Apps

Solo for Piano app
Concert Player app

Solo for Piano app

The Solo for Piano app is a tool to gain a better understanding of John Cage’s Solo for Piano: to interact and play with, to try out possibilities for performance, and to generate music which may be used in performance. It is designed to be used by anyone interested in Cage’s music: children, students, amateur and professional musicians. The score for the Solo for Piano can be interpreted in many ways and at different levels of difficulty: it is often thought of as a compendium or an encyclopaedia of notations from which, in Cage’s words, ‘the pianist is free to play any elements of his choice, wholly or in part and in any sequence’. The individual notations also offer varying degrees of freedom to the pianist; however, all need to be interpreted according to a set of instructions Cage provides, some of which are very clear, others of which are rather more cryptic. The app presents each of the 84 notations, as well as their repetitions, both offering randomly generated realisations, and allowing the user to create realisations by making different selections within the limits of the instructions. It is not possible—nor would it be desirable—to try to fix every decision a pianist needs to make to perform these notations, so choices are limited to those which seem to be most central or relevant to the notation. Even then, limits and choices have needed to be imposed differently for each notation. Where decisions have been made which limit the way a notation might be realised, these are outlined in the commentary which accompanies each notation. Where the app cannot possibly contain the range of options available to the performer, details are provided as to the decisions made and which aspects left undetermined. While it is anticipated that the app will be used to generate realisations for performance, at the same time it is hoped above all that it is used in a spirit of adventure and curiosity, inspiring many more possibilities for performance than the app is able to offer.

Concert Player app

John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra may be performed in many ways: each part is designated as a ‘Solo’ and these may be combined differently, as solos (fourteen possibilities), as duos (91 possibilities), trios (364 possibilities), quartets (1,001 possibilities) and so on, up to the full ensemble of fourteen players. There is a total of 16,383 possible instrumental combinations though currently available recordings tend to be mostly full line-ups or smaller combinations and solos. Furthermore, the options of selecting material within each part are many, each (with the exception of the Solo for Piano) consisting of either 12 or 16 pages, which may be of any duration. The Concert Player app allows the user to explore any and all of the possible instrumental combinations as well as the number, sequence and duration of pages. The Solo for Piano is treated differently, as fixed sequences of pages arranged in fifteen parts, allowing the user to hear it as a complete sequence, from the first page to the last, page 63, if desired. Unlike existing recordings, each of which by necessity effectively ‘fixes’, or documents, one arrangement only, the Concert Player app allows the user to hear the Concert for Piano and Orchestra in a myriad forms and durations, creating a fresh experience of the piece each time it is heard. The sounds themselves are, however, fixed, interpreted and recorded by members of the ensemble Apartment House, whose time and expertise have been vital in realising this project, and in this way the app is also one particular reading of the Concert for Piano and Orchestra.