Saturday, November 28, 2015

Playlist

Live


November 21, 2015
Finnegans Wake Chapter 1 - James Joyce - Neal Kosály-Meyer
Gallery 1412, Seattle

The small performance space allowed a deliciously huge unamplified dynamic range, with the piano's undampered reverberance coloring the whole in intimate detail. I've probably heard Neal perform this in public as many times as anyone he's not married to. With its stepped up pacing and minimal stage business this was easily the most enjoyable time out.

Recorded

November 22, 2015
Downtime [recorded live at SARC] - Benjamin Boretz - Ian Pace

threads of time enter fugally
discontinuities problemetize return
vast darkness
weightless strands float
delicate connections

No. 1 Phantom Killer - Ape City R&B [from The Funhouse Comp Thing]

The voice in the mix is not an instrument to equal guitar or drums or bass. It is just part of the noise generated among the guitar amp fuzz and cymbal hiss.

Elizabeth Hoffman
red is rows - Elizabeth Hoffman [from Milton Babbitt, a composers' memorial] - Conrad Harris, Paula Kim Harris

Wicked open string hoedown music. Hop-up-and-down fantastic. Now that's some noise!

November 24, 2015
Ma tu, cagion (Seconda Parta) - Gesualdo - Consort of Musicke, Anthony Rooley

obscure
through branches
a leaf

descending

mimed by a dancer's hand
in viscous
motion

Konzert in G BWV 1048 - J.S. Bach - Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan

This production is conceived as an orchestra of groups, not of individuals. It keeps the listener at a remove from the performers. We can hear all the familiar bits going on, but none of it really happens.

Petites Pieces "La Complaisante" Wq. 117.28 - C.P.E. Bach - Miklos Spanyi

A little caricature for private amusement. The human size of it appeals to the neo-classical mindset. The erstwhile subject is well fitted to the miniature sorts of social events available to music for clavichord.

Quartet in E-flat op. 17 #3 - Haydn - Tatrai Quartet
Concerto in C K. 503 (#25) - Mozart - English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner, Malcolm Bilson

Mozart's imagination, in default mode, is decorative: the aim is to make time lovely, to beguile and delight us. That deeper wonders can be found here is itself a deep wonder.

In Session at the Tintinabulary

November 22, 2015
Trio 151122 - Keith Eisenbrey

This week's trio was for tam tam, wood drum (like a small conga), and steel string acoustic guitar.

November 23, 2015
Banned Telepath 41 Seattle 151123 - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey, Steve Kennedy

We're waiting for Aaron's contribution from Somerville to complete Banned Rehearsal 899.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Playlist

Special

I was recently invited to submit a piece for consideration on an album review website. The writing prompt was "20 years ago today". I chose not to rework my essay to fit their mission, so I offer it here instead.

Sleater-Kinney (1995) by Sleater-Kinney
the clytemnestri

Sleater-Kinney's 1995 album Sleater-Kinney clocks in at just over 20 minutes, a good solid set for a dive bar, welcome not overstayed, time to break a string or two if necessary. The engineering of the whole is echt mid-'90s garage band, allowing in aspects of live performance sound - the band always essentially the same, amps have hum, the snare drum responds to feedback, count-offs are left in, session sounds intrude. It transpires in a believable place, a room one could imagine being in, restrooms in the back, plastered with band stickers and graffiti. So far, so good; it could be many another album by many another local outfit of the time. It has refreshingly strident feminist politics going for it, but the words don’t account for the punch. It’s a structure first, message and narrative a distant second. It isn’t a haunted house – it’s a house, haunted.

The first song, "Don't Think You Wanna," establishes the vocabulary and the procedure. In each of the first three segments the voice increases intensity and lifts its placement in pitch, staking out three carefully calibrated modes of vocal projection. The first, ‘A’, is a seething simmer, close to the microphone, the second ‘B’, full boil, belted to the back of the hall, the third, ‘C’, a stiletto scream. This is then repeated in a simple 'A B C A B C' pattern. The song ends, truncated, with the 'A' segment, as though it could repeat as many times as wished, while leaving a space open for the next song, "The Day I Went Away," which picks up in a similar 'A'-type vocal space. But here each 4-bar phrase is divided into two parts, with the higher, more intense, 'B'-type vocal joining with ‘A’ on the second half. This doubling functions as an acceleration of the pattern of increasing intensity in the context of the song as a whole, and could be regarded as a new, synthetic, vocal space in its own right. When the chorus arrives, predictably, at 'C'-type levels, the empty spaces between each two-syllable cheer ("So far! . . . So good! . . .") bifurcate the time-span similarly. The lingering effect, in each song, is of a static orbit of vocal modes. The singer is caught in an inescapable loop.

Moving through the album, the stylistic range remains quite narrow. One could, with some ease, group the songs into just a few categories, based on how many vocal modes each contains, and which they are. The first two begin with the close simmer, and increase intensity in steps - we'll call it the 'A-B-C' type. The third song, "A Real Man," is already a bit manic at the start, and has only two vocal projections - a 'B-C' type. "Her Again" is 'A-B-C', but the 'B' is just a hair's breadth above the 'A'. "How To Play Dead" I'll call 'B-C', but things begin to get even more interesting here, with the 'C' a similar interval above the 'B' as ‘B’ was above ‘A’ in the previous song – one could regard it as a long ‘A-B-C’ spread over two songs. "Be Yr Mama" over on what I would presume to be the flip side, if this were vinyl, is 'C-B'. "Sold Out" is essentially 'C-C', with a dip into 'B'. It can be seen that through this point the lean has been toward 'C'.

The next two songs, "Slow Song" ('B-B') and "Lora's Song" ('A?-B'), are easily the most interesting as individual songs, and in the context they act as a retrenchment, as the last bits of near sanity before all mythic hell breaks loose. The tunes are recognizably tunes, even exhibiting some show-off vocal moves, such as the fragment of yodel in "Lora's Song."

ABC, ABC, BC, ABC, BC, CB, CC, BB, AB - each successive song feeds on the types that came before. Each song precisely patterned, each mode of ever so exact a grade. It is the slow circling of subtle variations of these modes among the gathering songs that set the stage for the raw, hot-blooded evisceration of the last song, "The Last Song," the vocal types reduced to just two, the first song’s trajectory telescoped here to 'A-C'; 'A' is teeth clenched, heavy with violence, threatening, close to the mic, and 'C' is a murderous blind rage, Clytemnestra bloodying up Agamemnon across the street in a parking lot at 2 AM.
Tick Tally (by Elaine B)

Recorded

November 19, 2015
Out Back - Elaine Barkin [from Open Space 3]

Clear and sane. Nothing in this comes up to shake your hand to say hey there hi there I'm here to please. There are some things that might not be things on some walls that may or not form a room or space to be. It's up to you. Even its sense of its own openness is open to alternate thought.

Fired Up - Moe Tucker [from Moe Tucker I Feel So Far Away Anthology 1977-1998]

Keeping it in line. in line. in line.

Banned Rehearsal 413 - February 1996 - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey, Anna K, Aaron Keyt, Neal Kosály-Meyer


Dynamite opening, as though hovering over a downbeat forestalled past possibility. If we talk at each other long enough we won't notice that we have been left behind by our ground. As it moves along it remains focused all on a center of sound, pressing it together for maximum density at the core. When the center is lost, as they all are eventually, we flail to find a new one. Now we occupy a narrow space, each considering aloud for one's each own self what melody might be. It ends more relaxed, after 46 minutes transpire, but the relaxing is exactly gradual.

In Session at the Tintinabulary

November 15, 2015
Trio 151115 - Keith Eisenbrey

Xylophone, washtub bass, radio. Who could ask for a better ensemble?

November 16, 2015
Gradus 279 - Neal Kosály-Meyer

Pulling at an infinite tangle of weedchoke.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Playlist

Recorded

November 9, 2015
Homesickness Blues - Nora Bayes [from Alan Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]

Orchestrated and arranged, done-up all proper, but not so tightly bolted together that it doesn't allow lots of give.

Marche Triomphale du Centenaire de Napoleon I - Louis Vierne - Auburn Symphony Orchestra,
Albert Dieudonné
Stewart Kershaw, David Di Fiore

I kept thinking of the scene in Abel Gance's Napoleon where Napoleon (Albert Dieudonné) visits, at midnight, the assembly room where the great figures of the revolution argued. Their ghosts appear one after the other bidding Napoleon to take up the mantel of the revolution for them - the spectral-heroic.

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra - Copland - Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Gerard Schwarz, Lorin Hollander

Lorin Hollander
This is among my favorite recordings of Copland, right up there with Bernstein's Billy The Kid. What takes it over the top is Lorin Hollander's unhinged swing, as though Robert Johnson's poly-tempi had been wound up way too tight. The piano could shatter at any moment.

Bacchus et Ariane - Albert Roussel - Orchestre National de France, Georges Pretre

Program music has become illustration, in the sense that the style of the music is more important to the sense of what is happening than the story - you buy this book for the pictures, not the words.

November 10, 2015
Variations for Piano, op. 27 - Webern - Peter Serkin

A blank, a void of perception, every tune an attempt to enlighten, but the void is always just to the side, inaudible.

Suite 8 - Artie Shaw [from Alan Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]

Movie credit music, after which we find ourselves in a hoppin' joint for the first scene.

Dodo's Bounce - Dodo Marmarosa [from Alan Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]

The piano solo has a swing that's like steady eighths swerving wide in a fast turn, just this side of disaster.

Music of Changes - Cage - Herbert Henck
Herbert Henck

Narrow focus, nose to the page, a feat of concentration. The relations among what is within the immediate juxtapositional neighborhood of gesture are so complex as to make larger frame structures extremely problematic - hard to see the jungle as an organism when we can only see three or four leaves at a time. Large structures, if there are any, become objects of statistical perception. Come in anywhere. Leave any time. Or: stick it out, hang in there, participate in its feat-ness. Aside: writing music that only an expert could play, one assures oneself of being limited to only those sounds that an expert would play. One can not unlearn how to play piano. There will be no sound that doesn't project precisely, because expertise can make one incapable of anything less (and reinforces the notion that anything other than precise is less, rather than simply other.)

(I'll Remember) In the Still of the Nite - The Five Satins [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]

Floating a tune around a circulating pattern.

Crying - Roy Orbison [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]

An object lesson in vocal production - he can float that high falsetto D out there perfectly in tune, but the last A, being pushed in full voice, is way out of whack.

November 12, 2015
Revolver - The Beatles

If I had to pick a favorite Beatles album this would probably be it. It isn't that my favorite songs are on it (they're not), but that the songs are so varied, that they don't do each other any harm moving from one to the next, and that it doesn't try to be anything other than a bunch of songs. I love that the last sung word is "beginning."

Hunky Dory - David Bowie

Tries on every hat he can find. Some of them are genuinely icky-creepy. Ever the arch-projectionist, he veers just away from the pastiche-play of Billy Joel and into something more like a critical memoir. He doesn't just 'do' Cat Stevens, for instance, his performance is a commentary from within the persona.

Darlin' Corey - Shorty Ralph Reynolds [from Art Rosenbaum's The Art of Field Recording Volume 1]

Fancy banjo time, after which he explains his tuning. Art asks him if there are any other songs that use that tuning. Apparently not. That tuning and that tune are one and the same.

Prince of Darkness (Sinner, Sinner) - Bow Wow Wow

Spawn of Thriller.

In Session at the Tintinabulary

November 8, 2015
Trio 151108 - Keith Eisenbrey

Back to the trio project after several busy weekends, this comprises three tracks on a suspended plow disk, two gears from a tractor clutch (hanging from a two-by-four A-frame), and a tenor banjo.

Banned Telepath 40 Somerville 151108 - Aaron Keyt

November 9, 2015
Banned Telepath 40 Seattle 151109 - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey, Steve Kennedy, Neal Kosály-Meyer
Banned Rehearsal 898 151109 - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey, Steve Kennedy, Aaron Keyt, Neal Kosály-Meyer

Tambourines across the continent! Shake it!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Playlist

Live

October 31, 2015
The Pearl Fishers - Bizet
Seattle Opera
McCaw Hall, Seattle

Leaving aside the deeply uncomfortable in-your-face mid-19th Century European attitudes about the 'exotic', there were plenty of things to enjoy - intricate vocal lines, lots of choral singing, and a good mix of solos and ensembles. It is very easy on the ears. The effusive emotional palette was nearly drowned out by the sets, whose colors and patterns seemed intent on out-shouting the music.

November 3, 2015
Cristina Valdés
Meany Hall, Seattle

Cristina, as always, played with clarity and thoughtfulness, doing her utmost not to get in the way of what she's playing. Truly a breath of fresh air.

Cantéyodjayâ - Messiaen
Messiaen

A group of astounding textural/rhythmic episodes marred by a refrain that sounds thrown away. In the notes M writes that it "gives unity to the work". I couldn't think of why such fabulous material would need unity, exactly.

Tres Piezas para piano - Jorge Villavicencio Grossmann

An organism, spacious, chantlike, emerges from its own roots. Completely believable.

fardanceCLOSE - Chaya Czernowin

Contrasts of size, of registers, of clottedness and transparency. I could have listened to this longer - or again for that matter.

Among Red Mountains- John Luther Adams

Full of big bold changes that make little difference.

Grossmann
Variations for Piano, op. 27 - Webern

Folded shapes, contraptual, un-nesting themselves in new ways each time we pick one up.

Piano Counterpoint - Reich

Tuning dials turned here and there to pick out different parts of the spectrum.

November 6, 2015
Seattle Composers' Salon
Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, Seattle

Nadya Kadrevis

I was taken by the peculiar narrative person of this music. My first thought was that it is like a film score, providing a sonic point of view of a visual sequence, but a visual sequence that is very nearly, but not quite, in the first-person singular - the so-close-as-to-be-nearly-first-person second person, the music in the position of a close observer of a close observer.

Clement Reid

I had forgotten, or didn't know, that Clement plays not just piano but guitar too - a trick I have never been able to manage. I liked his notion of "clumps of ideas".

Neal Kosály-Meyer

This silence is your own.

Nicole Truesdell

Violin and piano each finish the sentences of the other, person and place spilling into the same cup.

Beth Fleenor

Beth brings more ideas to the table in 10 minutes than there are crickets in Tennessee. Pretty much leaves me, gape-jawed, astonished, eating dust. Love it.

Recorded

November 1, 2015
Trio in C minor op. 101 - Brahms - Istomin-Stern-Rose Trio

Development is explored as a deep unraveling, the music coming apart, forced asunder by its own flexing.

Peacherine Rag - Joplin - William Albright

Syncopation as a flavor of rubato.

Passacaille - Satie - Frank Glazer

Unravels more quickly than Brahms, but much more comfortable with it.

Symphony in F-sharp minor, No. 10 - Mahler (Cooke) - Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle

A first person account of the experience of dying.

First Movement: It begins by levitating, never sinking to the utmost bottom. The phrases inflate and blossom, impossibly large, in long ocean swells of rhythmic time. Comforted again and again. The intensity of the expression is the disease that consumes, lurks.

Second Movement: About the business of finishing up, assembling scenes, back stage.

Third Movement: Quick alternations of state, nagging thoughts intercut with other distractions.

Fourth Movement: Crisis, clinging to the happy place, adrift on the dire abyss, invisible. The motor slows to a stop, fading past nothingness.

Fifth Movement: The passage beyond, confused, as if hearing the undersides of the most recent fading past nothingness. Infinitely slow easing back into bliss, long melodies leap through realms of realms. Breaking through. Plunging in one dimension, suspended in another, the moment when the bass drum does not come in is the moment we realize it was not a barrier keeping us from life, forcing us into death, rather it was what kept us back, the last tether. Now we can go on.

In Session at the Tintinabulary

November 1, 2015
Tambourine Quartet - Keith Eisenbrey

Karen and I were riffing about a scene in the novel she's writing when out popped the idea of a tambourine quartet. Once an idea like that is in the air the only option is to act. We had to buy a fourth tambourine to fill the quota. Darn!

November 2, 2015
Gradus 278 151102 - Neal Kosály-Meyer

Atmosphere in the sense of a 3-D, or Music-D, map - parameters of sound indexing parameters of temperature, pressure, humidity, the shapes of clouds in sound.

Exchange (continued) - see part one here.


(Keith) Riffing in contrapunctilio obligato:
Neal Kosály-Meyer:
Except that it seems that you DO have a notion that has a quite particular meaning:   that of being amputated or severed from that which you don't wish it to be amputated or severed from, or of being the instrument or victim of murder.
Keith Eisenbrey:
I don't have a way of understanding it that I like, that I would want to believe Cage meant. I don't want to believe Cage is a monster (or more precisely, that this is a monstrous statement), but I haven't been offered an alternative.
N:
It feels more direct to me to think of the sound AS nature, or as just being itself, rather than being an emanation, messenger or intermediary.   As when Beckett said that Finnegans Wake is not about a thing, it is the thing.
K:
For me this ignores that sound only exists for us through mediation. Direct perception isn't an option (at least for me), outside of divine intervention (which I don't rule out).
N:
Using the trappings of concert music certainly thickens the plot, especially back in the day when musicians and conductors would ignorantly or intentionally sabotage pieces like Atlas.   Nowadays recordings like this one or the SEM Ensemble's seem to me to offer a different and refreshing thing that a set-in-its-ways beast like a symphony orchestra can do.   Hearing orchestras do repertoire like this well actually gives me hope for music and I guess for humanity.
K:
Played well or ill isn't the problem. Either way it has been sucked into the prestige factory, stamped with a brand name.
N:
Hearing Cage played well always feels me to me intensely human and intensely uttersome, generally requiring significant engagement, attention to fine detail, a respect for the composer and what he has made.   I guess I find it more exciting when what is being uttered is a sound formed and contemplated in as much detailed glory and mystery as is possible to form and contemplate, and often mysterious as utterance, just as often serendipitously connecting to the rest of the piece in a theatre or a phrase or an arc that can be as extraordinarily compelling as if it had been the result [of] an intended design, and often the more enjoyable because I know there was no such intention.
K:
I have never been convinced that there was no such intention, and yet I often enjoy performances of Cage's music.
N:
As indicated, I don't think sounds cannot utter if we're actually listening to them.   There is perhaps an implicit metaphysic in Cage that utterance, consciousness, feeling, thought are not exclusively human qualities or attributes, but are generally present in all things.   At least that's the way I like to imagine the universe, not privileging thought feeling and design as being things that only humans do, but as being inherent properties of all manifestations of matter and energy.   Can't be proved or demonstrated one way or the other, obviously.   Imagining it that way, for me, makes the universe more fun, friendly and less lonely, I guess.   Cage's music played well usually makes it feel more likely to me that this is in fact the way things are.
K:
So thought-privileged sounds, as sounds themselves, are utterances of themselves, utterances of their own thinking, and therefore have everything present in them that would be present in them even if you didn’t think of them as being only themselves. As a way of understanding what Cage meant it seems to me like a fancy way to have your cake and eat it too.
N:
I would argue that privileging thought, feeling, design etc as exclusively human, and narrowly defining "utterance" to conform with that is the more amputating and murderous act, and the sort of thing that defines what Freud called the General Neurosis, that which makes us, as Nietzsche would have it, the "Sick Animal."    I don't need all music to be like Cage's, but I definitely need Cage's music among those I hear and contemplate--for me it opens kinds of doors and windows OUT of the sickness that hardly anybody else's does.
K:
How did Freud get in here? Anyway, I don’t believe I privilege TFDe as exclusively human, but rather that human TFDe are a privilege of being human. The TFDe of other’s are distinctly other, fabulously alien. Corrolarily, my own personal TFDe are exclusively, ineluctably, mine, they are not those of others. When I hear the music as an other’s utterance it is precisely the otherness of that utterance that I value.
N:
I'd add that all of this very much validates and confirms the work I've taken on with Gradus.    Among lots of things, that project is very much about taking that Cagean sound-in-itself notion and carrying it into a way of playing which is not dependent on the strictly composed ways that JC employed.    Your continued enthusiasm for Gradus means even more to me given the frustrations you still have with Cage, since it feels like I'm managing to transmit what's most important to me about him in a way that you can receive without as much ambivalence as you experience with Cage's own compositions.   Must be doin my job.
K:
Please see my copious, frequent, and often enthusiastic, comments on Gradus through the decades. Apropos of this discussion, the greater part of my frustration with Cage is in understanding what he was talking or writing about. The music I have heard is (apropos of this discussion) problematic in the sense that I have trouble lining it up with (some of) the talk about it.
N:
P.S.   Felt I needed to add that my final response (to your bit beginning "If emptying the sound of its utterance-hood . . .")  was not meant to be as harsh or contrarian as it may read.   That came out because it hit me that the imagery of amputation and murder were reminding me of something on point, which was Norman Brown's close reading of Freud, Life Against Death, especially the sections in which he traces the early developmental crises and their culmination in the Oedipal phase.  Brown emphasizes that these are not simply "normal" developmental phases however universal, but tragic and traumatic experiences that each of us has gone through, and that the final result, the mature human ego, is in fact something which is profoundly amputated or castrated from that which it would be better not to have been amputated or castrated from.    Freud's heartbreaking insight is that we are as a species burdened with an awful and constitutional illness out of which it is difficult to see the way out.   Brown sees more hope than Freud, partly through a re-thinking of psychoanalysis at a social level rather than just individual, but also in ways that artists might envision different, healthier ways of being human.
K:
Freud AND Brown! Yikes! We’re not gonna have enough pie! I was the one who chose the murder metaphor, perhaps I can clarify with less dire imagery:
Scene One: I hear the sound of a violin. Is that sound the utterance of the violin or of the violinist? Which would I rather do without? Cage’s “the sound as itself” suggests to me he would rather have the utterance of the violin and do without the violinist. I come down on t’other side.
Scene Two: I hear the sound of thunder. Is that sound an utterance? If not, it an accident of the sudden expansion of an air mass, or whatever other materialist explanation you prefer. If so, of what (or of whom) is it an utterance? If it is an utterance then it is the utterance of something or of somewhom, of nature (as placeholder for any number of concepts concerning the greater other out there), of a deity, or of God. If I’m serious about it’s being an utterance then I must accept the utterer, even if I created the utterer on the fly from the concept of utterance itself.
Scene Three: A child says “I love you”. Sounds as themselves or child?
(Neal) Responds to Riffing in contrapunctilio obligato:
N:
Taking the liberty of removing one stratum (my previous contributions).   Hopefully things will retain coherence without it. 
K:
I don't have a way of understanding it that I like, that I would want to believe Cage meant. I don't want to believe Cage is a monster (or more precisely, that this is a monstrous statement), but I haven't been offered an alternative.
N:
Realized this may be an important question:   Which Cage writings have you read?   If your response is to a quoted “Allow sounds to be themselves,” rather than to the article or essay in which he said that, the whole context may help.   The pieces in Silence and A Year From Monday pretty clearly state his take on things, and have never come across as monstrous, at least to me.  If you HAVE read some of them, and your perplexity remains, here’s what I’ve got for you at the moment.    Cage’s attempt to remove ego from composition and playing, to let sounds be themselves is part of a tradition:  Buddhist, Taoist, Upanishadist, and in the west represented by Eckhart and John of the Cross, among others.   The Zen goal to see your original face before you were born, Eckhart’s “I pray God to rid me of God,”   John of the Cross’s “Nothing nothing nothing and at the mountaintop nothing.”   All the same idea and goal, and the crafters of each statement knew they were dealing in paradox, in that these are all extraordinary personalities working with extraordinary and very individual craft toward the goal of extinguishing ego.   And the Zen Masters, Eckhart, Juan and Cage are definitely smart enough to know what they’re doing—none of this is naïve self-contradiction.   Rather all share the intuition that this mindset is necessary to get where we want to go.
K:
For me this ignores that sound only exists for us through mediation. Direct perception isn't an option (at least for me), outside of divine intervention (which I don't rule out).
N:
As an artist I always want to transcend mediation whether or not that is possible.   Direct perception is essential (at least for me), and I must further hold that divine intervention is a constant, though doubt and worry about this point never leave us alone.
K:
Played well or ill isn't the problem. Either way it has been sucked into the prestige factory, stamped with a brand name.
N:
Don’t know that that prestige factory is any worse than any of the others.   We want connection, revelation, ecstasy, partnership with the divine, yet we must constantly deal with conformity, stupidity, bullying and branding.   To my mind it makes a difference anytime artists do beautiful things in defiance of all that.   I heard Seattle Symphony do that at least twice last year playing Messiaen and Ives.   That recording of Atlas likewise breaks through whatever cynicism or hypocrisy may be going on in that world.   As the Irishman entering the bar in the old story said, “Is this a private fight or can anybody get in?”
K:
I have never been convinced that there was no such intention, and yet I often enjoy performances of Cage's music.
N:  
I’m starting to get that what you miss in Cage’s talk about what he does is what he’s trying to do, as opposed to what he’s not trying to do.   So here’s my take on a positive, active intentional version of the passive/negative “let sounds be themselves.”   Cage is always attentive either to defining a sound precisely in space and time, or else (in the indeterminate works), providing an example, a direction, and room for a performer to similarly make a sound in as precise and complete a manner as is possible.   The freedom to the performer is exactly one more dimension of that precision and completeness.   Letting go of intentions (chance procedures et al) exist precisely to allow possibilities and detail that would not occur to a composer operating out of taste or habit.   Silence and space receive as much attention as they do in order to frame and give room to these precision made sounds.   Letting sounds be themselves is to allow them dignity as sentient beings—assuming they are only fit to be medium to someone’s message to someone else is from a certain point a view an affront to their dignity and to their souls.   They don’t exist to do something for us or say something between us.  Or rather we all exist simply to delight in and take pleasure in each other, leaving mediation behind or perhaps shining our mutually radiant othernesses on each other otherness.
K:
So thought-privileged sounds, as sounds themselves, are utterances of themselves, utterances of their own thinking, and therefore have everything present in them that would be present in them even if you didn’t think of them as being only themselves. As a way of understanding what Cage meant it seems to me like a fancy way to have your cake and eat it too.
N:  
Not sure what you mean by a thought-privileged sound.   I was using privilege in the way that “white privilege” or “male privilege” is commonly used these days, to critique what I think of as the privilege of solely human sentience, which I don’t buy, and which I think impoverishes our experience of the world.   Privileging human consciousness seems to me to only make us unnecessarily isolated and lonely, and generally and needlessly creates the particularly human malady of alienation.   Zen, Eckhart, the Upanishads, Juan de la Cruz, John Cage pretty much agree on the way out:  Let go of that privileged sentience and let everything else have it as well, which I’m pretty sure everything already does.
K:
How did Freud get in here? Anyway, I don’t believe I privilege TFDe as exclusively human, but rather that human TFDe are a privilege of being human. The TFDe of other’s are distinctly other, fabulously alien. Corrolarily, my own personal TFDe are exclusively, ineluctably, mine, they are not those of others. When I hear the music as an other’s utterance it is precisely the otherness of that utterance that I value.
N:  
Freud’s here because of his particularly and empirically founded theory of the General Neurosis, which I understand Cage in particular as being an artist who profoundly seeks a way out of it, rather than just accepting it.    In order to seek the way out he must enter that paradoxical realm of intentional use of nonintenion, of having nothing to say and saying it.   In this he did not achieve a personality-less anonymity, and that was not his goal.    His utterance is there in the tremendous variety of compositional means he divided to continue working away within this paradox, never assuming there was some mechanical solution, say simply using the magic square of Music of Changes for the rest of his life, or for that matter, making 4’33” and saying, “I did it, I’m done.”
K:
Please see my copious, frequent, and often enthusiastic, comments on Gradus through the decades. Apropos of this discussion, the greater part of my frustration with Cage is in understanding what he was talking or writing about. The music I have heard is (apropos of this discussion) problematic in the sense that I have trouble lining it up with (some of) the talk about it.
N:  
As at the beginning, I think we’d proceed more constructively if we had a particular piece of writing by Cage to chew on.   If you have a particular piece in mind, maybe we could talk about that one.
K:
Freud AND Brown! Yikes! We’re not gonna have enough pie! I was the one who chose the murder metaphor, perhaps I can clarify with less dire imagery:
Scene One: I hear the sound of a violin. Is that sound the utterance of the violin or of the violinist? Which would I rather do without? Cage’s “the sound as itself” suggests to me he would rather have the utterance of the violin and do without the violinist. I come down on t’other side.      
N:   
Cage nearly always wrote for specific performers and collaborated closely with them.   Solo for Piano, that extraordinary and graphically beautiful compendium of compositional techniques is essentially a love letter to David Tudor, made with his virtuosity in mind, his love of puzzles, and the implicit trust in that performer’s capacity to do wonderful things with an indeterminate score.   “Letting the Sound be Itself” takes a village, so everybody involved matters, composer, player, bow violin, room, air, tone.
Scene Two: I hear the sound of thunder. Is that sound an utterance? If not, it an accident of the sudden expansion of an air mass, or whatever other materialist explanation you prefer. If so, of what (or of whom) is it an utterance? If it is an utterance then it is the utterance of something or of somewhom, of nature (as placeholder for any number of concepts concerning the greater other out there), of a deity, or of God. If I’m serious about it’s being an utterance then I must accept the utterer, even if I created the utterer on the fly from the concept of utterance itself.   
All sound is utterance when we listen, and ultimately all sound is the utterance of US, by which I mean, I think, that the more attentively and deeply we listen the more the barriers and the distances go away, the more otherness either goes away or else becomes a radiant other one confronts, or possibly a systole and diastole of oceanic oneness and confronting radiant otherness and back.
K:
Scene Three: A child says “I love you”. Sounds as themselves or child?   
N: 

Both/and, and a gift to me the recipient and obligation on myself as the caregiving recipient to give back.   What if all things are saying just that, and what if we are actually in a position to speak that back to all things?   That child is very likely seeking to re-charge, and carries the hope of that oneness which we as parents actually have the ability to impart if we are attentive to those moments;  And then we have to be ready to let the re-charged child go be OTHER again, and not need to hold on to the union.  It’s a dance and it’s not easy to learn the steps, but I’m persuaded they can be learned.