"Innovation and the ‘Number’ Pieces: A performance and lecture presented by students of the Bard College Conservatory of Music" (Olin)

David Bloom, with Daniel Bassin, trumpet, Mary Bonhag, soprano, Christopher Carroll, trumpet, Leah Gastler, viola, Sunbin Kim, piano, and David Nagy, bassoon

The works emanating from the last five years of John Cage’s life raise many fundamental questions about music, aesthetics, and even social ideology.  By 1987, he was dedicated almost entirely to writing pieces that relied heavily on numbers as compositional tools – especially with what he called “time-bracket notation” – that have since been coined the “number” pieces.  In these 43-odd works, Cage variously leaves many important musical decisions, such as timing, dynamics and timbre, to the discretion of his performers.  In so doing, he created pieces that not only constantly recreate themselves, never being the same twice from one performance to the next, but that also simulate within his ensembles an anarchic system of relationships.  In this session, we will explore the various innovations in this music in a presentation of two sequential performances of Four (1992), using chance operations to reconfigure the ensemble.