Various Artists, Music for Merce, Vol. 6

Seth Colter Walls

By Seth Colter Walls

on 10.09.11 in Reviews

John Cage wrote some of his best music for partner Merce Cunningham’s dance company, including mostly-notated percussion pieces like “Credo in Us” (which often also used turntables and radios). But Cage’s non-notated sound experiments for tape and electronics were also used for Cunningham happenings – and rightly so. Listen to the rare archival tape of “Voiceless Essay” on this disc (which is part of a 10-CD set culled from the Cunningham performance archive): It’s a collage of Cage’s own half-whispers and portentous inhalations. As a forerunner of various experimental forms of music, it’s visionary. (Just check the other volumes on this series, which feature names like Jim O’Rourke and Christian Marclay.) But as pure, free play with rhythm, Cage’s piece for his own voice on tape compelling in a way that has nothing to do with the history of the avant-garde.