In January 1859 the composer Johannes Brahms was the soloist at the premiere of his Piano Concerto in D minor.
In 1929 the composer Olivier Messiaen wrote his Préludes for piano using a system of modes, that is, invented scales, to determine the harmonic and melodic content of his pieces.
In September 1958 the composer John Cage gave a lecture at Darmstadt which consists of nothing but 214 questions, interspersed with quotations from other writings.
In March and April 1959 the trumpeter Miles Davis recorded the album Kind of Blue in which the soloists improvise not on conventional chord sequences but on modes.
In 1985 the American Ensoniq and the Japanese Akai companies marketed the first digital samplers, which could record and manipulate any sound and play it back from a keyboard.
In August and September 1995 I wrote Moto Interrotto, a semi-composed, semi-improvised piece for piano with backing. The backing consists of sounds sampled entirely from the human voice and the piano, except for a narration, sometimes electronically treated, made entirely of questions.
What is communication? Is it something made clear? Is what's clear to me, clear to you? If I say it as clearly as I can, will you get it? Or will you understand it? (I want you to get it, not understand it: understanding is the booby prize) How many times do I have to tell you, for you to get it? Will you get it the first time I say it? Will you even be there the second time?
What if I were to ask you 119 questions?
Is that a note? Is it a high note? Is it a low note? Is it somewhere in the middle? Is it in control? Is it in context? Is it in the right place? Is it random? is it pretty? Is it ugly? Is it true? Where does it go? Where does it lead? How does it move you?
Is that a long note? Is it a short note? Is it somewhere in the middle? When will it end? Does it change while we listen? Does it accord with the last note? With the next note? Is it random? Is it semi-random? Is it static or does it move? How does it move you?
Is that a note? Is it a rough note? Is it a smooth note? Is it a bright note? Is it a dull note? Is it a harsh note? Is it a sweet note? Is it somewhere in the middle? Does it blend with the last note? Does it contrast with the next note? Is it in context? Is it in the right place? Is it random? Is it semi-random? Is it pretty? Is it ugly? Is it true? Where does it go? Where does it lead you? How does it move you?
Is that a loud note? Is it a soft note? Is it somewhere in the middle? Did it surprise you? Did you have to strain to hear it? Did it shock you? Did it interrupt things? Did it annoy you? Was it out of context? Was it ugly? Where did it go? Where will it lead?
Are there two notes? Or more than two? Do they act together? Do they fight? Do they blend? Do they make a context? Are they random? Are they semi-random? Are they pretty? Are they ugly? Where are they going? How do they move you?
Is that a noise? Does it need to be in the music? Does it deserve to be in the music? Is noise music? Is this noise music? Is noise just noise or is it Beethoven? Or is it John Cage? Is noise part of the musical structure? Is there a structure? Can I see the structure? Will I ever be able to see the structure? Can I trust the music to have a structure which I may or may not detect? Will I detect the structure the next time I hear the music? Will the music have the same structure the next time? Will I even be here the next time? What is communication?
Is this music? Can talking be music? Is noise music? Is music music?
Cage said: I have nothing to say and I am saying it. Isn't this something? Cage said: Do you think serious music is serious enough? Is this stupid enough?
Recorded at St Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, London, 16th March 1999.
Engineer Mike Skeet. Produced by Daryl Runswick.
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