Vols 44 and 45 in Mode's Continuing Cage Celebration

By Clark, Philip | Gramophone, April 2013 | Go to article overview

Vols 44 and 45 in Mode's Continuing Cage Celebration


Clark, Philip, Gramophone


Cage

'John Cage Edition, Vol 44--The

Number Pieces, Vol 6'

Five. Seven. Thirteen

Essential Music/John Kennedy, Charles Wood

Mode (F) MODE239 (55' * DDD)

Cage

'John Cage Edition, Vol 45--The Works for Percussion, Vol 2'

First Construction (in Metal)a. Second Construction. Third Construction. Living Room Music. Quartet. Trio Third Coast Percussion with

(a) Gregory Beyer, (a) Ross Karre perc

Mode (F) MODE243 (54' * DDD)

Also available on DVD

One thing's for sure, the last person to take any interest in recordings of music by John Cage was John Cage. Sound, the great man posited, was a phenomenon that not only lived and breathed but needed to be experienced as such. Recording falsified the moment, he thought, reducing active listening to a constant state of rewind; the fetish of anticipating moments imprisoned in time.

The New York-based Mode label, founded with a mission to document Cage's music, has always dealt even-handedly with this paradox. Mode records with pristine depth as a matter of pride, a strategy that bypasses the customary heart-searching about recorded sound and turns attention back on to the sonic object itself. Cage's late-period 'number' pieces--Five, Seven (both 1988) and Thirteen (1992), all here for the hearing -are indeed sonic objects that need to be viewed/heard as objectively as possible.

Essential Music realise Five, originally for wind quintet, by blowing across bottles, an approach that Cage, doubtful at first, grew to appreciate. Operating within 'time brackets' (cues suggesting when players might like to begin and end their notes), Cage's randomly lined-up parts cook up a pea-souper of pitches that drift in and out of alignment. Seven and Thirteen return Essential Music to conventional instrumental means, the sonic pay-off, though, being remarkably consistent. Seven's equal-tempered piano lurks provocatively around the weathered, foggy tuning inflections of the wind and strings; the piano's harmonies want to lead, an instinct denied them by the remainder of the ensemble. …

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