Four percussionists perform John Cages's 1991 numbered work "Four4" in four movements using flexible time brackets in a sensitive and authoritative rendering of this fascinating work.
Four4 (Allen / Burn / Patterson / Wastell)
Label: Another Timbre
Released in: UK
"This version of the very late Cage piece for four percussionists (it was composed in 1991, a year before his death) was realised by a quartet of improvisers, at least two of whom perhaps wouldn't immediately strike you as percussionists. The group consist of Simon Allen, a straight percussionist I believe, whose music I have not come across before, Mark Wastell, who plays the tam tam on this disc, percussion with a minimal slant, Chris Burn, who plays the inside piano, albeit it in an often percussive manner, and Lee Patterson, whose sound sources are not detailed but I hear things fizzing in glasses of water and other things burning here, so a percussionist only in a fairly wide sense of the term. This matters not though. Cage's score essentially allows the musicians a fair amount of scope. They get to pick the sounds they use, and with a few chance elements thrown in, they play a small selection of sounds that they chose before hand in time brackets randomly chosen by Cage using a computer programme. So throughout the seventy-two minute long work extended sounds of one kind or another slip and slide across each other, sometimes two or three sounding at once, quite often none sounding at all, and so we get to follow Cage's instruction to just sit and listen until the next sounds arrive.
The thing about this piece, as I find with the majority of Cage's late "Numbers" scores, is that how good it is, or how exciting/beautiful/interesting (delete as appropriate) it may sound is entirely reliant on the advance selections made, firstly the selection of the musicians- a poor quartet with little understanding of the work would sound terrible very easily here, and then the selection of sounds by each musician. Some advance consideration must be made, albeit it perhaps subconsciously, about how the sounds might all fit together. So all of the sounds here are generally either soft, extended, droning choices, or gritty repetitive patterns that add texture, but the occasions when two or more sounds don't fit together nicely are few and far between, though when they do occur they stand out a mile. the sounds here on this new realisation are rich and finely detailed, perhaps not so far from the sounds the musicians usually improvise with.
The sounds are all quite lovely, often hard to assign to any one of the quartet, but they glow with a warmth that gives the CD a feeling of slow, methodical beauty. There are several lengthy silences in there as well, and coming between the little gusts of acoustic sound they are always a welcome breather from the storm. These 'silences' or rather, opportunities to just listen are often quite long, and sometimes feel unexpected, but such if the random nature for the composition. The element of surprise is what makes this kind of composition realisation so intriguing.
So, this isn't just a disc for Cage completists. The sounds are often thoroughly beautiful, and where they cross and blend their attraction is only enhanced. The choice of improvisers to create the music allows a flexibility in the sounds, choices made that perhaps would never have been made by a quartet of more traditional contemporary composition musicians. A very nice CD then that brings a fresh look to Cage's numbers pieces."-Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear
At The Squid's Ear!
Related Categories of Interest:
Percussion & Drums
lowercase, micro-improv, sound improv
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London & UK Free Improvisation Scene
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Label: Another Timbre
Catalog ID: at34
Squidco Product Code: 14015
Packaging: Jewel Tray
Recorded by Simon Reynell in Belsize Park, North London on January 14th, 2010.
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1. Untitled Track 01 20:06
2. Untitled Track 02 17:51
3. Untitled Track 03 19:40
4. Untitled Track 04 16:48