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Friday, September 16, 2016

John Cage - "Cheap Imitation" (Cramps Records/nova musicha n. 17) Vinyl LP, Reissue


"Cheap Imitation" is a very beautiful listening experience, but it also has a witty or amusing side story attached to the work.  It's a solo piano piece composed, and here on this recording, played by John Cage.  It's based on Erik Satie's "Socrate."  Cage arranged a piano version of Satie's symphonic drama, for Merce Cunningham's dance company.   Satie's publisher refused permission for Cage and Cunningham to use the music, so Cage composed music that draws on Satie's "Socrate," and in a sense it's a knock-off.   Nevertheless, hearing the Cage music, one is immediately reminded of Satie's piano music.  Cage made use of I Ching to compose "Cheap Imitation" yet like Satie's work there is both something haunting and ambient at the same time.  Compared to Cage's other works, this one is very much a composed piece of music for piano.    It's rare to hear Cage on the piano, due to how his music changed in the coming years, but also he suffered from arthritis, and that made it more difficult for him to play the piano. 

The album, according to the liner notes, was recorded on a rainy day on March 7, 1976, in Oakland.  It does have that contemplative effect while listening.  On the other hand, it also shows Cage's obsession and interest in Erik Satie's music.  "Cheap Imitation" is a work of originality but very much a loving tribute to the source: Erik Satie.