Cage ostensibly shunned harmony, but Dream and In a Landscape (both composed in 1948) sound Impressionist and tonal to me, and obviously not aleatoric. So have they 1. Harmony? 2. Melody?

I hazard 'yes'; p. 232 of Mathematics and Music: Composition, Perception, and Performance argues Dream to contain a motif that can be judged as melody (and thus harmony).

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The following compares the 2 titled pieces to Erik Satie's music that has melody.

  1. [ Source: ] Written as a clear homage to Erik Satie, “In a landscape” was originally composed in 1948 to accompany a choreography by dancer Louise Lippold.

  2. 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.

  1. Stephen Drury , A.B. Harvard College; Artist Diploma New England Conservatory wrote:

In Dream, In a Landscape, Souvenir and Suite for Toy Piano, Cage rings a variation on this technique. The chords, rattles, and gongs are reduced to single tones, all falling within a mere or less conventional scale or mode. The pedal sustains the tones and adds resonance in the two compositions for piano (ad libitum in Dream, throughout the length of In a Landscape).


Lying somewhere between the prepared piano music and the modal, quasi-tonal writing of Dream, or, rather, overlapping both, Music for Marcel Duchamp, written for an animated film sequence, evokes (without quoting) both the timbre and the harmony of certain Asian musical traditions – static, meditative, and timeless.

  1. Brian Olewnick wrote:

The work's relative astringency contrasts well with the preceding feast — the entire disc is sequenced very nicely — and leads into one of the special highlights of the recording, the 1948 composition, "Dream". At this point in Cage's career, one can still hear misty echoes of his preoccupation with Balinese gamelan, though that music has been diffused into a general atmosphere that's, well, dreamy. Beautifully performed by Ottaviucci and Scodanibbio, the piano lines also carry a Satie-like flavor, melodic and nostalgic, underlined by the bass' deep, somber arco. It's an extremely evocative piece, one that admirers of the Sonatas and Interludes for Piano will love.

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    Did you answer your own question in here? If so then you should take the answer portion out of the question and post it as an answer below. If not, then can you clarify what your question is? Right now this reads like a statement that the two works do have harmony and melody with quotes to support that assertion. – Todd Wilcox Jan 8 '18 at 14:20
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    This as currently worded is also a basic analysis question unless you just want us to define "harmony" and "melody" for you. In general question that ask for analysis need to be substantial to be on topic. Questions just asking for the key, time signature, progression, or in this case if it has a harmony or melody can be answered by understanding the concepts and with the source material present. – Dom Jan 8 '18 at 17:07
  • @ToddWilcox None of the quotes explicitly state if these 2 works have harmony and melody. And I wasn't sure. – NNOX Apps Jan 9 '18 at 5:58
  • @Greek-Area51Proposal If you want to be pedantic, first define what YOU mean by "harmony" and "melody". Otherwise, you are just asking us to play silly word games with you. – user19146 Aug 18 '18 at 22:12

Dream and In a Landscape (both composed in 1948) sound Impressionist and tonal to me, and obviously not aleatoric. So have they 1. Harmony? 2. Melody?

This question requires one to come up with definitions of 'harmony' and 'melody'.

With apologies to the more academic sources you've quoted, I'm going to lean on the first definitions google gives:

Harmony: The combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce a pleasing effect.

Melody: A sequence of single notes that is musically satisfying; a tune.

So for something to 'have harmony':

  • It needs to have sounds that can be thought of as 'notes'
  • Those notes need to overlap in time.

For something to 'have melody':

  • It needs to have sounds that can be thought of as 'notes'
  • Those notes need to be far enough apart in time to be thought of as a 'sequence'.

(let's ignore the subjective aspects of the definitions).

By those definitions, the answer to whether Dream and In a Landscape have harmony and melody is, trivially, yes.

Of course if more restrictive definitions of 'harmony' and 'melody' were used, the answer may change.

Going back to the assertion that "Cage ostensibly shunned harmony" - well, I guess it depends on your definition of 'shun'! The linked question seems to point towards a "movement away from traditional approaches to", rather than "a complete abandonment of" melody and harmony.

  • So-called definitions of " harmony" and "melody" that includes subjective nonsense like "to produce a pleasing effect" and "musically satisfying" are worthless, IMO, unless one believes there is some Platonic concept of "pleasing" and "satisfying" that is relevant here (and I don't believe that). – user19146 Aug 18 '18 at 22:16
  • @alephzero there are subjective aspects to those definitions, as I said in my answer. I don't think we can find objective definitions for "harmony" and "melody"; I think our choice is either to be satisfied with subjective definitions, or simply discard both words as useless. – topo Reinstate Monica Aug 18 '18 at 22:35

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