Listening Assignment
Grace Jencks

John Cage: Williams Mix

I would have been able to tell, without reading the wiki page that this is a magnetic tape piece. I have listened to several pieces before that sound seemingly-disorganized in a similar way. There are sounds in this recording that are very typical of magnetic tape music. What I find interesting is that this is “the first octophonic music”. I also find it interesting that what many people would see as disorganized and random is highly organized and thought out, divided carefully into the categories “city, country, electronic, manually produced, wind, and ‘small’ sounds.”  After reading this and listening, one is surely able to tell which sounds fit into which category. I think one of Cage’s intentions in composing this piece was to make people question what music is, broadly. Additionally, it was probably to make the first octophonic music.


Stockhausen: Gesang der Junglinge

It was said Gesang der Junglinge was the first time these contradicting forms of music were brought together: “elektronische Musik and the French Music Concrete,” it was clearly one of his intentions to accomplish such a goal. His primary goal was to create an electronic mass and have it be accepted as one, which is found to be controversial. I enjoy this music, thinking about the complexity of putting it together. I find it interesting that he included both electronically generated sounds and the manipulated vocals of a child. The combination and opposition of these elements is satisfying. After listening to it for a while, one can begin to hear how this piece is organized and patterned.

Luciano Berio: Omaggio a Joyce

The interdisciplinary nature of this piece makes it unique. The fact that it incorporates linguistic, anthropological , and musical elements is telling of Berio’s vast interests. Like the previous piece, Omaggio a Joyce is also an “electroacoustic montage.” It was clearly his goal to incorporate all of these elements, additionally, the inclusion of all of these elements make it interesting for the listener.  The balance between vocal and electronic elements allows one to hear the organization of this piece.

Milton Babbitt: Ensembles for Synthesizer

Reading the wiki page, I am led to believe that he felt the importance of his compositions did not reside in whether or not he had a large audience for them, his goal in composition this work was more likely for himself and possibly to have a dialogue with other composers. I find the complexity of the piece interesting, that he is very focused and aware of the difference in “pitch, rhythm, registral, textural, and timbral” content. He utilizes a range of these in an organized fashion. This piece is different from the last two in that it does not have a vocalist, rather, he works primarily with electronic content. It is incredible the range of sounds he creates.

Morton Subotnick: Silver Apples of the Moon

I believe all of these pieces can be defined as music, though some might not agree. All of these works are highly organized. Out of the tracks so far, Silver Apples of the Moon would probably sound the most organized to any listener because it goes through periods with steady beats. It was certainly one of his goals to fulfill the wishes of the recording company that commissioned him to do this piece. I think it is grounding that this piece has some regular rhythmic patterns. I think most listeners would find that aspect of this piece pleasing.

Alvin Lucier: I am Sitting in a Room

Luciers’ goal is clearly stated in the piece itself, to record his voice over and over in a room, to the point where you can no longer hear the words themselves, but the sounds diluting and reverberating around the room. I believe this can be classified as music because it is organized sound. Even though it may not be “pleasing” to many ears, it does have a form and a specific way of creation.

Terry Riley: A Rainbow in Curved Air

This is by far the most tonal so far. The fact that it is primarily in one key and uses minimalistic structures, often repeating, makes it easier to follow than some of the music we have listened to thus far. It was probably one of his intentions to create a complex-sound with a large number of minimalistic phrases overlapping.

Steve Reich: Come Out

This piece has a different and loaded meaning as compared to the others, because it is in honor of the Harlem Six, this was his primary intention in creating this work. He does this by using a sample of one of their vocals in his composition. Again, what many might not think of as music, this is highly organized and thought out. Reich has done a number of pieces where vocals, or other sounds, begin in sync and then slowly separate from one another; a difficult task. This piece does have musicality solely in that.

Brian Eno: Atmospheres

Atmospheres is more reminiscent of film or videogame music than the others. I think this form of music is something more people would enjoy, because it is more tonal, it does follow more patterns, and it does have traceable melodies. It may have been Eno’s goal to create music that could still be seen as electronically experimental, but still pleasing to a broader audience of listeners.

Beatles: Tomorrow Never Knows

Though this song is unorthodox in many ways, the core of it is simple- mostly centered around C chords and with a repetitive, simple, and catchy melody. The complexity comes in the seemingly improvised and experimental instrumental sections between lyrical content. I think it was probably one of their objectives to create music that they were not typically thought of making, by exploring electronic while still using a range of acoustic elements. This song seems to be as much about the process of creation as the final product, if not more.
Afrika Bambaataa: Looking for the Perfect Beat

This, and the last track, probably interest a wider audience because they have a regular beat and modes of organization that are closer to people’s typical musical vocabulary and therefore elicit more of an emotional response and/or connection to the song. The fact that they are repetitive is helpful for the listener to grasp on. It seems like the objective in writing music with turn table samples and other electronic elements was a stylistic choice to make this group stand out.