July 11, 2012
Barge Music: Here and Now Series
Flux Quartet: Tom Chiu, violin; Conrad Harris, violin; Max Mandel, viola; Felix Fan, cello
John Cage “Centennial Celebration” Part 2
Barge Music always amazes me. It overlooks the Frank Gehry building and the ever-rising WTC as well as the river. The seats are nice, it’s air-conditioned and the slight rocking complements the music, especially this night, an all Cage night where one of the pieces, “String Quartet in Four Parts” (1950) had movements entitled “Quietly Flowing Along” and “Slowly Rocking.” I was surprised when they began playing the first movement. It was lovely with a melody and discernible rhythm, not just conceptually interesting. But, not for long: back to interesting by the second movement and on through the night. “Solos from Concert for Piano and Orchestra” (1958). Of course, there was no piano and no orchestra. It was explained that Cage wanted everyone in the orchestra to treat their part as a solo and this is what the quartet did playing each of their solo parts simultaneously using every extended technique (to my ears/eyes) possible, for example, scrapping, tapping, plucking, bowing on the bridge. They each used a stopwatch so they could tell where they were. Most of the sounds were short and sporadic. I heard the cello play a couple of long tones but that was it. Chris broke a string but kept on going and who could tell the difference -- not me. After intermission they performed “Thirty Pieces for String Quartet” (1983) which was 30 pieces in 30 minutes. They spread out on the stage as per Cage instructions to arrange themselves in some unplanned way. Again, way-interesting music and I wish I understood the concept but since I didn’t I just kicked back, listened and appreciated all that Cage did for the world.