Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Feeling Uncultured? Go To the Symphony!

This weekend would be particularly good time to check out the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, especially since one of the works on Saturday's program is a piece that saw its world premiere here in Asheville back in 1948!

From the ASO's website:
Suite for Toy Piano

(1948) (orch. Harrison, 1963)

John Cage was born in Los Angeles, California, on 5 September 1912, and died in New York on 12 August 1992. The first performance of the Suite for Toy Piano took place on 20 August 1948 at Black Mountain College, North Carolina. Approximate performance time is eight minutes.

John Cage, America's most famous avant-garde composer, wrote his Suite for Toy Piano in 1948, the first year he taught at Black Mountain College. In an interview, Cage spoke of the unique informal collaborative atmosphere he viewed as a key to the magic of Black Mountain College:
What was important it seems to me about Black Mountain was the dining hall, because everyone had breakfast, lunch and dinner together. And the classes were less important than the meals. Because people lingered over the meals and it was there that the conversations took place. Every time that it's attempted to make Black Mountain over again, it's not understood that that all the meals should be shared by all of the people. But that I think was the secret of the success of Black Mountain.
In addition to his teaching, Cage organized multi-media "Happenings" at Black Mountain, in collaboration with such artists as the dancer Merce Cunningham and visual artist Robert Rauschenberg.
Also on the program is Beethoven's Concerto for Piano No. 4 in G Major and Béla Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra. (Interesting side note: one of the last pieces that Bartók composed, Piano Concerto No. 3, was written in part while he was staying at the Grove Park Inn!)

For more information, check their website @ http://www.ashevillesymphony.org/ or call 828-254-7046. (Also, if you're curious as to what the hell a piece written for toy piano sounds like, there's a streaming MP3 of a 1999 performance of Cage's Suite for Toy Piano by pianist Margaret Leng Tan available here.)

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