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    John Cage's 4'33 for skating - is it possible?

    I was planning to write a long reply to dinakt the Great Skater debate > Yuna shines in qualifying for worlds (closed thread) who says John Cage's 4'33 is inappropriate because it means no music, and not appropriate for sport. I disagree with this, so I thought it might be fun to ponder this issue a bit further, given so many music thread is already out there to do with skating, so why not one more.

    I disagree that 4'33 = no music, when it is written as a piece of music, performed as a music, with a full orchestral of musicians in support to realize it. It has a musical score, and has been performed in concerto halls (I attended one) so it does falls under music. Is there a rules in the competition hand book that says music must have sounds? I brought it up because our original post was about music intentions that are not covered by form. John Cage wrote this piece not because he lazy or gimmicky but there are there real important thought process and creative decisions behind them.

    Is silence not a powerful part of music? I see it is one of the most important part of the music, to know when to pause, control the silence, capable of taking the audiences on the edge of their seats (or doze off) , control their breathing, anticipation, quicken their heart beat. To enable the audience's imagination to wonder. To test if their version syncs with the musician's own. They are all made possible because of silence.

    Are silences all the same? Do they vary in tone, colour, ambiance, reverberation, impressions? Do they not vary on account to your spacial surroundings, silence in libraries, silence in concert halls, silence in gallery spaces, silences at skating rinks, silence during competitions as the skaters took their positions? Do you not hear your own heartbeat and other body sounds? How about to those who are completely deaf to those with perfect hearings? Does silence only exist in stillness, or do they vary in motion? Is it possible to hear music everywhere if you listen hard enough? From the sound of my keystroke on my computer key board as I type, to the sounds my radiator makes when it heat the room. The bird singing tells me it is morning. The urban sounds and rhythms as I travelled to work in the city. The ambiance rhythms as I rise up an escalator, in the park as I eat my sandwiches? These are the sounds of urban symphony if you only listen hard enough. I have brought the suggestion as I wish to repeatedly emphasized art appraisal at its highest level cannot be adequate by conventional methods guidelines, especially without weighing the pros and cons of different approaches, creative decisions that has entirely to do with the meaning and purpose the music was written about in the first place, and thus choreography movements and program construct that deliberate goes against conventions.

    This would be my version John Cage's 4'33 for figure skating. (work in progress)

    1st Movement
    Concepts: Establish biorhythm of the skater, focus on unique individualistic rhythmic signatures according their type of skating.
    This is about making the skater's best qualities shine (that separate them from the pack). They get to play with their blades like an instrument on ice together with movements, express different tones of the blade 'play on ice'. Maximise various specialist elements, showcase intimate relationship and skater signature with the ice. The rhythmic signature should outline the skater's favourite movements like music motifs. A Patrick Chan tempo may 'sound' very different than Hanyu's for example. Patrick may choose to showcase his long silent deep edges in footwork. Hanyu may go 4T3T2T1T or 3a3a just for the heck of it. How about Yuna's 3F3T 'sound' compare to her 3Luz 3T or her long spirals across the whole length of the rink without change of foot? Or she may do a fun hip pop version that actually focus entirely on the sound the blade on the ice to showcase the musical and rhythmic expressions before she proceed to the other 2 movements. (Sort of like if the skaters are members of 'Stomp' (Uk dance troupe that use ordinary object/body to make rhythmic sounding performances) and use the blade as a percussion instrument.

    The beauty of silence is that allows complete freedom in expressions but with key is to create steady visual tempo and rhythms through choreography movements. Every skater gets to own and show off their unique signature during this first movements like music motifs that emphasis on pattern, rhythm with blade and ice.. They can take inspiration from their own culture, favourite piece of music, fav performances. Patrick may be inspired by Montreal Jazz work and do a footwork sequences like Jazz tap shoes etc.

    2nd Movement
    Concepts: Speed, Power, Strength and Grace. An exercise in sporting performance, refinement and skill.
    After the initial set up of the piece, this part emphasis on sporting performance, in particularly jumps, quad, 3a, 3/3s, 4/3s, build ups, how they sounds, with/without transitions, how the sound of great height, distance, speed etc.

    3rd Movement
    Concepts: Finesse, control, speed variance winding down with firmer control exploring the romanticism of skating. Emphasis on smoothness of deep edge control, spirals, spread eagles, trace and turns footworks.

    All three movements should have visually distinguishable choreography parts that separate from one another. Good emphasis to explore the core concepts, variance in speed and expressions.

    The above are just basic conceptual framework, there are tons of rooms interchangeable upon the skater's and choreographer's preference and to fulfill the COP requirement. The work could test on Skater's impeccable timing and skills to listen the clocks internally as they skate and express without sounds in support. They can decide to play with the audiences and do some improvisation. For example, if they perform certain elements really well and received a round of enthusiastic applause, would they able to improvise and doing something else to build upon that momentum? It will challenge their expression and connection with the audience. Are the audience bored without music or can they continue to captivate the audience with their skills and the sound of their blades hit the ice? The sound of gliding, staccato during footstep sequences, deep edges, massive 3/3, quads in sequential? How they get to play the blade on ice like the most beautiful instrument in the world, display skating virtuosity like the skating rink is among the the world's best concert halls.

    A fun bonus work out of this, is to have the their 4'33 performance recorded and become a music interpretation of 4'33 purely by sounds not vision. It allows the audiences to appreciate the subtle differences between different skaters blades. The quality between 3/3s, 3Axels, Quads, hear, different skater's skating quality and imagine it in their mind no different than what how some music can captivate the audiences. Can they hear the rhythmic sound of their skate? All skaters can do their own version of 4'33, and be compiled into an album to hear the differences. How would Daisuke's version sound from Florent's version (who is super rhythmic). How about the bursts of sounds as the blade lift from the ice and then the quietness flow out of a Yuna's beautifully landed 3f3t with good distance, airs time, soft landing and great flow. Will the audiences able to recognizable sound between different skaters overall. These could all make sweet music to my ears in the name of 'silence', and I am sure for some other skating aficionados may do too.

    The philosophy of 4'33s in any case was suppose to motivate audience's to use their own imagination and judgement regardless of social conventions and other standard of believes. It is a music of chances which complement the fundamental of the sport well. Even athletes that have been trained at 90% consistency, subject to environmental factors, mental pressures, audience reception, may not deliver what they intend to. The sound of crowd reception should also be included into the overall ambiance sound of the recording. Just like the music intention should all be part of the performance of 4'33. One can almost imagine audience's anticipation of Patrick's version of 4'33 at WC, people will literally glued to their stop watch to see how the skater react to 'accidents' like if he crash into the board again or falls, whether it affect him in a big way and still make it on time at exactly 4'33? This work would be a great test to the skater internal musicality and artistry; and judge's aptitude for the arts and musical awareness paying attention to execution choreography movements and expressions.

    According to the rules, there is -1 deduction for going over the music by 4mins 30seconds for the men, so who ever risk this piece, will have to be willing to get -1 deduction at start. But given they get to break history and create new memories, it seems a price worth paying for. On the other hand, if they go over 4'33, there doesn't seem to be -1 deduction on top, so it is worth it anyway. Is there any additional deduction for going over the music by 33 seconds? Otherwise ladies can do it too (doing no required elements after the 4mins mark)
    Last edited by os168; 01-13-2013 at 01:47 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by os168 View Post
    According to the rules, there is -1 deduction for going over the music by 4mins 30seconds for the men, so who ever risk this piece, will have to be willing to get -1 deduction at start. But given they get to break history and create new memories, it seems a price worth paying for. On the other hand, if they go over 4'33, there doesn't seem to be -1 deduction on top, so it is worth it anyway. Is there any additional deduction for going over the music by 33 seconds? Otherwise ladies can do it too (doing no required elements after the 4mins mark)
    Actually, Men's programs are supposed to be 4'30'' plus or minus 10'' so there would be no penalty (on the other hand, any 5'' in excess of that rule would result in -1, so it wouldn't be a good idea for a girl, unless she doesn't care about her placement at all....)
    Last edited by rayhaneh; 01-13-2013 at 01:14 PM.

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    Even if there were a penalty for going over 4:30 (which, as rayhaneh points out, there isn't), couldn't a skater just wait until three seconds in before moving his/her skates? Or does the clock always begin with the music itself?
    I can call the moon a pear, but it doesn't make it so. -- kwanfan1818

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    Quote Originally Posted by falling_dance View Post
    Even if there were a penalty for going over 4:30 (which, as rayhaneh points out, there isn't), couldn't a skater just wait until three seconds in before moving his/her skates? Or does the clock always begin with the music itself?
    The clock begins with the movement of the skater

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    os168, I never thought I would sound so unpoetic. Everything you say makes sense- philosophically, conceptually. Everything you say is correct. But there is also a bottom line- what you describe is skating to no music. I know about Cage's concept, and I am not ready to debate whether scrape of a chair or somebody's cough is part of musical language. That is the realm of rhetoric. If you notice, there is no artistic movement to continue with the "musical language created by Cage 4'33". Because it cannot be followed. He suggested we shut up and be aware of what's around us. It cannot be improved upon ( though of course relative silence is constantly changing as absolute silence is practically impossible et cetera)
    If you suggest we have a portion of competition without music, learning to listen to skaters' blade work, that is a very valid suggestion.
    If you suggest athletes and judges have to evaluate and respond to concepts of avant garde, I think it is asking way too much of everybody. Before tackling silence as a concept, I'd like somebody to tackle something even slightly musically challenging. The example are few and far between.
    Last edited by dinakt; 01-13-2013 at 02:48 PM.
    improving my ballad- like lines

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    I watched it on Youtube and kept thinking, has the volume on my computer gone kaput.

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    Just as a practical consideration, how would the skater know when to stop? Or, perhaps better stated, it would be difficult for the skater to pace the program without being able to follow music. It would certainly be possible to memorize the correct speed of the program just based on how it feels to execute it, but it would be hard to establish consistency. For safety, you couldn't plan to use the maximum time, in case you skated slower on a particular day.

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    Rodina and Zaitsev could do it

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    Yeah!

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    Somewhere in the mist of time, I seem to remember Torvil and Dean doing an exhibition, ?pro performance that had no sound for the first minute of the programme. Does anyone else remember this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Clarice View Post
    Just as a practical consideration, how would the skater know when to stop? Or, perhaps better stated, it would be difficult for the skater to pace the program without being able to follow music. It would certainly be possible to memorize the correct speed of the program just based on how it feels to execute it, but it would be hard to establish consistency. For safety, you couldn't plan to use the maximum time, in case you skated slower on a particular day.
    At lower levels that don't have short programs, skaters often do "compulsory moves" programs, or spin programs or footwork programs, etc., to be competed without music, usually on half ice. There's a maximum time limit, and skaters have to practice to make sure they will finish within that limit. There's no penalty if they go under, though, so some just plan the program with extra time available just in case.

    If you do the same steps and strokes in pretty much the same rhythm every time, the number of minutes and seconds it takes will not vary much. Certainly if a dance team practices a compulsory dance, it should take almost exactly the same amount of time to do the same number of patterns with or without the music.

    So even with a freestyle program, if all the strokes and rhythms are choreographed, if the program is well-trained and nothing goes wrong, they should be able to keep it pretty much within a narrow range of time.

    Of course if there are falls or other disruptions that can't be planned for, then it would be harder to get back on time with no musical cues than it is without.

    Even with no outright mistakes, small timing glitches could add up to more than 10 seconds over the course of 4 1/2 minutes much more easily than over 1 1/2 for a low-level compulsory program.

    So it would be impossible to end at exactly 4:33 . . . unless the skater wears a stopwatch he can check toward the very end of the program. But finishing within the 4:30 +/- program time allowance without music should usually be possible without major failures, which would mean not planning any high-risk elements.

    Quote Originally Posted by girlscouse62 View Post
    Somewhere in the mist of time, I seem to remember Torvil and Dean doing an exhibition, ?pro performance that had no sound for the first minute of the programme. Does anyone else remember this?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKykrKh1mrk

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    Quote Originally Posted by os168 View Post
    Otherwise ladies can do it too (doing no required elements after the 4mins mark)
    I'm sure some clever person can edit the composition so that it fits the ladies time limits. I know it's a shame to lose even a second of the composition but I personally think there's part from around 2.37 to almost 2.56 that isn't quite up to the rest....

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    From a purely sound/music point of view, one could imagine a program that is choreographed and intended for the ear only. I've always enjoyed listening to the sound of blades scraping on ice during warmup or practice sessions. Someone must have designed such a program or parts of a program I imagine --- instead of music or drum beats, you get rhythmic or syncopated sound of scraping, tapping, blades hitting the ice, etc., etc. If we are to adhere to John Cage's concept of naturalistic sounds for 4:33, we could have one or several skaters skate to nothing in particular, like a practice session. I would love to listen to a session of ice dancers practicing their routine, but a session full of repeated jumps would be auditorily boring. Nevertheless, I think such a piece would work better without the visuals, because visual images distract from the sound. Most people will forget to listen when you see all the jumping, stroking, spinning, and body movements. Humans rely on sight first, and sound and other senses are secondary.

    As for knowing when to stop, there is always a big clock by the rink that skaters can see the progress of their programs. This is how they make sure when to begin the bonus-period jumps. I'm sure experienced skaters are used to stealing a glance to the clock from time to time and gauge their choreography to stop on time.

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    This is a stimulating question. My objection (which could be seen as a sort of nitpicking) is about the use itself of such piece in an artistic way. I would prefer to think of a skating program based on pure silence, rather than on "John Cage’s 4:33", and the reason is simple. Using a famous piece which has been much discussed over the years wouldn’t look as a new idea that would surprise with its innovative power. Cage’s idea is well digested by Western aechstetics and after 60 years is not "news" anymore. We would be ending up to focus on the concept of silence instead on the noises produced in the arena. Our judgement would be influenced by our cathegories of thought, i.e. the "avantgarde" label of the operation, and we would appreciate/reject it in a banal way, as a mere opposition to the "tradition" of figure skating music. As a result, it would not reach our intellect; it would not transcend the usual realm of the sport. We wouldn’t live it.
    Thinking about it, if one of the purposes of such program is to shock and stimulate reflections in the audience, it might work more if the silence came between the tunes of a "traditional" piece of music, when you don’t expect it at all. The improptu moment would "hit" the public involving its auditive perception in a more effective way, creating interesting changes in the relation between body movement and time. What I mean is that this idea of the silence can work in an inner dynamic of sound-silence-sound within a program, rather than in an all-silence piece which wouldn’t create unpredictable surprises. The sudden moments of silence would create an emotional response and lead our perception in a different sphere beyond the well-known context of a skating performance.

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    How on earth would you judge "musical interpretation" with this, though? Since every time the piece is performed, if the skater is *truly* responding to the sound/music, the skating is going to be different every time. Is it even possible for a skater to improvise a whole program based on coughs, clapping, people shifting in their seats, building sounds, etc?
    BARK LESS. WAG MORE.

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    You need music to perform a competition program, simple as that. An exhibition gives you more freedom if you want to focus on the sound of the blades and whatnot and that could be brilliant if done well (didn't Kurt do something like this?) but there are too many requirements for a competition program. Realistically, music is absolutely necessary and I think the idea of making a "creative statement" by skating to 4'33 is pretentious and not all that clever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mafke View Post
    I'm sure some clever person can edit the composition so that it fits the ladies time limits. I know it's a shame to lose even a second of the composition but I personally think there's part from around 2.37 to almost 2.56 that isn't quite up to the rest....
    Those 18.667 seconds are obvious filler, eys.
    I can call the moon a pear, but it doesn't make it so. -- kwanfan1818

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    Interesting idea, but I would think that skating to Cage's 4'33" would go against his conception of the "music." Plus, the composition is in 3 "movements," specifically timed. I think it could be problematic.
    "I hit him with my shoes... if he had given me the medal like I told him to, I wouldn't have had to hit him!" -- 8-year-old Rhoda Penmark in "The Bad Seed"

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    I would love it if experimental and avant-garde music were tolerated better in competitive skating. There seems to be a real reaction to it anytime anyone tries anything left-of-center. I am thinking there are Asian and Japanese composers I would like to see interpreted, but we don't get enough skaters pushing or leading in new directions.

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    I have seen and judged a number of programs that even though the skater has music playing while they are skating, you wouldn't know that they are doing a program to it. They may as well have been skating to John Cage.
    When you are up to your arse in alligators it is difficult to remember you were only meant to be draining the swamp.

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