Pritchett on Cage and Feldman, addendum

Further to our last post, on James Pritchett’s series of posts on his blog, The piano in my life, about the Cage-Feldman Radio Happenings chats…. Pritchett has just posted the final instalment, dealing with how he received the tapes of these conversations, how the gap appeared, and what happened afterward. We won’t say any more: Pritchett’s narrative is such good historiography — just a really fine story, actually — that we’ll leave it for you to read, here:…/how-i-happened-upon-the-happen…/

Pritchett on Cage and Feldman

The other week our friend Oded got in touch, asking if we knew about a new topic on The piano in my life on the four long conversations between John Cage and Morton Feldman in 1966–7, known as the Radio Happenings. The piano in my life is a blog written by James Pritchett, and Pritchett wrote one of the best books on Cage (it’s a classic: if you haven’t read it, try the Google Books taster: here). So it’s no surprise that The piano in my life is one of our favourite blogs here at the Experimental Music Catalogue.

The post to which Oded referred turned out to be the first in a series of posts about this conversation, starting with an article in The Guardian newspaper about the conversation. Pritchett took it up from here, about a gap in the tape at a crucial point when Cage mentioned Varèse.

JC: Everyone I mentioned that thought to is also struck, because those other ways of explaining Varèse [tape is damaged at this point; sound out for 15 seconds]. Do you suppose he didn’t know what he was doing? or knew what he was doing and didn’t want anyone to know?

This 15-second gap exists in the conversation as archived on RadioOM and Youtube.

However, Pritchett had a copy of the tape that included the missing comment, and this string of The piano in my life posts reveals the background about the Radio Happenings and what was in their conversations.

When Oded notified me of the first post, I decided to wait a while, so I could provide a link to the whole story. But now that it is almost complete, it’s much too good not to share. Pritchett has yet to finish his post, which will describe how he received the full, undamaged tape in a New York Indian restaurant. I’ll update you when he does so.

Boppin’ to the Great Learning

This morning I received the first rough mix of the recordings of the entirety of the full performance of Cornelius Cardew’s big work, The Great Learning, which we performed at the Union Chapel last July. Rich Duckworth, the recording engineer, has sone some marvellous work on what has to be one of the hardest works to record. The Great Learning uses many different performers playing all sorts of instruments in all areas of a very resonant hall. I have only heard bits of Paragraphs 3, 4, and 7 before this, and got to work immediately on checking out Paragraph 1, so it’s very early. But what I’ve heard so far is really, really good.

Since it is a rough mix and not an EMC recording, I can’t share what I’ve heard, unfortunately. There should be a CD in the works, though, so you will be able to hear what I’ve heard sometime up the road. And if we’re able to do so, the EMC will certainly make a link available when it is ready. But in the meantime, just to whet your appetite, here are a couple pictures from the first day….

Rehearsal for Paragraph 2 of Cornelius Cardew, The Great Learning
Rehearsal for Paragraph 2 of Cornelius Cardew, The Great Learning
Rehearsal for Paragraph 3 of Cornelius Cardew, The Great Learning (Richard Ascough in foreground)
Rehearsal for Paragraph 3 of Cornelius Cardew, The Great Learning (Former Scratch Orchestra member Richard Ascough in foreground)