Of all the composers of the twentieth century John Cage (1912–1992) is doubtless one of the most inventive and the most determined in the pursuit of his musical goals. The significance of the seven pieces brought together here is the striking panorama of the intelligence of the material presented, over a period of four years, from 1939 to 1943, by the composer whom the critic Fred Goldbeck described as “the greatest Giraudouxian of our age”.
"Silence. Sounds are only bubbles on its surface. They burst to disappear." (John Cage)
Joshua Pierce brings to John Cage's music an almost uninhibited classicism, but that only bolsters the compositions. He opens A Room and emphasizes its shifts with the attention of a concert pianist, rather than someone who follows Cage's directions to play the piece very quietly. Pierce, in fact, takes each of these dozen works, all of them dating to the 1940s and '50s, and draws from them the resonant Cagean oddness—phrases of weird shapes and all. But he adds a ton, too. In a Landscape sounds almost wholeheartedly minimalist in its tone colors, and She Is Asleep sounds both drummerly (on the artfully flat prepared piano) and jazzy, with Jay Clayton dropping some scat vocals in ever so subtly. This is, after all, the period when Cage was discovering the closeness between percussion and motion, on the one hand, and percussion and the modified piano, on the other hand. So these pieces blurt out chunky phrases, build with shaded drama, and rumble delicately along. It's a difficult assessment making suggestions when it comes music so notoriously open to interpretation. But Pierce has played all the Cage piano and prepared-piano stuff, creating a Wergo series that any lover of the piano repertoire should own in full. Here, anyway, is an excellent introduction, perfect for the Cagean neophyte and still inventive enough to energize owners of Roaratorio or Frances Marie Uitti's Works for Cello.