I have nothing to say and I am saying it,
and that is poetry—John Cage
I was once told by the great composer and teacher Stephen L. Mosko that performing John Cage’s 26’ 1.1499” for a String Player would change my life. At the time I thought he was kidding, but in the years since I first dove head first into this monumental work, I realized that he was absolutely right. Not only did John Cage break up the life and death struggle between 12-tone music and neoclassicism, but also managed take over 2,000 years of human music and stand it on its head.
The pieces on this disk—26’ 1.1499” for a String Player with 45’ for a Speaker and 26’ 1.1499” for a String Player by itself—date from 1953-1954. Cage had in mind a large-scale work called Time, which was never completed and was to have included the works on this disk as well as other timed pieces for two pianos and percussion, all based on the number 10,000. By composing the work through i-Ching chance operations, restricting tempo interpretations through the use of a stopwatch and very specific graphic notation, Cage managed to remove the will of both the composer and the performer, putting the burden of interpretation and the search for meaning on the listener. Cage intentionally makes both works impossible to accurately perform so that each performance’s mistakes create a unique experience, and the performers’ struggles create the works’ tension.
Although more than a half-century has passed since the initial performances of these works, the music of 26’ 1.1499” for a String Player is still quite radical, and the philosophy of 45’ for a Speaker is as relevant today as it was in 1954. It is my hope that this recording will inspire others to actively seek out the music of John Cage and to embrace his thoughts on music and the world at large.
45’ for a Speaker
“Lo and behold the horse turns into a prince, who, except for the acquiescence of the hero would have had to remain a shaggy nag.”
Thus begins John Cage’s 45’ for a Speaker. 45’ for a Speaker was written for the Composers’ Concourse in London in 1954 and is comprised of several previous lectures that were fractured and rearranged by the composer using i-Ching chance operations. It is part of his Time series which includes 34’ 46.776” for Two Pianists, 27’ 10.554” for a Percussionist, and 26’ 1.1499” for a String Player. According to Cage, any or all pieces may be played separately or in any combination by matching durations. The version on this disk couples 45’ for a Speaker with 26’ 1.1499” for a String Player, which has been extended by adding several episodes of silence so that both pieces have the same duration. The text of 45’ for a Speaker addresses the music being played in 26’ 1.1499” for a String Player, and also contains such extraneous noises as coughs, gargling, and a lighted match. A stopwatch governs the tempo of the reading.
26’ 1.1499” for a String Player
John Cage’s 26’ 1.149” for a String Player is presented twice on this disk; once with 45’ for a Speaker with 19 minutes of silence added by the performer through i-Ching chance operations, and once by itself. It was written in 1954, though it contains five pieces that began the whole Time cycle in 1953. The work can be played on any 4-stringed, bowed instrument—in this case a double bass—and uses a stopwatch that governs events written in graphic notation. Sound events are marked very precisely in terms of what is to be played, how it is to be played, where it is to be played, the duration, and the dynamics. Each performance of 26’ 1.1499” for a String Player is different due to the constantly changing tuning of the instrument, and the fact that Cage intentionally made the work unplayable. The tension in the work arises from the performer’s frantic attempts to play every note.
Tom Peters, Double Bass
Tom Peters is a double bass soloist known for his interpretations of contemporary music. He takes a special interest in music for double bass and electronics. His concerts have been broadcast over Nordwest Radio in Germany, and he has premiered solo works for the bass by composers such as Mary Lou Newmark, Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, Eric Schwartz, Alex Shapiro, Richard Derby, and Robin Cox. Tom is a member of GRAMMY-winning Southwest Chamber Music, the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, and Ensemble Green. He is on the faculty of the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University, Long Beach, and is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music.
John Schneider, Speaker
John Schneider is an internationally recognized guitarist, composer, author and broadcaster whose weekly television and radio programs have brought the sound of the guitar into millions of homes for the past thirty years. He holds a Ph.D. in Physics & Music from the University of Wales, music degrees from the University of California and the Royal College of Music [London], and is past President of the Guitar Foundation of America. A specialist in contemporary music, Schneider\'s The Contemporary Guitar (University of California Press) has become the standard text in the field