The title of Cage’s
Number Pieces indicates the number of
players involved, whereas superscript
Arabic numerals indicate the position
of that particular piece with respect
to all the other pieces composed for
the same number of players. Yes, I see
someone raising an intrigued eyebrow
since one of the pieces recorded here
titled Twenty-Nine is
played by four players... This gives
a fairly good indication as to how this
record was made, i.e. by using some
present-day technology that allows multitrack
recordings and things like that. I may
say that the result is rather impressive
as well as successful.
(1990) is a short piece for solo percussion,
but in no way comparable to, say, First
Construction or Amores.
I mean that it is a rather simpler piece
using just a few instruments (it anyway
sounds like this to me) and, as far
as I can judge, there does not happen
much in the piece.
(1989), for string quartet, actually
consists of six short versions (although
– curiously enough – they are list as
twice ABC) that may be played in different
order and grouping. So, the six sections
may thus be played as recorded here
or in a different sequence (say 22.214.171.124.2.3)
to form a piece of thirty minute duration,.
Shorter versions are also possible,
e.g. 126.96.36.199. or 188.8.131.52 playing for
twenty minutes, or 2.5 or 5.2 playing
for ten minutes. I suppose that any
of these versions may be tried out with
this recording, i.e. if – unlike me
– you are an expert in programming your
CD player. But what of the music? In
fact, the music here, just as in Twenty-Nine,
consists mostly in a few isolated pitches
often played as long-held notes. Variations
result from the different dynamics whereas
movement is suggested by the various
entries of the instruments that often
occur stepwise either downwards or upwards.
The overall impression is that of slow
moving sound layers of varying density,
so that the music as a whole possesses
some remarkable coherence, the more
so that the six basic movements actually
sound as variations of some basic material.
is scored for strings and percussion.
As a whole, the piece is rather similar
to Four, in that there
is very little melodic material, if
at all. In fact, the overall impression
is that of a huge cluster of varying
density, so that the global result is
not unlike that achieved by Ligeti in,
say, Atmospheres and Lontano.
One might also be reminded of some pieces
by Scelsi. I first thought that this
was rather unpromising stuff; but, on
repeated hearings, I found this piece
rather impressive, in much the same
way as the aforementioned pieces by
Ligeti or some orchestral works by Scelsi.
Although the studio work has been well
done for this recording, I would certainly
like to hear the piece played by the
ensemble for which it was written. The
present performance, however, is – to
my ears – quite successful.
Now, this is one of
the most curious discs that I have ever
had to review so far. This has nothing
to do with the content of the disc,
but rather with its production. You
will have noticed that it bears no reference
number, and you must look hard for any
indication of a label. Moreover, there
are no liner notes as such, but some
information is printed on the back of
the disc. This means that we are told
preciously little about the pieces themselves
and about the way this disc was produced.
Anyway, this must be the sort of release
that should appeal to any Cage admirer.
Others, I am afraid, will have to decide
for themselves whether this is for them
or not. I for one am not a particularly
great fan of Cage’s music, but I readily
admit that a piece such as Twenty-Nine
is quite impressive, and well worth