Seattle, WA- Chelsea Whiting, a local graduate student at the University of Washington, is daring to do something never done before- compose variations on the popular John Cage piece 4’33” for her graduate composition project.
The original work composed by John Cage, is a composition in which the pianist sits at the piano in silence for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, and the music becomes the ambiance of the concert hall or venue in which it is played. For her composition, Chelsea wanted to experiment with non traditional venues.
Chelsea recorded the piece in various locations around Seattle as a tribute to her hometown. She took her own upright piano to each location to add her own signature to the piece. In the “Pike Place Market” variation, you can hear the famous fish throwers throw a fish onto the piano keyboard and tourists asking “What’s going on?” as they watch Chelsea sit motionless at the piano, as three more fish hit her in the face.
The “Mt Rainier” variation was recorded on location in Mt Rainier National Park.
“I wanted to capture the atmosphere of the park that holds so many childhood memories for me,” said Chelsea. “You can even hear the park rangers telling hikers not to pick the wildflowers and stay on the path.” Picking wildflowers and straying from the hiking trail is prohibited to preserve the natural beauty of the park.
For the 12th variation, Chelsea brought her piano to record outside Century Link Field, as a tribute to the 12th man.
The finale is recorded in the practice rooms at the University of Washington, which incorporates elements of atonality as you hear the muffled sounds of other students practicing nearby, much like a Charles Ives piece.
Chelsea’s composition professor had much praise for the project, especially the “Sitting on the Couch at Home Reading a Book” variation: “When you listen to this variation, it’s like that feeling you get when you’ve been listening to music with headphones for a while and it stops and you can finally hear that person who was trying to talk to you. This work takes you to that moment in time, it’s that powerful.”
Chelsea graduates this year with a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Washington.