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Title - 'John Cage: Lollipops' [3CD]
Artist - John Cage

For those not in the know, John Cage (1912-1992) was an American composer, philosopher, poet, music theorist, artist, printmaker, and amateur mycologist.

A pioneer of percussion, chance, and electronic music, Cage was one of the most influential American composers of the twentieth century.

His influence on the popular arts of the 1960s was considerable; the Beatle Paul McCartney and Frank Zappa of the Mothers of Invention being numbered among his disciples.

He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance in America, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham.

Furthermore, Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4’ 33”, the three movements of which are performed without a single note being played.

The late ’50s, early '60s was the period in which the works of John Cage first began to be represented by a quantity of recordings.

Released March 20th, 2020 via El Records / Cherry Red Records UK, this brand new 3CD edition combines two important large-scale performances.

The first is the indispensable 25-Year Retrospective Concert, which so admirably showcased the composer’s broad spectrum of interests (and the first recording to include audible audience disagreement since the riot at the premiere of Déserts by Edgard Varèse in Paris in 1954).

The second is Indeterminacy: New Aspect of Form in Instrumental and Electronic Music, which finds Cage reading 90 short Zen-like stories, each punctuated by piano and tape interjections by his long-time musical collaborator, David Tudor.

Disc: 1
1. "Six Short Inventions for Seven Instruments" (1934)
2. "First Construction in Metal" (1939)
3. "Imaginary Landscape No. 1" (1939)
4. "The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs" (1942)
5. 'Quartet"
6. "Duo"
7. "Sonata I"
8. "Sonata II"
9. "Sonata III"
10. "Sonata IV"
11. "First Interlude"
12. "Sonata V"
13. "Sonata VI"
14. "Sonata VII"
15. "Sonata VIII"
16. "Second Interlude"
17. "Music for Carillon No.1" (1952)
18. "Williams Mix" (1952)

Disc: 2
1. "Concert for Piano and Orchestra" (1957-58)
2. "Double Music" (1941)
3. "Part One'"
4. "Part Two"

Disc: 3
1. "Part Three"
2. "Part Four"
3. "Cartridge Music" (1960)
4. "Fontana Mix" (1958)

These works are complemented by the original tape realization of the Fontana Mix sound collage, assembled by the composer in Italy; Double Music, which explores the percussive qualities of metal and the challenging Cartridge Music, a manipulation of phonograph cartridges, where, Cage warns, "all sounds, even those ordinarily thought to be undesirable, are accepted."

Well, and simply put, this 3CD set is a most brilliant concert experience from one of the most engaging composers of the modern day within John Cage.

His work continues to inspire contemporary artists in dance, visual art, performance art, and music and from listening to these three CDs back to back, you can clearly understand why.

Sure, playing Devil's Advocate, and as much as I personally do love the experimental and the extreme in all its components here yes, there are some more mundane acts to be founds here amongst his engaging moments; but only if you allow them to be so, of course.

Most of Cage's major works are represented here in this wondrous 3CD collection, such as his percussion pieces, his prepared piano, even his tape music.

Start here with the engrossing 25-Year Retrospective Concert and then smother yourself immediately thereafter with the expansive offering Indeterminancy; for you will not regret it.

Presented chronologically, the works increasingly tested the patience of the audience, eventually prompting audible protests.

Following the conventionally modernist "Six Short Inventions for Seven Instruments," listeners hear the delightful "First Construction in Metal," a percussion-driven piece from 1939 that bridges Edgar Varese with the composer's fascination with Balinese gamelan music, which would achieve sublime form in his compositions for prepared piano several years hence.

Though almost 20 years old at the time of the concert, the amazing "Imaginary Landscape No. 1," with its high-frequency recordings, struck and stroked cymbals, and piano, must have sorely tested even the most benevolently inclined audience in 1958, but those at town hall appear to have greeted it warmly, if somewhat tentatively.

Here Cage’s interest in technology, Eastern philosophies, and the concept of “silence” and “chance” as related to composition come to the fore as he plays some of his most significant and controversial pieces of his career, several of which (“Six Short Inventions for Seven Instruments”, “She Is Asleep”, “Music for Carillon”, and “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra” [in which Merce Cunningham took the part of the conductor – the “living clock” – and David Tudor that of the pianist]), were performed here for the first time ever.

This concert created quite a stir for its time, with many journalists and audience members loudly complaining “this isn’t music”!

The idea behind Indeterminacy was, like many Cagean ideas, essentially simple and audaciously original. Cage read 90 stories, his speed determined by the story's length.

In another room, beyond earshot of Cage, David Tudor, pianist and veteran Cage collaborator, performed miscellaneous selections from Cage's Concert for Piano and Orchestra and played pre-recorded tape from Cage's Fontana Mix.

The resulting collaboration is an astounding piece of "music," and a fine introduction to the innovations of John Cage.

In closing, and featuring prepared piano pieces, cartridge music and more, this newly brought forth collection comes complete with a truly great recording of a most iconic concert, along with Cage reading 90 short Zen-like stories; which has to be heard to be believed, trust me.

Official 3CD Purchase Link