This composition by John Cage is one of his most carefully notated works. Dating from 1961-1962, he wrote four pages for each part, and each page included five different systems for the instrumentalist. Space and time are equals, and are indicated by a conductor who performs these durations with a circle reminiscent of a watch hand, and each system conforms to 0, 15, 30, 45. According to Cage, the conductor's time will be at least twice as slow as clock time. Frequency of interval will equal vertical space and equanimity is given to chromatic tones. The normal points are marked with sharps or flats, etc. But what does this mean? Simply put, Cage named the piece for a collection of astronomical charts. He used them to compose this work by using transparent overlays that he determined by means of his "chance operations" which stars on the charts were to be notes in the score and how these very same notes would relate to one another. It was to be played by any size ensemble on any chosen instruments -- and premiered with a full orchestra in 1962 in Montreal. One can only imagine what the orchestral version would sound like in a live setting, as this minimal text for three flutes is, at it's fullest, almost transparent itself. It resembles the influence of Morton Feldman's mature work much more closely than perhaps Cage would have admitted. Pitch, rhythm, tonality, interval, meter, measure, etc., are all random, though closely notated. Cage gave much more leeway to the performer(s), but at that time, so did Feldman. Blum's version of this work is austere, but warm, meditative, but nonetheless compelling in its reach to grasp the sheer mystery of this piece and convey it as such in a recording studio.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek