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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Non-intentional performance practice in John Cage's Solo for Sliding Trombone Chilton, James Gregory


This dissertation provides a study guide to aid trombonists in understanding and appreciating the Solo for Sliding Trombone (1957-58), one of the many solo parts from the Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1957-58) by John Cage (1912-1992). This seldom-performed piece of contemporary music is often misunderstood and is overlooked as an important part of the trombone repertoire. This document aims to help trombonists seeking to perform unaccompanied trombone music to develop an understanding of Cage's aesthetic of non-intentional performance and a greater interest in learning this work. In particular, this dissertation addresses the question of how one can perform the Solo with non-intention in spite of the fact that practicing and rehearsing are required to play the work. The Solo score presents new challenges for the trombonist in terms of using all parts of the trombone, as well as a wide selection of mutes, to produce various sounds and timbres in ways never before conceived for the instrument. To approach this work, the trombonist must also reconsider his or her performance practice; they must learn to maintain extreme patience in performance and must transform the way they listen to and treat "silence." This work was the first indeterminate solo composition for the instrument. This document considers the context and compositional process for this piece, provides guidelines for performing the Solo, examines recordings of the work, and discusses its influence on later compositions for trombone. Thus, this dissertation presents the first extensive scholarly study of Cage's Solo for Sliding Trombone.

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