Cage: One11; 103

COMPOSERS: Cage
LABELS: Mode 174
ALBUM TITLE: Cage
WORKS: One11; 103
PERFORMER: WDR Symphony Orchestra Köln/Arturo Tamayo; Spoleto FestivalOrchestra/John Kennedy
CATALOGUE NO: Mode 174 (NTSC; 2.0 Dolby digital; 4:3 picture ratio)
One11 is a visual counterpart to Cage’s ‘silent’ composition 4:33, questioning our concepts of emptiness. ‘No space is empty,’ he said. ‘Light will show what is in it.’ The film is ‘about’ the play of light on more-or-less plain surfaces, shot in gritty black-and-white: I guess shooting in colour would have made it a film about light and colour, rather than pure light. It’s also about the movements of the lights and camera, devised in advance by a computer programme, created in consultation with the random principles of I Ching. The DVD also contains an interview with cinematographer Van Carlson and director Henning Lohner and a 43-minute documentary, during which Cage indicates the film should give pleasure without having meaning. What makes it art is the mediation of artists. I frequently derive pleasure from watching the play of sun/moon/firelight on the ceiling whilst listening to birdsong or a favourite record, but that surely makes me a slacker, not an artist.

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The film is accompanied by two versions of the orchestral work 103, created quite independently of One11, but also lasting 90 minutes and including the same number of ‘episodes’ (17). The version recorded at the premiere by the WDR Symphony Orchestra is notably more softly-focused than that by the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, but the drifting shapes and the constantly evolving textures of both interpretations help the time pass far more enjoyably. Barry Witherden