conceptual main
ubuweb home

John Cage
Cheap Imitation

In 1969, John Cage transcribed a two piano version of Erik Satie's 1918 music drama Socrate. Merce Cunningham had choreographed Second Hand to the score, and Cage intended to accompany the dance with his piano version. At the last minute, however, the French firm that held the copyright to Satie's score refused to allow the performance. With an ingenious rewriting, Cage retained the rhythmical architecture of the musical lines, but replaced each note with a new tonal value, creating a melodically original work with an identical rhythmic structure.

John Cage: Preface to Cheap Imitation, piano solo (1969):

""The I Ching (64 related to 7 to 12 etc.) was used to answer the following questions for each phrase (with respect to the melodic line and sometimes the line of the accompaniment or Erik Satie's 'Socrate'):

1. Which of the 7 'white note' modes is to be used?

2. Beginning on which of the 12 chromatic notes?

Then, in [Part] I (For each note excepting repeated notes)

3. Whichh note of given transposition is to be used?

In [Parts] II and III, original interval relations were kept for 1/2 measure, sometimes (opening measures and subsequent appearances) for 1 measure.

This method may be used to imitate harmony, counterpoint, etc."


John Cage in UbuWeb Sound
John Cage in UbuWeb Historical
"The Music of Verbal Space: John Cage's "What You Say"" Marjorie Perloff
"Postmodernism and the Music of John Cage" Nancy Perloff