for solo string and fixed media      

Junqi Tang

The Twentieth-Century featured many composers who pioneered the expansion of the sonic palette to where now all sounds are possible.  Many books, articles, lectures, and sermons espoused the dawn of a new era, of a new expression, of new sonic possibilities.  Who Cares if You Listen embraces not only the vast array of sounds available both acoustic and digital, but also the rhythms and tonalities of the actual words used by a few of these trailblazing composers when stating their case for progress and evolution.  Three Twentieth-Century composers and words attributed to them are used in the composition.

“Who Cares if you Listen?”

“Music was born free; and to win freedom is its destiny.”

“Get up and use your ears like a man!”

Who Cares if You Listen is dedicated to Jaqueline O'Donnell.

8 Minutes


  • Violoncello: by Christopher Ahn, Lineage Center for the Performing Arts, Pasadena, CA
  • Violin: by Naha Greenstein, Davenport, IA.
Who Cares If You Listen, by John Frantzen followed, and the title was based on the famous 1958 High Fidelity magazine article written by Milton Babbitt. In his remarks prior to the performance of this piece, Frantzen explained that he was inspired by the sounds of some of the famous quotes about music, starting with Babbitt and including sayings by Busconi and Ives. Solemn electronic sounds begin the piece, soon joined by the solo violin. The pounding of construction equipment was heard through the speakers and trills in the violin introduce an element of anxiety. Faster violin runs give way to repeating passages having the same rhythm and cadence as the speaking of the phrase “Who cares if you listen.” This was reminiscent of the vocal patterns heard in Steve Reich’s string quartet Different Trains, but in this case no recorded voices were heard. The Busconi quotation was less concise and illustrated with rapid violin phrases – precisely played by Pasha Tseitlin – along with a dance-like pizzicato section. The final quotation came from Charles Ives: “Why can’t you stand up before fine strong music like this and use your ears like a man?”, apparently in response to a heckler at a concert he was attending. This was accompanied by increasing volume in the electronics and a much faster tempo for the violin, resulting in a dramatic finish. Who Cares If You Listen is an artful blend of electronics, masterful violin playing and the sounds of speech patterns that combine to produce an intriguing extension of the sentiments expressed in the underlying quotations.
— Paul Muller, Sequenza 21