Joseph Kubera, Cage: Music of Changes

Seth Colter Walls

By Seth Colter Walls

on 10.09.11 in Reviews

Ignore the (awful!) cover: This music is anything but safe and self-satisfied. Music of Changes is where Cage stages a violent overthrow of his own compositional ego. Instead of determining the density of polyphony, which dynamics to use (from whisper-quiet to pounding-loud) and sundry other questions that face the typical composer, Cage left many of these choices (but not all of them) to his copy of the I Ching (a Chinese classic text that the composer consulted to “ask” various questions). Undoubtedly severe – and quite difficult to play – the end result is not too far afield from some of Pierre Boulez’s early music, except there is already more of an occasional (if fractured) hint of ragtime. And there is also, tellingly, already an embrace of silence for longer durations than many other manic mid-century avant-gardists might have dared. Kubera’s performance brings out all this hyper-variance with precision and grace.