Six Melodies (1950) by John Cage
for violin and piano

Six Melodies for Violin and Keyboard (1950) was composed while John Cage (1912–92) suffered a period of emotionally intense self-examination and selfnegation. In 1942 Cage and his wife, Xenia Kashevaroff Cage, had decided to move to New York City in pursuit of future fortune. His reacquaintance there with Merce Cunningham unexpectedly kindled his affection, and soon after Cage terminated his ten-year marriage. His sexual reorientation and the breakup with Xenia drove him into a state of self-denial and emotional instability. On the advice of several friends he consulted a Jungian analyst. When this failed to help him, he turned to Indian and Chinese philosophy, concentrating on Zen and Buddhism. Consequently, "oriental philosophy," in Cage’s words, "took the place for me of psychoanalysis." The psychological conflict between, on the one hand, the wish to transcend into Nirvana and, on the other, savoring the desire for control in a human world, is the main idea of this piece. The enthusiasm for the state of void—that is, the negation of the earthy world and the merging with the divine—is represented in the composition’s atmosphere of stillness and quietness. Cage asks the violinist to play without vibrato and with minimum weight on the bow, to create a detached, yet very beautiful sound. On the other hand, a human craving for control is reflected in his choice of the structure of the piece, organized by a rhythmic durational structure of 3 1/2, 3 1/2, 4, 4, 3, 4. There is a conceptual relationship between this work and 4’33”, his most wellknown work, which premiered two years later. In 4’33” he fully gives up control of musical content and structure, creating a rhythmical and structural emptiness perhaps closer to his ideal state.

— Chia Wei Lin    

[from program for March 28, 2011 concert]