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Thursday, January 5, 2017

John Cage - Christian Wolff "John Cage/Christian Wolff" (Reissued; Jeanne Dielman)

With respect to John Cage, his "Cartridge Music" (1960) is probably one of the most extreme noise pieces ever.   What one can do with a phonograph pick-up!   Without a doubt, this album is a lease breaker and is also brilliant and of course, fascinating.  Cage and his right-hand man, David Tudor, which I have to presume they are probably like the Bowie/Mick Ronson team.  Cage visualizes the piece, and Tudor makes it happen.   Tudor generally a pianist, but one who not only plays on the piano but also inside and outside the piano.  Here on this recording, he and Cage do a rave-up that must have been awesome to see as well as being so forward of a sound/presentation in 1960.  
The other side of the album is three pieces by Christian Wolff.  Compared to the Cage side, this is easy listening music, but, with an edge.   David Tudor plays on two of the pieces.  The first work is "Duo For Violinist and Pianist" (1961).  The violinist Kenji Kobayashi.  It's an interesting work because it's about the relationship between the two instrumentalists.   It seems that Wolff instructed the musicians to start when they want to start, and the other makes responds to that sound.  The silence between the two players is also significant. It's like having a deep conversation with someone, and there is silence due that the person is thinking what the other is saying.  "Duet for Horn and Piano is the same as the above, but with Howard Hillyer playing the horn.   "Summer for Spring Quartet" (1961) is with a string quartet.  

There is a sense of theater with both the Wolff and Cage piece.  It works on an aural level, but I imagine to hear these pieces live would be awesome.  The conceptual aspect is interesting as well.  This is music that thinks, and then acts on the concept created by Cage and Wolff.  The musicians have to be in tuned to the composer's sensibility as well as trusting their own ability at the same time.   
The album cover design mirrors the much later Beatles' "White Album." One wonders if Richard Hamilton (the designer of the Beatle album) was influenced by the Cage/Wolff cover.   This is very much a fantastic piece of vinyl.   The original album came out in 1961, and it's great to hear music that was made by the composer or they were around during the recordings.  Essential.