piano’s strings according to composer’s specific instruction
ie/ Cage would attach screws/nails to specific strings of a conventional
o composed works for prepared piano in various genres
o he said that when he listens to music, he feels as if someone if talking to him
o talks about music as a spatial art & sound is acting gets at the way we impose
meaning on sound
o his later music never sounds the same twice
sonatas & interludes for prepared piano (1946-48)
o multi-movement work for solo piano
o sonatas numbered sequentially & interludes numbered separately
o preparation of piano takes 2-3 hours 45 notes (sets of strings within piano)
are prepared mainly using screws & bolts, 15 pieces of rubber, 4 pieces of
plaster, 6 metal nuts & rubber eraser
o piece is conventionally notated & piano played normally
Cage = important advocated of aleatory/aleatoric music (also known as
indeterminacy/chance music)
o chance elements may come into play during composition, during performance,
or both
o accomplished using graphic notation performers must improvise as they
interpret images/instructions in score
the key to this music and art is that anyone can do it
remember, not all graphic notation is related to aleatoric music can be used to
represent musical effects that are quite specific & can’t be efficiently conveyed in
conventional notation
1952 composed important & controversial work 4’3” inspired by painter Rauschenberg’s
all-white canvases
Cage created happening multiple forms of art are simultaneously
performed/displayed without strict coordination
he would roll dice and then compose based on that
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