Classical CD Reviews
JOHN CAGE: Imaginary Landscape No. 1-5; Sixteen Dances – Ensemble Prometeo/Marco Angius, dir. & cond. – Stradivarius
Published on December 25, 2012
JOHN CAGE: Imaginary Landscape No. 1-5; Sixteen Dances – Ensemble Prometeo/Marco Angius, director & cond. – Stradivarius Records STR 33918, 67:27 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
“Vintage Cage” is vintage John Cage. Listeners should know that going in.
This interesting disc is a combination of what director Marco Angius examines as examples of the composer’s “landscape and dance” themes. Cage wrote his Imaginary Landscape series between 1939 and 1952 and, as was frequently the case, the composer takes a very organic approach to the writing. The scoring for these works, and many others by the composer, is open and not prescribed. There is room for improvisation and sections of the ensemble at hand are amplified to take advantage of the acoustics and reverberations of the available performing space.
Cage often philosophized about the nature and purpose of composition as a formal activity. He believed in what he called a “theater of listening” in which each performance is unique and each listener will have whatever emotional and physical experience that they acquire from that performance. These are fascinating explorations of sound and Cage’s approach at that phase of his life. The fact that the Landscapes are pieces that evolve over the performance and will differ somewhat from performance to performance, there is almost no way to describe these works.
The Sixteen Dances are constructed from a similar approach. The score consists of a chart of sixty-four sounds (notated for the prospective performers) grouped in sixteen packages from which the performers choose the groupings they will play, preferably in real time. The resultant sound combinations will run the gamut of sound sensitivities that the combination of motives chosen and the instrumentation at hand allows. There are moments in the Dances that are sprightly and even folk-like.
If all of this sounds very random and hard to figure out,it is;but this is the very nature of John Cage’s philosophy and method at the time. This music is not harsh or unpleasant in any way to listen to. It simply, but necessarily, requires patience. The Ensemble Prometeo and their director Angius as well as their sound designer, Alvise Vidolin, all perform with dedication and the recording quality is quite good.
I find Cage’s belief system and his music fascinating, never dull and frequently enjoyable in its own sphere. Know going in that any listener my think quite the opposite. Such a reaction would not displease the composer. In fact, each person’s perspective is precisely what Cage sough to evoke.