Collection: A Chance Operation Ð The John Cage Tribute

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: John Cage etc
LABELS: Koch
WORKS: Music by John Cage and his disciples
PERFORMER: various artists
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7238-2 DDD

Advertisement

In tribute to the composer, who died in 1992, these discs include many works besides Cage’s own. Most are close to him in spirit; some are engaging, many are merely curiosities. They are seemingly produced in association with Gay Men’s Health Crisis, though it isn’t clear whether the buyer is automatically helping to fund AIDS services. Cage disapproved of the recording medium. But an attempt is made here to encourage the listener’s participation in a way Cage might have approved of. Extra track divisions are added within pieces; use of the CD player’s ‘shuffle’ button thus permits a unique ordering every time.

Advertisement

My first exploration of this technique with disc 2 initially threw up such an unCagian improvisation (by a group called Oregon) that I wondered if the machine was getting its own back. The range of works offered is valuably wide: from the recomposed early Cage of Christian Wolff’s Six Melodies Variation for solo violin, to Laurie Anderson’s Cunningham Stories, the latter typically poignant little settings of Cage texts; there are even some New York city sounds. No piece lasts more than about ten minutes, except Yoko Ono’s tedious Georgia Stone. Of just six works by Cage himself, Frank Zappa’s performance of 4’33” seems especially appropriate, Zappa having been as antagonistic to the ‘commodification’ of music as Cage. Documentation, while extensive, isn’t comprehensive. Keith Potter