JOHN CAGE – Sculptures Musicales / Twenty-Six With Twenty-Nine / Twenty-Six With Twenty-Eight And Twenty-Nine / Eighty

OgreOgress

The label from Grand Rapids, Michigan presents the latest superb collection of previously unrecorded John Cage compositions, their rendition graced by the customary commitment and technical mastery of violinist Christina Fong and percussionist Glenn Freeman (here doubling on bowed piano). Other instrumental entities involved in these recordings are Prague Winds and The Chance Operations Collective Of Kalamazoo, cellist Karen Krummel and bassist Michael Crawford.

“Sculptures Musicales”, originally destined to Merce Cunningham’s choreography “Inventions” and inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s suggestion, is a disquieting piece where silence and relatively authoritative, factory-smelling drones interspersed with essential percussive fragments are intertwined, a little bit in the David Jackman/Organum mode but with less godly rage. Lots of metallic resonances and a few violent amassments, static clangour from two/three different points, then extensive periods of complete hush. Remarkable, however not as imposing as the subsequent “Twenty-Six With Twenty-Nine” and “Twenty-Six With Twenty-Eight And Twenty Nine”, perhaps the closest that Cage has ever sounded to Phill Niblock in his creative life. If possible, these tracks are even more distressing than the sonic automations, the accumulations of clusters and timbres pushing the overall sonority on the edge of disintegration, never letting the tension go. Music that moves endlessly without actually changing its timbral complexion; shifts that, although clearly perceived, let us helpless in our tentative quest for a categorization overcoming the rudimentary concept of “dissonant mass” (it remains to be seen for whom this is “dissonant”, as your reporter finds such a kind of inert inharmoniousness quite blissful).

In a way, “Eighty” fuses the preceding conceptions, presenting again a reciprocation of absolute quietness and (this time) rather undernourished accretions of adjacent pitches characterized by a larger use of somewhat stressed unisons. It’s another striking example of the most interesting material written by this composer, which OgreOgress has the unquestionable merit of releasing and making snoopier people aware of. In fact, this stuff goes well beyond the commonplaces often related to Cage and, especially, to the human mushrooms – who have the nerve of defining themselves “artists” – popped up from the damp ground under his shadow. An abundant half of these scores sound almost intimidating: a usually invisible trait of this man which is much refreshing to these ears.

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