Ulrich Krieger, John Cage: The Works for Saxophones 3 & 4

George Grella

By George Grella

on 08.13.11 in Reviews
A piece more notorious than known, more imitated and co-opted than understood

And here it is, the great rupture in 20th-century music and art as a whole, a piece more notorious than known, more imitated and co-opted than understood, 4’33“. In strict terms, this is a composition of music, as it gives direct and detailed instructions to the performer, and it is a piece that requires performance. Recordings of 4’33” are just cheap imitations (and avoid Cage Against the Machine, a commercialized bastardization), although the virtues of this collection from Ulrich Krieger is two-fold: It treats the idea with sympathy and humility and includes a generous amount of other important, great works like Cartridge Music and Fontana Mix. The performer, who through his/her actions marks the beginning of the piece, the three movements and the end, and who cements the listening experience as part of the piece, is necessary. Cage, in his anarchic and impish way, wanted a directed performance of only ambient noise, and hoped that the audience might, each on their own, discover their own experience of music in that. The point was not completely open-ended ambience but the decision to listen, and upending the convention of listener as a mere subject to the performer.