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Friday 17th August

August 18, 2012

Well its approaching 2AM and Julie and I have only just got in from a long night in London attending the John Cage celebration Prom at the Royal Albert Hall. The concert was actually very good indeed, some parts very strong, others not so much, but on the whole a very enjoyable and impressive evening. Particularly impressive was the way the event made such good use of the distinctive structure of the hall, which is almost perfectly round with a series of boxes rising way up high all around. Various musicians made good use of these little boxes throughout the evening, way away from the stage, so creating a strong spatial feel to the event, with the final realisation of Branches sounding like being caught in the middle of a massive Lee Patterson fried egg recording.

On the way home I was somewhat ill, and continue to feel pretty unwell right now as I type, so I am not going to go straight to bed. I may write a few paragraphs on the experience tomorrow, but will refrain from a review as such here because I am writing up the event for The Wire. To the many people I passed in corridors tonight and only had the chance to wave or say hi while moving, it was good to see you. To those that were there and I didn’t even spot you, well its great to have been a part of such a huge gathering.

Comments (2)

  • simon reynell

    August 18, 2012 at 7:39 am

    I’m so annoyed with myself. Having thought that I couldn’t make it because of work commitments, in the end I could have easily got there and experienced the event live, but I was feeling pretty frazzled after work, and based on attendance at previous Radio 3 Cage events, my expectations were pretty low, so I let the opportunity slide. Stupid! Usually the BBC treat Cage in a jokey, patronising way as a bit of quaint fun, but based on the radio broadcast at least, a lot of this was really well done and the curating treated Cage with the respect his work deserves.
    I’ve always maintained that most interesting contemporary music can usefully been seen as operating in horizons opened up by Cage’s thinking and music. This isn’t to say that Cage prefigured everything; he didn’t, but our understanding of contemporary music and improvisation will often be richer if we consider it in relation to his work and the key concepts he championed (indeterminacy, silence, noise, environmental sounds etc). He’s one of those figures who you shouldn’t just ignore or bypass; it’s often best to go through him to find your own path.
    The highlights for me were the fantastic performance of Branches, But What about the Noise of Crumpling Paper…., the Concerto for Prepared Piano and Orchestra and 101, but most of it was well worth listening to – which you can do for the next week here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2012/august-17/14218
    It’s a shame, but kind of predictable, that the quartet improvisation wasn’t stronger; it had some good bits, but was messy and unfocused in parts IMO. Perhaps the Proms will get improvisation right next time they try….
    Congratulations to Ilan Volkov and the galaxy of musicians he assembled for the event, and I look forward to reading your review in The Wire, Richard.

  • Richard Pinnell

    August 18, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Your take on the pieces is pretty close to mine Simon. The realisation of ‘Crumpling Paper’ was indeed wonderful, but made (and I’m sorry to say this to you) much better by the way that the small sounds came from points all around the venue, down amongst the standing audience and up in the boxes. I haven’t heard the radio broadcast yet but am very intrigued to hear how on earth they managed to capture everything happening.

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