Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-01-18 - 9:35 p.m.
Vita and Yvonne have been to the Armani retrospective at the Royal Academy which they seem to have enjoyed. In a quiet house I found a new inflection between Hancock 13ths and the octatonic scale.
Using Uncaged, I am just recording 4tet in 4 parts off DAB down to CDR – filling up a disc which also has the John Gilmore programme from earlier today . The latter had some extraordinary material on it - like Sun Ra’s version of My Favourite Things with JG as a comment on the classic Trane version. The programme was very sharp on the distinctiveness of the Chicago scene in the 50s – the way that musicians would work across genres – including the new electric blues. Also good on the way that JG tutored Trane on multiphonics in NYC at the start of the great quartet.
Apparently in Chicago there was a legendary teacher who taught the young Gilmore and many more musicians who emerged as jazz majors . The pedagogue who may have instilled in JG a very structural approach – inverting and retrograde riffing. Trane had a similarly shadowy influential teacher in Philly around the same time who was deeply into global varieties of scales. These people have a lot to answer for.
The biography has a very good section on how Sinclair – the founder of the White Panthers and manager of MC5 – brought Sun Ra and the Arkestra to Detroit for a month in the classic period. Who knows maybe some space riffs found there way onto Norman Whitfield’s Masterpiece. Is Johnny Guitar Watson the same as Wah wah Watson?
Somewhere I have an mp3 which purports to be Sun Ra jamming with John Cage – can this really be true – does it really do what it says on the download?
Cage’s 4tet in 4 parts comes from the late 40s to early 50s period when there’s that heady transition from Sonatas and Interludes (recently compared by the Wire to a Love Supreme) through 16 Dances which is still working on Hindu theories of emotions into the I Ching, Music for Changes, Bauhaus influences, Rauschenberg’s white paintings and last night’s piece. The 4tet echoes Symphonies for Wind Instruments and the Mass where Stravinsky gets modern instruments to sound very ancient. Symphonies and the 4tet are both post-war pieces.
R3 suggest that the quietness of both the 4tet in 4 parts and the much later 4 which is also in the concert programme represent a stance against rhetoric. If so, there’s a lot more than meets the ear to the meaning of “rhetoric”, given the importance of verbal context to the construction and comprehension many of the other pieces. I have a version of 4 by the Ardittis – which is of course very different – alongside a pre String Trio LmY piece – about the only stuff you can get on a major label. You can hear the similarities.
Is Four the only Cage piece/piece set which shares a title with a bebop classic which might have been written by either Miles and/or Eddie “Cleanhead” Vincent? I can remember Mick Beck saying he once lured an Arditti member into his basement for a jam. Four makes you realise how Cagean “In C” is.
Richard Bengerfield has a leading role in the Uncaged late night performance of percussion music now finding its way to CDR. The last time I played with him was at an event I organised in the Summer in memoriam Regan – one of Richard’s contributions was to place a drum in the centre of the gathering and invite anyone at anytime to strike it. He lived next door to Regan von Schweitzer in Gfd and sometimes she would coax him down to Worshipspace so that Pete and I could jam with him – he was pretty good at it for someone with a musical education. Maybe I will drop him a note saying how much I enjoyed his work and throwing in a copy of 10 Short Stories. I have gradually realised there were Cageian elements in that series – like the time I took the opening sections of the four gospels and cross cut them.
Sampling on my mind – airsynth here we come. Regan certainly had a strange way with coincidences. She is implicated in Track 10 on the Dhorn page – follow the Highveld link at the top of this page and go to Music Making. I premiered Fifths at an event she designed.
The percussion party has some anarchic episodes – shades of the Futuristic Ballet. Mike Kelley was drawn to punk rock by seeing a rockband set-up as a Cage inspired sculpture.
Apparently the word “cool” has been tracked down to Lester Young as a possible originator. Or so say says Lewis MacAdams in Beat Bebop and the American Avant Garde – a useful source of biographical detail about Cage.
MacA points out that Young tended to start his solos some place after the first beat – to make the point that it was “his time”. I wonder if this analysis would be relevant to Place To Be? In time but out of place?
“Cool” does not feature in Cab Calloway’s 1938 Hepster’s Dictionary although “groovy” and “dig” are there. The book has some wonderful photographs – 52nd St, Juliette Greco (muse for Miles), Man Ray’s pic of Marcel Duchamp relaxing in NYC some time in 1920, the Albers arriving in the USA in 1933 on their way to Black Mountain College where about 18 years late Cage would meet Rausch.
Cage introduced Satie to the US via Black Mountain. In 1948 Buckminster Fuller played a leading role at Black Mountain in a production of Satie’s The Ruse of Medusa with set design by William de Kooning. Arthur Penn who directed Bonnie and Clyde was one of the students. Later that summer they all went on to make the first ever geodesic dome in the history of the world and there was a concert where Cage played Sonatas and Interludes which he had just written. Those must have been the days. Esp as when you got back to NYC you might bump into Stravinsky listening to Bird on 52nd Street.