New lecture series begins with guest composer

COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS THE TWO composers, John Cage (left) and Michael Bach, pose in 2012. Cage is known for his non-standard use of musical instruments. Cage’s ideas influence young musicians today.

COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
THE TWO composers, John Cage (left) and Michael Bach, pose in 2012. Cage is known for his non-standard use of musical instruments. Cage’s ideas influence young musicians today.

ELIZABETH GARDNER
Staff Writer

The new music program began Thursday with the first lecture entitled Conversations on Music: Blurring the Lines Between Audience and Artist. Anthony Marasco, professor of music history, explained that the purpose of this lecture series is to bring new music to Scranton. Thurday’s lecture demonstrated a few songs that allow the audience to be active in music. Marasco stated that music is accessible, but not easy to create. That is, not everyone can read music or play an instrument, but the lecture involved pieces that allow anyone to play music.

The lecture began with the first piece entitled “Newspaper Reading Machine,” composed by John White. In this piece, the whole audience was given a paper with different rules and corresponding numerated paragraphs. One such rule was to mumble paragraph three but sing loudly the word “the.” Marasco gave the audience the cue to read all paragraphs one after the other. This piece was very interesting because everyone read at differing paces, which allowed the music to be more open-ended, and the audience became the performers.

The next piece entitled “Natural Resources or What to Do ‘til the Power Comes On” composed by Ann Southam included student performers. Because each piece of the lecture does not have sheet music, the composer provides a set of rules. For this piece, there were four students told to tap on styrofoam at the same pace using a metal tool. Then, there were students called placers who placed different objects for the other students to tap on. There was finally a conductor who told the placers how many objects each person should have. This piece was very unique in that it used household items and anyone that could keep a beat could play it.

The third piece was “4’33’’”composed by John Cage performed by Marasco and guest Composer Monica Pearce. The surprising aspect of this piece is that it is a piece of complete silence. After about a minute, the first movement was over and Marasco and Pearce explained the significance of the piece. They stated that what made it so unique was that anyone in the world, whether human or animal, can perform this piece. The four minutes and 33 seconds of silence may make the audience uncomfortable, but it reveals that true silence is hard to come by because sounds of our breathing or heart beating are constant.

The final piece entitled “Divertimento” was composed by Pearce and first premiered that night. The piece featured student performers and their cell phones. The students used their text tones to create sound while on the screen a prior recording of a group text message appeared. The text messages talked about a bike accident and included poetry. Marasco also appeared in this piece as Pearce played a music box. This piece was truly beautiful and well designed by showing that even text sounds can create a piece of music.

The purpose of this lecture was to reveal the types of composed music that anyone can play without prior music knowledge. Come see more of this lecture series, “Conversations on Music,” to bring a new appreciation for music to Scranton.

Nov. 13, 2014

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