Single overlapping lines and thick foggy clouds of sound
Sparky P. | composer, all around nice guy, yada yada yada | 01/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the latest in OgreOgress' ongoing series of releases dedicated to John Cage's late period "Number Pieces". The first is for a single percussionist, the other two for string ensembles (Twenty-nine also includes percussion), and all employ Cage's `time-bracket notation'.
The earliest of the three is "Four", scored for standard string quartet. To achieve an "equality" of parts Cage designed it so that any player could play any part (to achieve this, Cage only used a limited range of tones, those that could be played by all instruments). All sounds are held out with a minimum of attack and very low dynamics and there aren't any pizzicato notes at all. The piece is divided into three five-minute sections, where then the players were instructed to switch parts and start back at the top. But he also made a provision that the piece could also last ten or twenty minutes, in addition to the full thirty minute performance, by means of omitting a section or two (a ten minute version would consist solely of section B and its repeat; twenty minute, A and C and their repeats). The producers of this disc have gone a step further: they split up each section with separate index points, two versions of each, to allow the home listener to design their own performances.
One4 is for a single percussionist playing a host of instruments. As with "Three2", "Six" and "Four4", percussion sounds are created mostly by means of prolonged rolls and shaking. Here percussionist Glenn Freeman plays a standard drum set while using a host of sticks and mallets.
"Twenty-nine" is scored for two timpanists, two percussionists, one pianist (bowed, with rosined string around the desired string, rather than played in its accustomed fashion), ten violists, eight `cellists and six contrabassists (all, of course, having their own part). Cage designed this so that it could be played alone, or combined with up to two other pieces, Twenty-six (all violins) and Twenty-eight (wind section). OgreOgress has also produced "Twenty-six", so you at home, if you already have this disc, can create a performance of "Twenty-nine" with "Twenty-six" in the comfort of your own room (using two machines; start with "29" first, then add "26" within three minutes later). With each string player having their own part that is different from the next, the result in each case is a continuously thick cloud of sound (there are no gaps of silence in either case). It is also interesting that each performance, despite the plethora of parts, was performed by only four people (Freeman; Christina Fong, violin and viola; Karen Krummel, `cello; and Michael Crawford, contrabass) through the wonders of overdubbing.
Again, this is late Cage, and when listening, you simply let things happen, accepting what is going on rather than trying to make some sense or form any sort of relationship of one part to another. On the other hand, when listening to the thick fog of "Twenty-nine", things start to come briefly into relief, then submerging into the mix, like a hidden object jutting out from underneath a large sheet of blank paper.