Monday, 28 March 2016

49 WALTZES FOR THE FIVE BOROUGHS


There must be something magical about the number forty nine. Barely with the digital ink dry on the previous post- Dérive 49 - when this beautiful image appeared on one of the feeds to which I subscribe. The original impression of this image, pinned from cosmopolis49waltzesfortheworld.com, was a little small, but was annotated with this explanation:

John Cage's Graphic Score The innovative and influential American composer John Cage created a graphic score called “49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs” as a tribute to the ever- changing city of New York. He superimposed 49 triangles on a map of New York City, using chance means to determine the locations of each angle. The listener or recorder was invited go to the apex of each angle and listen to or record the sounds of the city in that place. *Rolling Stone Magazine, 1977.


There have been many iterations and interpretations of this score since its inception in the 1970s, and it presents an inspiring approach to urban exploration as both a productive and receptive exercise. The website http://49waltzes.com/ features an archive of geo-referenced waltzes as uploaded audio/video footage.

Presumably, the use of triangles corresponds to the time signature of the waltz, 3/4. It's strange though, that the pieces are not combined, that they can only be listened to sequentially. Surely the pieces should bounce around one another, perhaps an excerpt from each on every beat?

I was also remound (I know, I know, reminded, but this is a pet grammar project of a former mentor, Madamoiselle X) of the wonderful Vi Hart who has produced (amongst other things) a fantastic video about twelve tone composition. I've provided a link to the video which begins at the most relevant point, though if you have time I recommend enjoying the full thirty minutes https://youtu.be/4niz8TfY794?t=24m46s

Apparently Cage's vision was of other performers, listeners or or record makers to make transcriptions for other cities, simply by as"assembling through chance operations a list of 147 addresses and then, also through chance arranging these in 49 groups of three". It seems auspicious that this piece came to my attention as I begn to explore Huế's forty-ninth borough.

Some final words:

"Wherever we are,

what we hear is

mostly noise.
When we ignore it,
it disturbs us.
When we listen to it,
we find it fascinating."
-John Cage, The Future Of Music: Credo (1937)
Post a Comment

Share buttons