Video Performance Feature:

"Credo in Us (1942)" by John Cage
     Performed by Third Coast Percussion


Mallet Selection for this Piece:

Orchestral Series Keyboard
Medium soft rubber. Full sound.
Head = 1 1/4" | L = 14 3/8"
  [enlarge photo]
Orchestral Series Keyboard
Medium rubber. Dark sound with clarity.
Head = 1 1/8" | L = 14 1/4"
  [enlarge photo]

 


About the piece:

Credo in Us is a musical composition by the American experimental music composer, writer and visual artist John Cage. It was written in July 1942 and revised in October of that year. In the wake of Pearl Harbor, this piece avoided the populist tendencies of fellow American composers at the time, while the piece's title is thought to be a call to collective unity.

Styled as "a dramatic playlet for Two Characters", Cage described Credo in Us as a "a suite with a satirical character". It was composed to accompany a piece of contemporary dance choreographed by his partner and collaborator Merce Cunningham and choreographer Jean Erdman, who performed the piece at its premiere in Bennington College, Vermont in August 1942. After the first performance the subtitle of the piece was changed to A Suburban Idyll.

PERFORMANCE DISCUSSION:



About the composer:

“In the nature of the use of chance operations is the belief that all answers answer all questions.”

In 1952, David Tudor sat down in front of a piano for four minutes and thirty-three seconds and did nothing. The piece 4′33” written by John Cage, is possibly the most famous and important piece in twentieth century avant-garde. 4′33” was a distillation of years of working with found sound, noise, and alternative instruments. In one short piece, Cage broke from the history of classical composition and proposed that the primary act of musical performance was not making music, but listening.

Born in Los Angeles in 1912, Cage studied for a short time at Pamona College, and later at UCLA with classical composer Arthur Schoenberg. There he realized that the music he wanted to make was radically different from the music of his time. “I certainly had no feeling for harmony, and Schoenberg thought that that would make it impossible for me to write music. He said ‘You’ll come to a wall you won’t be able to get through.’ So I said, ‘I’ll beat my head against that wall.’” But it wasn’t long before Cage found that there were others equally interested in making art in ways that broke from the rigid forms of the past. Two of the most important of Cage’s early collaborators were the dancer Merce Cunningham and the painter Robert Rauschenberg.

Together with Cunningham and Rauschenberg at Black Mountain College, Cage began to create sound for performances and to investigate the ways music composed through chance procedures could become something beautiful. Many of Cage’s ideas about what music could be were inspired by Marcel Duchamp, who revolutionized twentieth-century art by presenting everyday, unadulterated objects in museum settings as finished works of art, which were called “found art,” or ready-mades by later scholars. Like Duchamp, Cage found music around him and did not necessarily rely on expressing something from within.

Cage’s first experiments involved altering standard instruments, such as putting plates and screws between a piano’s strings before playing it. As his alterations of traditional instruments became more drastic, he realized that what he needed were entirely new instruments. Pieces such as “Imaginary Landscape No 4″(1951) used twelve radios played at once and depended entirely on the chance broadcasts at the time of the performance for its actual sound. In “Water Music” (1952), he used shells and water to create another piece that was motivated by the desire to reproduce the operations that form the world of sound we find around us each day.

While his interest in chance procedures and found sound continued throughout the sixties, Cage began to focus his attention on the technologies of recording and amplification. One of his better known pieces was “Cartridge Music” (1960), during which he amplified small household objects at a live performance. Taking the notions of chance composition even further, he often consulted the “I Ching,” or Book of Changes, to decide how he would cut up a tape of a recording and put it back together. At the same time, Cage began to focus on writing and published his first book, “Silence” (1961). This marked a shift in his attention toward literature.

In the ’70’s, with inspirations like Thoreau and Joyce, Cage began to take literary texts and transform them into music. “Roratorio, an Irish Circus on Finnegan’s Wake” (1979), was an outline for transforming any work of literature into a work of music. His sense that music was everywhere and could be made from anything brought a dynamic optimism to everything he did. While recognized as one of the most important composers of the century, John Cage’s true legacy extends far beyond the world of contemporary classical music. After him, no one could look at a painting, a book, or a person without wondering how they might sound if you listened closely.

For further study:

John Cage database
Wikipedia entry on John Cage
Wikipedia entry on Construction

 

About the performers:


Clay Condon, Robert Dillon, David Skidmore

and Peter Martin
VIC FIRTH ENSEMBLE:
THIRD COAST PERCUSSION

Praised by Time Out Chicago for “chops, polish, and youthful joy in performing,” Third Coast Percussion uses an impressive array of percussion instruments to create a performance experience like no other. With exceptional talent and dedicated artistry, this “sonically spectacular” (Chicago Tribune) quartet combines the driving intensity of drums, the beautiful warmth of marimbas and vibraphones, and the surprisingly exotic sounds of everyday objects to make music that is playful, memorable and profound. In performances around the country, the Chicago-based ensemble has swiftly gained national attention for effortlessly combining the energy of a rock concert with the precision and sophistication of classical chamber music.

Third Coast Percussion presents concerts for all audiences, from the percussion novice to the contemporary music aficionado. Third Coast has introduced percussion music to chamber music series in Chicago (Rush Hour Concerts, Millennium Park, Chicago Cultural Center), Virginia (Garth Newel Music Center), Pennsylvania (Dickinson College), and Wisconsin (Taliesin), securing immediate invitations to return to each of these series. TCP has also championed some of the most formidable repertoire for percussion including the music of Luciano Berio, Philippe Manoury, Wolfgang Rihm, Louis Andriessen, Martin Bresnick, George Crumb, Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, Frederick Rzewski, Toru Takemitsu, Tan Dun, and Iannis Xenakis. The ensemble is constantly adding new works to this already expansive repertoire.

Third Coast Percussion also has the distinction of being the only professional percussion ensemble in the country to self-present a full season of concert percussion music. In their hometown of Chicago, the group performs 4 to 5 concerts each season. The ensemble is dedicated to performing the greatest concert percussion music alongside lesser-known and rarely performed master pieces.

Highlights of the upcoming 2011-12 season include a major focus on the percussion music of John Cage in celebration of his centenary in 2012, and an exploration of the relationship between percussion and architecture through a new commissioned piece from ensemble member David Skidmore, in commemoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin. Third Coast is also active in developing new works. Future premieres include commissioned works by Glenn Kotche and Augusta Read Thomas.

The members of Third Coast Percussion—Owen Clayton Condon, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore—hold degrees in music performance from Northwestern University, the Yale School of Music, the New England Conservatory, and Rutgers University.

 



translate