• Title
  • Performer
    The Barton Workshop
  • CD
    MDC 7803


JOHN CAGE EIGHT-TWO-ONE 4 The Number* pieces of John Cage are often exceptionally beautiful works. For the listener who has heard of John Cage as the “enfant terrible” of music, this may come as a surprise. Seen within the total of Cage’s work they are in fact, not exceptions –many, many of Cage’s works convey extraordinary beauty in a conventional musical sense. The Number pieces of John Cage are performed without a conductor. Each player is responsible for following his/her set of instructions, his/her individual part, performing within his/her individual time schema –indeed, Cage’s own brand of anarchy! Two sets of numbers located at the beginning and end of each activity or pitch module indicate the duration within which event/pitch must occur.

FIVE : Player 5 - [for Event #1] 0’00” - 0’45” [Music] 0’30” - 1’15”

0’00” - 0’45” would indicate that one begins the material/action within the boundaries of these time points.

0’30” - 1’15” would indicate that one stops the material/action within the boundaries of these time points.

Performance instructions in each of the Numbers pieces are similar to those in all of the others - but also contain slight differences. Most often, it is within these subtle differences that the very striking aspects of performances arises, aspects which most often distinguish not only each of the Numbers piece from the others but which also distinguish Cage’s music from that of nearly all other composers. For instance, in Eight, Cage wrote:

Intonation need not be agreed-upon.

The sentence suspends one of the continuous concerns of a musician performing in an ensemble – making their pitch “in-tune” with the pitches which are played immediately before or simultaneously with theirs. For the listener, it creates a shock of hearing pitches which are clearly not “in-tune” with these other pitches while raising a question about good or bad performance and indeed –is this music? In time, I think the listener begins to simply observe sounds occurring in time and noting some characteristics of one versus another, making no judgments per se but merely noting …. [similarities/differences?].

In a sense, all of Cage’s Number pieces form a single work with many different parts (or “movements” in conventional terms). In this instance, each “movement” has a different instrumentation but the new movement/piece is nevertheless related to all others in the series just as in earlier music – suites, for instance – differing dance styles were utilized for each movement to nonetheless create a totality. In a suite, however, the instrumentation was always constant. For me, in the Number pieces, the interest for a listener seems to reside, long term, in beginning to appreciate the subtle difference of character, choices and organization within — and between — each of these works. The sensibility is the same as viewing/ knowing a series of prints by a visual artist – there is an understanding of the whole series but also an appreciation of the variation within each single print with respect to the others.

I would like to quote the final paragraph from James Pritchett’s marvelous book wherein he concludes about the Number* pieces : “These works are so beautiful because they return to John Cage’s compositional strengths: concentration, spaciousness, simplicity. Because each bracket contains a single sound, there is an intensity to each and every note, a focused concentration to every event. Nothing here is “filler,” every note is meant deeply. The silence surrounding the sounds is crucial: it provides both the floating quality of the time brackets and the spaciousness that Cage loved and had sought out ever since the Concerto for Prepared Piano. Finally, because the materials are so simple – single long tones – the relationships among them can arise of themselves, can spring forth from silence. The music is effortless and transparent. These are all qualities found in some of Cage’s most inspired music over the course of his sixty year career as a composer:

Music for Marcel Duchamp, Sonatas and Interludes, String Quartet in Four Parts, the third movement of the Concerto for Prepared Piano, Variations II, 0’00”, Cheap Imitation, Inlets, Ryoanji (to name my personal favorites). In these final works we continue to hear John Cage, the composer, speaking with his own unique and marvelous musical voice.”

*When speaking about John Cage and his work, the Number pieces refer to a series of works begun in 1987 on which he continued to work until his death in 1992. The titles refer to the number of instruments in the ensemble and a superscript refers to the number this work in the series for that number of instruments, for instance there are five pieces for five instruments in the series. The second work for five instruments is entitled Five2 ”, the third = Five3 “, etcetera - James Pritchett: The Music of John Cage, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,UK 1993 - page 204

Eight (1991) which was commissioned by The Trisha Brown “Dance Company, is composed for a double quartet of 4 woodwinds (flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon) and 4 brass (trumpet, horn, tenor trombone and tuba). The instructions (complete) are: Time–brackets with flexible beginnings and endings which overlap enabling a sound to be any duration between very short and very long. Dynamics are free, crescendi, diminuendi, etc. Intonation need not be agreed-upon.

Two (1987) for flute and piano is dedicated to Roberto Fabbriciani and Carlo Neri. The instructions are: Each part has ten time brackets, nine which are flexible with respect to beginning and ending, and one, the eighth, which is fixed. No sound is to be repeated in a bracket. In the piano part each ictus in a single staff is to be played in the order given, but can be played in any relation to the sounds in the other staff. Some notes are held from one ictus to the next. A tone in parentheses is not to be played if it is already sounding. One hand may assist the other.

ONE4 (1990) for solo drummer is dedicated to Fritz Hauser. The instructions are: Six time brackets for the “left hand” and eight for the “right”. Bracket times are in light face when they overlap adjacent brackets. At such points the performer must find a solution that accommodates one bracket with the other. Either hand may help the other. Numerals on staves are cymbals and/or drums chosen by the drummer. The sounds to be made are either long (a tremolo with individual attacks that are not noticeable) or very short (without resonance, completely stopped). Dynamics are free. Only one sound per bracket. © James Fulkerson, 2002/2005

Recording data

JOHN CAGE EIGHT-TWO-ONE 4 The Barton Workshop James Fulkerson, Frank Denyer, co-directors

1 EIGHT (1991)* 59:42 for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba 2 TWO (1987) 10:00 for flute and piano Jos Zwaanenburg, flute - Frank Denyer, piano 3 ONE4 (1990) 06:55 for solo drummer Tobias Liebezeit, drummer *First Recording/Commissioned by The Trisha Brown Dance Company

THE BARTON WORKSHOP : Krijn VAN ARNHEM - Bassoon John ANDERSON - Clarinet Andries BOELENS - Oboe Frank DENYER - Piano James FULKERSON - Trombone Geert JAN LOOT - Trumpet Tobias LIEBEZEIT - Percussion Joeri DE VENTE - Horn Arjan STROOP - Tuba Jos ZWAANENBURG - Flute