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“In A Landscape” by John Cage


“In A Landscape” by John Cage

Performed by Michael Compitello

Mallet Selection for this Piece:


Robert van Sice Signature M122

Buy Now

Soft. An ideal mallet for pieces such as the Bach Cello Suites.


Robert van Sice Signature M123

Buy Now

Soft. An ideal mallet for pieces such as the Bach Cello Suites.


In a Landscape by John Cage was written for the dancer Louise Lippold in 1948. The structure of the piece follows the rhythmic patterns dance of the choreography for which it was composed.

A modal composition, the patterns alternate between a mode in B and a mode in G. With the use of both the soft and sustain pedals, Cage creates music that seems to suspend time. There is clearly an aesthetic indebtedness to Erik Satie. The score notes that the piece may be played on the harp or piano. It is adapted here for marimba.


“In the nature of the use of chance operations is the belief that all answers answer all questions.”

In 1952, David Tudor sat down in front of a piano for four minutes and thirty-three seconds and did nothing. The piece 4′33” written by John Cage, is possibly the most famous and important piece in twentieth century avant-garde. 4′33” was a distillation of years of working with found sound, noise, and alternative instruments. In one short piece, Cage broke from the history of classical composition and proposed that the primary act of musical performance was not making music, but listening.

Born in Los Angeles in 1912, Cage studied for a short time at Pamona College, and later at UCLA with classical composer Arthur Schoenberg. There he realized that the music he wanted to make was radically different from the music of his time. “I certainly had no feeling for harmony, and Schoenberg thought that that would make it impossible for me to write music. He said ‘You’ll come to a wall you won’t be able to get through.’ So I said, ‘I’ll beat my head against that wall.’” But it wasn’t long before Cage found that there were others equally interested in making art in ways that broke from the rigid forms of the past. Two of the most important of Cage’s early collaborators were the dancer Merce Cunningham and the painter Robert Rauschenberg.

Together with Cunningham and Rauschenberg at Black Mountain College, Cage began to create sound for performances and to investigate the ways music composed through chance procedures could become something beautiful. Many of Cage’s ideas about what music could be were inspired by Marcel Duchamp, who revolutionized twentieth-century art by presenting everyday, unadulterated objects in museum settings as finished works of art, which were called “found art,” or ready-mades by later scholars. Like Duchamp, Cage found music around him and did not necessarily rely on expressing something from within.

Cage’s first experiments involved altering standard instruments, such as putting plates and screws between a piano’s strings before playing it. As his alterations of traditional instruments became more drastic, he realized that what he needed were entirely new instruments. Pieces such as “Imaginary Landscape No 4″(1951) used twelve radios played at once and depended entirely on the chance broadcasts at the time of the performance for its actual sound. In “Water Music” (1952), he used shells and water to create another piece that was motivated by the desire to reproduce the operations that form the world of sound we find around us each day.

While his interest in chance procedures and found sound continued throughout the sixties, Cage began to focus his attention on the technologies of recording and amplification. One of his better known pieces was “Cartridge Music” (1960), during which he amplified small household objects at a live performance. Taking the notions of chance composition even further, he often consulted the “I Ching,” or Book of Changes, to decide how he would cut up a tape of a recording and put it back together. At the same time, Cage began to focus on writing and published his first book, “Silence” (1961). This marked a shift in his attention toward literature.

In the ’70’s, with inspirations like Thoreau and Joyce, Cage began to take literary texts and transform them into music. “Roratorio, an Irish Circus on Finnegan’s Wake” (1979), was an outline for transforming any work of literature into a work of music. His sense that music was everywhere and could be made from anything brought a dynamic optimism to everything he did. While recognized as one of the most important composers of the century, John Cage’s true legacy extends far beyond the world of contemporary classical music. After him, no one could look at a painting, a book, or a person without wondering how they might sound if you listened closely.


Percussionist Michael Compitello is guided by his passion to create new art through collaborations with composers, performers, actors, and artists in all mediums. Currently Visiting Lecturer in Percussion at Cornell University, Michael has worked with composers Helmut Lachenmann, Nicolaus A. Huber, David Lang, John Luther Adams, Alejandro Viñao, Marc Applebaum and Martin Bresnick on premieres and performances of new works, and has performed as a chamber musician and soloist with the Ensemble Modern, the International Ensemble Modern Academy, and with members of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Eighth Blackbird and So Percussion. Michael has appeared in diverse locations such as the Darmstadt Summer Course, the LA Phil’s Green Umbrella series, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and the Kurt Weill Festival.
As an orchestral musician, Michael has performed with the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Aspen Festival Orchestra, and with conductors Pierre Boulez,Marin Alsop, Reinbert de Leeuw, David Zinman, James Conlon, Brad Lubman and Gustav Meier.

From 2009 to 2010, Michael performed and studied contemporary chamber music with the Ensemble Modern and the International Ensemble Modern Academy in Frankfurt, Germany on a Fulbright Grant from the US Department of State. He attended the New Music Workshop of the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in 2006 and 2009, was a fellow at the Bang on a Can All-Stars Summer Music Institute in 2006 and 2007, and in 2009 attended the Banff Centre’s “Roots and Rhizomes” percussion residency.

Michael’s interest in interdisciplinary collaboration has led to performances at the Yale Repertory Theater and Yale Cabaret, where he helped create “Basement Hades,” a multimedia musical drama featuring his duo New Morse Code, composer Dan Schlosberg, students from the Yale School of Drama, and director Ethan Heard. Michael’s belief in the important role of classical music in contemporary culture has led him to a variety of outreach projects, including “Naturpassage,” a multi-medium project with the members of the Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt’s Bettinaschule, directed by Paul Griffiths and Fraser Trainer. He has also worked with the Yale School of Music’s acclaimed outreach programs, working with grade- and middle-school students in both the “Music and Book Writing” and “Music and Creative Writing” projects, where students used a new composition as inspiration for writing a multi-chapter story.

As a student of Robert van Sice, Michael earned an MM and MMA from the Yale School of Music, and a BM from the Peabody Conservatory. He was Interim Lecturer in Percussion at UMass Amherst in the fall of 2012.

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