So Percussion is a quartet who plays nothing but percussion. When we think percussion we often think rhythm, but these guys (Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski and Jason Treuting) also provide great melody.
The band is inspired by John Cage. He’s “their guy.” They have written songs inspired by him and also perform his pieces.
Though audiences are still often puzzled or even infuriated by Cage, the composer brought essential joy and optimism to his work. Music is everywhere, Cage taught; frame sound, even the sounds of everyday life, and hear what is there. In the signature mix of serious play (or is that playful seriousness?) that So Percussion brought to this unusual Tiny Desk Concert, the group mixed a work by Cage (the first movement of his Living Room Music) with two pieces by Treuting: Life Is [ ] and 24 X 24, in which the text Quillen reads aloud comes from Cage’s own writings. Inasmuch as many of their instruments are quotidian tools, the sounds they create can be magical.
The first piece was written by the band’s Jason Treuting, called “Life Is [ ].” It’s just under three minutes and is primarily wood blocks. But there are also xylophones and bells (and many other things).
All four have mallets and are clacking on the wood blacks. But each player has something else that makes a melody–tiny cymbals, the xylophone, bells that you tap with your hand–and they create a pretty melody (and the wood blocks provide interesting counterpoint rhythm).
Since John Cage is their guy they made a piece that celebrates the way he made music: “24 X 24.” Cage celebrated “time-based structures and task-based sound things.” So this piece is flexible and malleable. They are going to play an 8 minute version of the song which includes a spoken word of a Cage lecture [the entire lecture is reprinted at the bottom of the post].
The narrator counts down from 8, which is interesting. Then he recites (including coughs and other noises) a piece by Cage about music and art. While he is reciting, instruments include the melodica and harmonium, a musical saw, a coffee cup full of change (at one point instead of tapping the cup, he takes the change out and state each denomination out loud). They also play the side of the desk, a cactus plant (that is pretty cool to see), even plucking the Emmy on the desk.
The final piece is a John Cage composition. It is the first part of a longer piece called “Living Room Music.” Back in the early 40s Cage wrote a piece called “Living Room Music” which was supposed to take place in a living room. And this is our living room. They play the first part called “To Begin.” It’s just under a minute, but the sounds they get from a waste basket (like a bass drum), a package of paper towels, a stapler, the desk and the coffee mug is really cool.
Even people who don’t like John Cage have to appreciate what he was going for with this kind of music.
[READ: March 3, 2016] Johnny Boo & The Happy Apples
In this third book of the series, Johnny Boo, Squiggle and the Ice Cream Monster are back.
Johnny eats some ice cream and then shows off how strong it has made him. But when Squiggle accidentally “pops” Johnny’s muscle and it gets all floppy, there is much concern. Things are even worse for Johnny when the ice cream monster (from the first book) comes and shows off his huge muscles that he got from eating apples. If Squiggle laughs at Johnny’s floppy muscle you know there will be hurt feelings. And there are.
Johnny runs off to find some happy apples to make his muscles strong, but he winds up eating apples from the ground, which makes his muscles super floppy (pretty hilarious looking).
Johnny needs some help getting a giant apple out of the tree. But Squiggle won’t use his twinkle power to fly that high because it is Wednesday (there’s some amusing days of the week jokes in this book).
And then comes the misunderstanding with the Ice Cream Monster. In the first book, the Ice Cream Monster accidentally ate Squiggle, but in this book, he tries to eat both of them (he needs ice cream). This time we see inside of the Ice Cream Monster! (Ew).
Overall, this book is not quite as good as the other two–there’s some funny jokes but the book feels shorter somehow.
The complete text of the John Cage spoken word section is here. It comes from “Silence : lectures and writings” (I don’t really know how the line breaks or numbers (minutes?) are supposed to work. The reproduction was definitely unclear.
45′ FOR A SPEAKER
12’00” It is the continuity of a
piece of music.
when it is necessary.
A fugue is a more complicated game; but
10″ it can be broken up by a single sound,
say, from a fire engine.
30″ getting sleepy & so on.
Very frequently no one knows that
contemporary music is or could be
He simply thinks it was irritating. ( Clap )
Irritating one way or another
40″ that is to say
keeping us from ossifying.
It may be objected that from this point
of view anything goes. Actually
anything does go, — but only when
nothing is taken as the basis. In an utter emptiness
50″ anything can take place.
The feeling we are
13’00” that is a pleasure
which will continue. Why?
The way to test a modern painting is this : If
it is not destroyed by the action of
shadows it is genuine oil painting.
10″ A cough or a baby crying will not
ruin a good piece of modern music.
This is ‘s Truth. As contemporary music
goes on changing in the way I am changing it
what will be done is to more & more completely liberate sounds.
Of course you do know structure is the division
20″ of whatever into parts. Last year when I talked
here I made a short talk. That was because I
was talking about something; but this year I
am talking about nothing and of course
will go on. Magnetic tape music makes it clear we
Let your ears send a
message of surprise or perplexity. That’s the Way.
Was asked: “Dr. Suzuki, what is the difference between
men are men & mountains are mountains before studying Zen
& men are men & mountains are mountains after studying Zen?” It is not a question of
50″ going in to oneself or out to the world. It is
rather a condition of fluency that’s in and out.
Need I quote Blake? Certainly not. Spots are spots
and skill’s needed to turn them to the point
WOO” Tape music requires multiple loud-speakers.
And it seems to me I could listen forever to
Japanese shakuhachi music or the Navajo
Yeibitchai or I could sit or stand
near Richard Lippold’s “Full Moon”
10″ any length of time.
But those beauties —
Formerly for me
time-length was a constant. Now it, too,
20″ like everything else, changes.
Beginning of the
of the fourth
Yes it is. Masterpieces &
geniuses go together and when, by running from
one to the other, we make life safer than it
actually is, we’re apt never to know the dangers
of contemporary music. When I wrote the Imaginary Landscape
50″ for twelve radios, it was not for the purpose of
shock or as a joke but rather to increase the
unpredictability already inherent in the situation
through the tossing of coins. Chance,
to be precise, is a leap, provides a leap out
of reach of one’s own grasp of oneself. Once
15’00” done, forgotten. One thing to do with time
is this: Measure it. (Slap table)
“Cultivate in yourself a grand similarity
with the chaos of the surrounding ether; un-
loose your mind, set your spirit free. Be
still as if you had no soul. Every one returns
10″ to its root, & does not know. If they knew, they
would be leaving it.” Structure. Given a number
of actually active points, they are an aggregate, a
constellation, they can move about among themselves
and it becomes necessary to classify the kinds
of aggregates, say constant and again intermittent.
One can hear a sound.
some music for carillon for Mary Carolyn Richards using differently
shaped scraps of paper folded and small holes cut in them
at the points of folding. Then used these as
stencils at points in time-space I-Ching determined.
If you are interested you can read a detailed
description of it that will appear
in the forthcoming issue of trans/formation.
When I first tossed coins
I sometimes thought: I hope such ir such will turn up.
‘Earth’s no escape from Heaven.
How can we speak of error when it is
understood “psychology never again”? It should
be clear from what I am saying that one’s one.
Counterpoint is the same proposition as harmony
20″ except that it is more insidious. I noticed
in 1938 that some young people were
still interested in it. “Greater earnestness
is required if one is going to solve the
really important problems.”
My point is this:
30″ various techniques can go together all at the
same time. Therefore this work, I am using
the word progress with which in connection,
has no organizing technique supporting it.
Giving up counterpoint
one gets superimposition
and, of course,
a little counterpoint comes in of its own
How I wouldn’t know.
17’00” The best thing to do about counterpoint is what
Schoenberg did: Teach it.
( Hold up hand, gargle )
I am still really
thoroughly puzzled by this way of composing
10″ by observing imperfections in paper. It is
this being thoroughly puzzled that makes
it possible for me to work. I am puzzled
by hearing music well played too.
If I’m not puzzled it
wasn’t well played. Hopelessly incompre-
20″ hensible. While studying music things get
a little confused. Sounds are no longer
just sounds, but are letters: ABC D EF G.
At the end of the journey when success
is almost in view:
I know nothing. All I can do
is say what strikes me
thinking has brought it about that actual
things that happen such as suddenly
10″ listening or suddenly sneezing
Not just tones, noises too! What
the physical action
in playing an instrument? Yes
now, my focus involves very little: a lecture
30″ on music : my music. But it is not a
lecture, nor is it music; it is, of neces-
sity, theatre: What else? If I choose,
as I do,
I get theatre, that, that is, I get that
40″ too. Not just this, the two.
50″ Art as art is order or expression or integration
of these. It is a light, the Chinese say, but
there is darkness. What is now unheard-of
is an eight-loud-speaker situation: to be in
the center of transmission. Sounds coming
from every direction. After eight give me sixteen.
Where is the best position for audition?
The corner where you are! It is understood
that everything is clean: there is no dirt.
“Then why are you always taking baths?”
“Just a dip: No why!” For me it is a matter
of getting up and daily, unless commitments.
That is finished now
it was a pleasure
Just the same only
somewhat as though you had your feet a
little off the ground. Now, at the beginning,
before studying music, men are men & sounds
30″ are sounds; this causes some hesitation on the
hero’s part but he finally acquiesces.
One of them said: He must have lost
his favorite animal. Another man said: No,
it must be his friend. “Do you only take
40″ of doing nothing, & things
transformed.” Think for
a moment about sound how it has pitch,
50″ loudness, timbre and duration and how
silence which is its nonexistent opposite
has only duration. Duration structure.
Error is drawing a straight line between
anticipation of what should happen and