John Cage


mode 71

Cage Edition 18-The Choral Works 1



mode 71 John CAGE, Vol. 18The Choral Works 1 — Hymns and Variations for 12 amplified voices; Four2.; Living Room Music; ear for Ear.; Four Solos.; Five-Vocalgroup Ars Nova/Támas Vetö.

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Cage Edition 18-The Choral Works 1

Four2 (1990)   (6:47)*
Version 1

Living Room Music (1940)
for percussion and speech quartet
  I. To Begin   (1:14)
  II. Story   (2:29)
  III. Melody   (2:24)
  IV. End   (1:44)

ear for EAR (Antiphonies) (1983)   (3:55)*
Version 1

Four2 (1990)   (6:54)*
Version 2

Four Solos (1988)   (15:00)
Version 2

Five (1988)   (4:56)
Version 2

Hymns and Variations (1979)   (28:29)
for 12 amplified voices
Hymn I, Hymn II, Variations I-X

Vocal Group Ars Nova
Támas Vetö, conductor
Gert Sorensen, percussion (2, 4, 5)

*First Recording

John Cage, composer of choral music?

Actually, yes. This disc addresses an often neglected side of Cage’s output for larger vocal ensembles for the first time. The results vary from Cagean “Happening” theatrical works to eerily plaintive blocks of choral writing, some of which incredibly – by chance – hint at György Ligeti!

Living Room Music, the earliest work on the program, is scored for percussion and speech quartet, though no percussion instruments are used. Rather, Cage indicates that any “household or architectural elements may be used as instruments”. The text is taken from Gertrude Stein. The result is an informal music for home entertainment, played for the musicians’ own pleasure.

Hymns and Variations is Cage’s largest choral work. Starting with two hymns from the colonial American composer William Billings, Cage used a technique of “harmonic subtraction” to produce a sublimely beautiful series of long overlapping tones and empty spaces.

The Solos were originally from Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra, later expanded into a large, theatrical series of 96 independent solos which could be performed in whole or in part.

ear for EAR was written for the 10th anniversary of the New Music magazine EAR, written in the antiphonal style of solo statement with choral response.

The remaining late “Number Pieces” here enter a world a calm, simple beauty.

The works are beautifully performed by the Danish vocal ensemble Ars Nova, who specializes in music by 20th century and Renaissance composers, including collaborations with Paul Hillier. They are conducted here by Tamás Vetö, noted for his extensive repertoire and recognized as an authority on vocal music and as an outstanding interpreter of contemporary music.


John Cage
The Choral Works 1
Mode 71

Dove prendere i testi per una serie di brani vocali? Semplice: nella libreria di casa, svogliando quello che capita, libri, opuscoli, riviste. Trovi una diapositiva: il testo sarà by Kodak. Così lavora John Cage nel 1988 per la composizione degli ultimi Solos for Voice, I numeri da 93 a 96 (la serie era iniziata nel’58), qui eseguiti da un quartetto di voci e presnetati col titolo Four Solos. Si sentono come frammenti d’opera o di commedia musicale, anche frammenti di severa musica conventuale. Come quella di Four 2 (’90), qui nelle due versioni, o di Five (’88). Lavoro delizioso, sconvolgente. Per la grazia. Per i mutamenti. Per la molteplicità degli elementi di linguaggio. Tutto il cd è uno scrigno delle meraviglie. Ci sono anche Hymns and Variations (’79) e Ear for EAR (’83). E c’è quella Living Room Music del 1940, percussioni e voci, che è uno dei tanti esempi dell’arte lieve, ricca di pensiero, di questo autore. La colloquialità e la sorpresa: ecco quello ce sapeva darci. Due le prime registrazioni assolute: Ear for EAR e Four 2.
—Mario Gamba in Alias (Il Manifesto) 13 November 2000

John Cage… sung, Cage curiosity, John Cage: Choral Works Vol. 1
Mode 71

Three Stars
John Cage, that grand old man of young music, still has a way of making everyone else sound as if they’re only just catching up with the times.  This first volume of his choral music, performed by the Copenhagen ensemble Ars Nova conducted by Tamas Veto, is part of The Complete John Cage Edition, and offers the first ever recording of two versions of his Four2, written two years before the composer’s death in 1992. Its slowly stratified layers of the simplest vocal harmony are long sustained for the sheer joy of it, and create a timeless music of the spheres.

Equally typical of Cage’s simplicity and strength of vision – and of his capacity for wonder – is the 1983 ear for EAR: mantra-like fragments of chant in which solo voices meet an antiphonal choral response. Here, too, are the Hymns and Variations for 12 amplified voices, from 1979, in which the 18th-century hymns of the New Englander William Billings are fragmented and “hybridised”: the effect is rather like catching sight of parts of a stained-glass window being refracted and reflected at random by shafts of sunlight.

— Hilary Finch, The Times, 27 May 1999


Ars Nova

Ars Nova

Also by these artists on Mode records:
The Arditti Quartet:
John Cage: The Complete String Quartets, Vol.1 (mode 17)
and Vol. 2 (mode 27)
The Works for Violin 6, The String Quartets 4
(mode 144/145)
Chaya Czernowin: String Quartet (mode 77)
Peter Maxwell Davies: String Quartet 1952 (mode 59)
Gerard Pape: Vortex (mode 26); String Quartet #2 (mode 67)
Hilda Paredes: The Seventh Seed (mode 60)

Irvine Arditti:
John Cage: Freeman Etudes, Vol. 1 (mode 32) and Vol. 2 (mode 37)
Hilda Paredes: Permutaciones for solo violin (mode 60)

The Arditti Quartet Profile
Arditti Quartet Web Site

Monique Buzzarté Profile