An Early Morning Cage

July 16, 2007 at 8:07 pm (music)

 

 

Yesterday morning, after a night of drinking, I woke in the early hours to go to the toilet. As I was washing my hands I heard some music and straining to listen, I thought, “that sounds like gongs, actually, that sounds like gamelan!” Immediately I turned off the tap in order to hear it better and I was surprised to hear that it was John Cage’s ‘Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano’. (To hear an example click here and when you get to the Amazon page click on ‘Listen to samples’ and you’ll hear what I’m talking about)

In these pieces of music, Cage puts nuts, bolts, rubbers and other small bits and bobs inside the piano, on the strings, so that when a note is played it sounds more like a gong, drum or saron (the closest western instrument is a Glockenspiel or maybe a metallophone but they don’t really sound the same as sarons have only 5 different notes and a duller timbre).

This music is not particularly common, so I was amazed to be hearing it at 5 in the morning. As I opened the window to see if I could work out exactly which Sonata it was, the music stopped; all I could hear were the birds! Confused and sleepy I thought that maybe I had imagined the whole thing and began to wonder “how much did I drink last night?” However, when I closed the window I could, again, hear the faintest sounds of percussion. With this, I decided to return to bed but I couldn’t help wondering where the music was coming from. My guess (and it’s the most logical solution, although I would like to imagine that someone, somewhere is recreating John Cage on their parent’s piano in the wee small hours) is that a neighbour is studying music A-level and is cramming before next week’s exams. This being said, I am given a glimmer of hope that there are other gamelan (and in fact Cage) lovers out there and when I returned to my bed, I slept peacefully, reminiscing about all the crazy and wonderful music I studied at school and uni. Good times.

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