Subtlety and Mr. New Age: John Cage

I’m not entirely positive that this is a slap in the face, but it sure seems like it.

[Pianist X] opened the concert on his own with an early Cage work, “In a Landscape” (1948).

You know who wasn’t born yet, in 1948? New Age pianist George Winston.

This is a side of Cage you don’t hear often, and you would be hard pressed to identify it as his work.

Possibly. Could you?

Its textures are gentle, rippling, vaguely Debussian, with simple melodies weaving through a tissue of arpeggiated, diatonic noodling.

“Noodling” is one of my top four favorite descriptors. Ever.

How odd to think that as a young composer, Cage wrote music that could today be mistaken as...

...as the back of Philip Glass’s (Glasses?) right eyeball? No? What, then?

...as the New Age meandering of George Winston.

Ugh. See? It just feels like a jab in the gut. Could Allan Kozinn be calling In a Landscape “New Age?” “Meandering?” Or how about “like George Winston?” Ever hear George Winston play?

Either way, I don’t like the implication; all three are pretty bad. It’s like, “How odd to think that as a young critic, Bernard Holland wrote reviews that could today be mistaken as the postmodern meandering of Allan Kozinn.” It just doesn’t feel right, for some reason. Subtle, indeed.


Empiricus said...

Qualification: the review is pretty good, otherwise.

Gustav said...

What Kozinn should have said was:
"I learned something today. I used to be woefully uninformed about the output of John Cage. Like most people I just assumed his music was all weird and stuff based on a couple of pieces I heard while trying to score with some chick in college. Well, today I heard a good piece by the man and learned that perhaps I should withhold my idiotic opinion until I know more about the subject."

And the new age thing? Fuck! Anytime you're surprised by a piece written 60 years ago!, means you are probably being stupid and should take a moment to reflect on your prejudices.

Anonymous said...

I think the food for thought on this one is Winston (new to me) does sound pretty good next to this Cage piece- at least to my ears. So maybe we can add to the list that Cage was masterful in new age piano music among the other things he's famous for!

Mr. Trend said...

what are the other three favorite descriptors?

Empiricus said...

You'll find out, sooner or later. No. I'll give one away: "sun dappled." Number two!

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