Titles by Category

Here's news about high-definition video disc ("HDVD") recordings of opera, ballet, classical music, plays, fine-art documentaries, and paintings. In the journal below are independent (and hard-to-find critical) reports on hundreds of HDVDs. Pick the best titles for your excelsisphere.

Feb 11.  Finally we have a good grade (A-) to brag about for the new Don Quixote from the Vienna State Ballet.  Recently we posted a F+ grade for the new C Major Bruckner Symphony 3 and an F- grade for that C Major Mahler S1-10 Box performed by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. How can a major publishing house turn out something that gets an F-?

We recently posted more than you wanted to know about that Brahms Cycle Box from Belvedere. Now you can buy the 3 discs in the box independently. We bunched the 4 different deals together near the top of the Journal.

We just updated our manifesto about the best ballet and dance videos.

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Entries in Mode (1)

Thursday
Nov092017

John Cage - Music for Speaking Percussionist

John Cage Music for Speaking Percussionist compilation. (Also called The Works for Percussion 4 by Mode Records). Performed 2010-2011 at the University of California, San Diego. Features percussionists Bonnie Whiting and Allen Otte. Recorded and edited by Josef Kucera; directed, filmed, and edited by Anton Cabaleiro; produced by Allen Otte and Brian Brandt. Released 2017, disc has uncompressed 48kHz/24-bit PCM stereo sound. (We usually exclude Blu-ray titles with only stereo sound. But we do make exceptions for classical music soloists when the recording otherwise has some special merit. Here we have a famous [among lovers of contemporary music anyway] percussionists performing rarely [or never-before] recorded works with instruments that would probably not benefit much or at all from surround sound. (This is our first title from Mode Records, which is the brainchild of Brian Brandt. Brandt is himself interviewed in another Blu-ray on our Alphlist, the John Cage - Journeys in Sound from Accentus Recordings.)  Grade: A-

There are five pieces of music on this disc:

  • A Flower. (1950) A short "traditional piece" composed by Cage played by singing while tapping on the closed keyboard lid of a piano.
  • The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs. (1942) Another short Cage piece for singer and closed-keyboard-lid.
  • 51'15.657'' for a speaking percussionist by Bonnie Whiting. (2010) Note that "51'15.657'' refers to the length of the piece - 51 minutes and 15.657 seconds. 
  • Music for Two (By One) by Bonnie Whiting. (2011) The two Whiting works are "mashups" of pieces previously written by Cage. These previously-written Cage pieces were not meant to played straight through. Cage intended that future composers would take excerpts from them, combine them in different ways, and take credit for the new work.
  • Connecting Egypt to Madison through Columbus Ohio, Cage, and the History of the American Labor Movement by Allen Otte. (2011) This piece lasts 7'18" and incorporates Music for Marcel Duchamp and Variations 2 by Cage.

The disc also has a valuable 73-minute extra feature of a conversation between Whiting and Otte (her former professor) in which they discuss how Cage notated the works listed above and how he intended them to be used. Finally, the keepcase booklet has 10 (CD sized) pages of information in small print about Cage's composition methods and how performers today turn the scores into performances.

This title will be a special treat for fans of Cage and contemporary music. It can also serve as an excellent introduction to Cage for adventuresome viewers who have maybe heard about Cage but don't know what all the fuss is about. Or was about---Cage started inventing his music before before broadcast TV (in black and white) arrived and he died in 1992. He is now called "post-war (that's WWII) avant garde."

Time for screenshots. Below is Bonnie Whiting playing A Flower on a closed piano. This was invented for 2 performers, a singer and pianist, but Bonnie does it all. Why "invented" in the previous sentence? Schoenberg, who was for sure a composer, helped train Cage. Because Cage had little interest in harmony, Schoenberg called him an "inventor" rather than composer:

A close-up of Whiting as she sings A Flower (which is a song without words):

Below is the complete rig for 51'15.657'' for a speaking percussionist, which includes traditional instruments along with quite a few everyday household objects like pot lids. Apparently Cage did not specify what instruments the performer would use for 51'15.657'' and Music for Two (By One) except to require one or more instruments that are made of metal, wood, skin (drum), or something else.  In the image below, Whiting speaks, rather dramatically, about the philosophy of music creation (we think) :

A better shot of the chandelier of what appears to be cooking containers and pot lids. Also you can see a blue and pink buzzer from the children's game Taboo:

 

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