Six Songs for John Cage

John Habron

Research output: Practice-Based and Non-textual ResearchComposition

51 Downloads (Pure)
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

Author's note: - Significance -
A centenary tribute to John Cage, these pieces interact with his legacy in various ways: the use of aleatoricism and indeterminacy (though not in typically Cagean ways); a concern for the beauty of single lines (as exemplified by Cage’s The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs); and allowing chords to result from the blurring of melodies rather than from ‘harmonic thinking’. My experience of Dalcroze Eurhythmics had a major impact on the pieces. Movement is central to three of them, which may be thought of as musical situations or rituals that ‘compose out’ the embodied nature of musical activity. My setting of Walt Whitman’s ‘For Him I Sing’ pays tribute to Cage’s influence on my musical and intellectual life. The setting of Miguel Unamuno’s ‘El Cuerpo Canta’ evokes the never-ending rumbling of the world and the call for humanity to listen; it also provides a Spanish language link to the circumstances of the premiere.
Rigour -
The six movements use different compositional processes. The letters JOHNCAGE yielded new syllables (e.g. JO, HO, NO, CA, GA), pitch material (figures, modes) and floor routes, which the vocalists move along. By writing over a grid of the new syllables (in a manner reminiscent of the abstract expressionist Jasper Johns), I also generated sequences of pitches. Limited gamuts of pitches are prominent, another echo of Cage’s early practice. The notational process was highly reflexive and ‘active’, resulting in a creative use of diagrams and numbers, as well as text.
Originality - This is an original synthesis of compositional processes and sources: scored movement and creative use of performative space (the singers are required to move, play percussion and use materials: newspaper, wooden ball) interacts with ciphers, techniques derived from visual art, and notations that variously guarantee unusual segmentation of texts and provoke fluctuations of texture, harmony and dynamic using only words.
A copy of the TV interview before the premiere is at:
These works are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. The copyight holder John Habron requests that the score is for educational/research use only. Use of the score in research must be accompanied by a copyight notice and attribution. It must not be changed, altered, transformed or built upon in any way from the original. It must not be used for public or commercial purposes or otherwise reproduced or distributed without prior written permission from the copyright holder John Habron:
Format: Score and CD
Extent: 25 mins for performance
Rights holder: John Habron
Part of series: Premiere and second performance (four movements):
vocalik at Museo de Arte Moderno, Medellín, Colombia (18/09/2012); in the festival 'John Cage, el Maestro de Azar Planeado'
vocalik at Universidad Central, Bogotá, Colombia (21/09/2012)

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