John Cage

Happy Birthday!

Below is a score I wrote in tribute to John Cage, in this his centenary year. I may not get a chance to realize this score so I’m posting it up here for anyone to utilize. If anyone does realize this score let me know via the comments or an email. I’d certainly love to see and/or hear anyones attempts.

In recognition of John Cage’s frequent use of the I Ching for his ‘chance operations’ I chose to use it as a randomizing element for this score. I tend to not use the I Ching in my compositions; in the scores where I have used stochastic means I have only one other time used the I Ching (that was for Mid-Spring (rock, breath, 12kHz) which like all of the Eleven Clouds releases was dedicated to an inspirational artist, in this case John Cage). For this piece this would require tossing coins, or yarrow stalks three hundred times (for this year only, +3n for each subsequent year).  However one could easily automate the generation of I Ching values in such a way to accurately capture the randomness of tossing the yarrow stalks. This page covers the mathematics quite well and there are definitely apps and webpages out there to get these values. If I get a chance to work on this (perhaps later in the far) I’d implement this in a spread sheet where one could automate the entire generation process. Then one could print it out or preferably use it as a guide to creating the performance score with brush and ink.

I’m definitely free to answer any questions in order to improve understanding of how to construct or perform the score. Comments on overall clarity are appreciated even if one isn’t going to perform it.

One^n
(for John Cage on the occasion of his hundredth birthday)

 

Composed in memoriam of John Cage in his centenary year.

Constructing the score

where n = the number of years since the birth of John Cage

1) Take a large sheet of paper, the larger the better, and mark from 1-64 on the left edge and top edge. The marks should be equidistant apart with the same spacing on the top and bottom. For instance each mark could be 1″ apart making for a 64×64 inch grid. The spacing that you choose is the scale for this score.

2) Using the I-Ching (or anything that captures the probabilities correctly see: http://www.dentato.it/iching/) generate four numbers for each value of n:  i.e.:

1 – 23, 42, 9, 17

If there are moving lines then you should generate both values putting the second into parenthesis. i.e.:

2 – 61 (37), 45, 19, 40

3 – 29 (54) ,12(19), 4, 8

4 – 8, 13, 49 (3), 36 (23)

5 – 26, 50 (38), 13 (2), 12

and so on

These numbers should be labeled x,y, z,w where the four numbers are: x, y: coordinates, z: orientation and w: magnitude.

3) Place a dot of ink, ideally with a brush, but at least in some way that they are not uniform, at the coordinates of the first two numbers as x, y. If there is already a dot here, proceed as if there isn’t perhaps creating a larger, darker, thicker or completely subsumed dot. If there is a parenthetical value for x, y or both x and y place a second dot at that those coordinates.

Note: If one were to automate this with software cast an additional I Ching value to be used as the diameter of the dot. You should map the the value in the range of  1-64 to 4 x your scale. Changes in this case should either be applied to the second dot if it exists or added to the diameter of this dot.

4) Next mark the angle from z using the following formula using 6 degrees for each count of the generated number. Values greater than 60 should have no angle marked. If there is a parenthetical value then mark a second angle following the same system for the first.

5) Finally draw a line using either pencil or ink (or both) from the center of the dot at the marked angle the length of which is determined by w using the scale set in the grid markings (see 1). If no angle has been marked, no line should be drawn. If there is a parenthetical value then there are two conditions. If there are two angles then the two magnitudes are used for them in a one to one correspondence (and on all dots if there are more than one). If there is only one angle then add the two values together. This may extend beyond the marked boundaries or even off the paper.

Examples

With a scale of 1=1″

Ex. 1: 23, 42, 9, 17

Here there would be a dot at  23, 42 with at line at 454 degrees extending 17“.

Ex. 2:  61 (37), 45, 19, 40

For this case there would be a dot at  61, 45 and at 37, 45 with at line at 114 degrees extending 40“.

Ex. 3:  29 (54) ,12 (19), 4, 8

In this example there would be a dot at  29, 12 and at 54, 19 with at line at 24 degrees extending 8“.

Ex. 4: 8, 13, 49 (3), 36 (23)

You would have a dot at 8, 13 and then two lines extending out  at 294 degrees for 36″ and 18 degrees for 23″.

Ex. 5:  26, 50 (38), 13 (2), 12

You would have a dot at 26, 50 and 26, 38 and then two 12″ lines from each dot  at 78 degrees and 12 degrees.

 

Performing the Score

If playing electronics the score should be interpreted as an Electric Score. For acoustic instruments it should be interpreted as a Pool of Sound (a Musical Pattern variant), for which see the specific instructions below. It can be play simultaneously with other instances of this score, for which each performer should generate their own score.  A duration should not be set for performance, the performance should continue until all the material is performed.

 

I. Playing as an Electric Score

  • For live electronics setup configured in response to the score.
  • Markings are not indications of sounds to played but of overall effect.
  • Whitespace must be taken into account
  • There is not a one to one mapping of length and duration; duration should be sufficient to realize the affect of the markings.
  • Always move in clusters.

 

II. Playing as a Pool of Sound

  • Pools of sound arise from the space in which they are set.
  • Each pool should be approached individually with common or connecting elements providing the structure.
  • The path through the score is up to the performer.
  • Spaces between the pools must be observed and should be also be a structural element.
  • A pool should be thought of as a system which can have multiple elements: a sound, but also its duration, repetition, dynamic and so on.
  • How the characteristics are determined is up to the performer but whatever structure is applied should form the basis for those that share symbolic features.