John Cage


mode 141

Cage Edition 32 – The Number Pieces 3


mode 141 John CAGE, Vol. 32: Number Pieces 3:  One8for cello solo with Bach.Bow; Michael Bach, cello with BACH.Bow.

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Cage Edition 32–The Number Pieces 3

One8 (1991)   (43:35)
for cello solo with Bach.Bow
Written for Michael Bach

first recording with curved bow

Michael Bach,
cello with BACH.Bow

Cage’s One8 was composed for cellist Michael Bach, an artist who had a very important place in Cage’s late work.

  • Its duration of 43’30” makes an oblique reference to Cage’s groundbreaking 4’33” (1952).
  • It is constructed of 53 time brackets with single sounds to be played on 1, 2, 3, or 4 strings. These time brackets tell the player when to begin and end each section (each section often containing a single note). Durations, dynamics and bow positions are free.
  • Allan Kozinn had this to say in The New York Times about Michael Bach’s performance of One8 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, July 1992: “Using both standard and curved bows, he made his way through Mr. Cage’s 43-minute sequence of sustained notes, sustained chords, progressions of chords, and eerie, high-pitched harmonies with a sense of serenity that invited a listener to regard the work not as a collection of disparate, disjointed sounds, but as an otherworldly ritual.”
  • Michael Bach has a strong international reputation as a performer of contemporary and traditional cello repertoire, with a special emphasis on the works of J.S. Bach.
  • Bach is noted for the revival of the “curved-bow” for the cello. Typical in the baroque era, the curved bow allows the cellist to make contact with up to four strings simultaneously, permitting the performer to play chords on the cello.
  • Cage was fascinated with the possibilities of the curved-bow and worked with Michael Bach on One8 and his very last, unfinished and unpublished work.
  • In addition to his performing and recording career, Michael Bach also manufactures curved-bows for other string players, broadening the interest in this performance technique.
  • Liner notes are by Cage scholar James Pritchett.


John Cage
Number Pieces 3

One8  – for solo cello with Bach-bow
Michael Bach
Mode 141

Take a deep breath, and expect nothing. Such advice might usefully apply before listening to any work by John Cage, but the free-from 45 minutes of One8 positively demand it. There are 53 sections, determined in order but not in duration or dynamic, and to begin with the silences seem longer than the notes. Follow Cage’s mantra of ‘giving up control to let sounds be sounds’, however, and the discontinuities begin to tease, take shape and then delight. They show a composer in his twilight – One8 was written barely more than a year before Cage’s death in 1992 – with a Stravinskian potential to reinvent and continually challenge himself and his listeners with an insatiable curiosity about sound and music.

Many sections demand chords and harmonies which would have to be spread with a conventional cello bow. Enter Michael Bach, inventor, player and promoter of the curved Bach bow, and dedicatee of the work. The vast range of dynamics, attacks and tone colours produced – often simultaneously – bear eloquent witness to Cage’s thorough understanding of the curved bow’s possibilities and to Bach’s devotion to the cause. Certainly he and the German radio engineers have located a fine line between meditative soundscape and ear-tickling challenge that sounds high-definitive, though there is doubtless plenty of scope for interpretation. The only mystery is why this recording had to wait more than a decade to be released as part of Mode’s invaluable Cage edition.
— Peter Quantrill, The Strad, May 5, 2006



Also by MICHAEL BACH on Mode Records:
“The Art of the Curved-Bow” – Dieter SCHENBEL: Mit Diesem Handen; 5 Inventionen; J.S. BACH: Cello Suite C-major. (mode 52)

John Cage Profile

Michael Bach Profile