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Cage: Percussion / Simone Mancuso

Release Date: 08/13/2013 
Label:  Stradivarius   Catalog #: 33941   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  John Cage
Performer:  Simone MancusoTimothy McAllisterDouglas Nottingham
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CAGE _27’10.554”. Ryoanji 1. Composed Improvisation. Variations VIII 2. One 4 Simone Mancuso (perc); 1 Timothy McAllister (sax); 2 Douglas Nottingham (electronics) STRADIVARIUS 33941 (74:01)

John Cage was one of the first American composers Read more to make a significant contribution in establishing a repertoire for percussionists, and his works continue to be among the most popular among performers today—in part, I suspect, because of the amount of freedom his scores allow them. During a period of more than 50 years composing for percussion, Cage devised several different compositional procedures, all of which combined specific, disciplined strategies or notated material along with optional or indeterminate elements. The music on the release at hand ranges from mid-period (1956) to late (1990) Cage, and the Italian-born, U.S.-resident Simone Mancuso, an experienced and acclaimed new music specialist, takes full advantage of the possibilities afforded him.

For example, Composed Improvisation (1987–90) is specified for snare drum alone, but the performer is free to choose the type of material used to strike the drum in accordance with the other requirements of the score. Mancuso uses a number of unconventional items, from wire brushes to a lint roller, a cappuccino machine, and salt poured on the drum, all of which induce unexpected attacks and sound colors. Likewise, in One 4 (1990), his selection of mismatched cymbals and drums, and the techniques he contrives in response to the score, result in a nearly transparent fabric of indistinguishable sounds, along with sudden surprises. For this, the premiere recording of Variations VIII (1978), Mancuso joined with Douglas Nottingham to recreate the unusual conditions (described in the program booklet) which inspired the piece—giving us what sounds like an alien landscape; a combination of ambient recordings, the inside of a piano, a pencil sharpener and other ordinary (that is, not conventionally musical) objects, and layers of incidental sounds and feedback. Of the several instrumental duets Cage composed between 1983 and 1985 under the title Ryoanji (named after the famous Japanese rock garden), Mancuso chose the one for oboe and percussion, but replaced the oboe with Timothy McAllister’s saxophones. Often, the tone of the soprano saxophone is quite close to that of the oboe, especially given the bent notes and sliding pitches that it must produce. Finally, the oldest work is also the lengthiest as well as the most percussively orthodox—but again, with a twist. In 27’10.554” (1956), Mancuso uses 80 different instruments and objects, with the addition of composer-sanctioned prerecorded material which, the booklet notes explain, is “randomly spinning out appropriate sound files at the correct times, but in endless permutations.” Though this may seem to be a recipe for chaos, the music is often sparse, tranquil, and, as it is always changing color, timbre, and timing, has a lovely feel of irregularity. Well done.

FANFARE: Art Lange
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Works on This Recording

Ryoanji by John Cage
Performer:  Simone Mancuso (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1983-1985; USA 
One 4 by John Cage
Performer:  Timothy McAllister (Saxophone), Simone Mancuso (Percussion), Douglas Nottingham (Electonics)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990; USA 
Composed Improvisation, for snare drum by John Cage
Performer:  Simone Mancuso (Percussion)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1989 
27' 10.554" for a Percussionist by John Cage
Performer:  Simone Mancuso (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; USA 
Variations VIII by John Cage
Performer:  Simone Mancuso (Percussion)

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