The so-called “number pieces” of John Cage were written during the last years of his life (from 1987-1992). The number referenced by the title indicates the number of players for which the work is written. For most of the number pieces Cage employed a series of flexible “measures” he called “time brackets”. In most cases an individual player is given a single note (though sometimes more) to be played within the time bracket of 0’00” to 1’00” for instance. The end result is a kind of music that seems to have no rhythmic profile at all. Long-held notes create a kind of static timelessness very similar to the effect created by a Japanese Gagaku ensemble. Cage’s number pieces represent perhaps his most refined and beautiful application of the principles of Zen to the creation of music.
Prague Winds; Christina Fong, violins and violas; Karen Krummel, cellos; Michael Crawford, double basses; Glenn Freeman, percussion. Image by John Cage.