John Cage, Music for Carillon

George Steel- Carillon
St Thomas Church 53rd and 6th Ave. 10/26/03
Free outdoor concert.

My favorite moment of this concert was approaching 5th Ave. walking east on 53rd St. in the midtown twilight haze. The sounds seem to come from everywhere. If I hadn't known what was happening, and there wasn't anything besides the sound and the people standing on the street listening to indicate it was a musical performance, I might have thought that something had gone wonderfully wrong with this church.

The piece was in 5 sections, with beautifully scattered, staggered chucks of tonality in dream counterpoint with a hint of Gamelan, though maybe all church bells have a hint of Gamelan because of the slightly detuned nature of the bells. I love the decay of the lower bells. All the street sounds fit in beautifully.

The material sounded a little like some of the earlier piano music, as you might expect, since this is also a chromatic percussion instrument. It's a keyboard instrument, but there are literally boards that are played with the fists. I know this only from reading about it. The performance itself consisted only of a building making a series of sounds.

The tones bounced wildly on the glass surfaces of the surrounding buildings, making it hard to tell it was coming from the church at all. It sounded like it was coming directly out of the sky.

When it was over, the crowd quickly disbursed, exactly as I have heard flash mobs described. The ephemerality of the whole thing was powerful.

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