John Cage

Cheap Imitation

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Violinist Paul Zukofsky recorded these pieces early in his relationship with John Cage. Eventually the master composer would create his set of "Freeman Etudes" for solo violin and Zukofsky would record one of the best, if not the most complete, versions, work that completely overshadows the pair of much lighter pieces featured here. Both "Chorals" and a version of "Cheap Imitation" designed for violin borrow from the works of the important French composer Erik Satie in not exactly a cut-up technique, but similar. As usual, this fine label lets the composer himself have the last word in the liner notes, and as usual Cage is happy to explain everything that went into the construction of these pieces. Listeners may wish he didn't bother, as sometimes with Cage the design seems more important than the outcome, and in the worst case neither will exactly move an audience to tears. His vast range of interests, however, means that at one level or another there is going to be a freezer stuffed with musical meat. In this case it is an attention to individual pitches, coming to a head in "Cheap Imitation," where the majority of written pitches are bowed individually and allowed to evolve into their own universes. The listener who likes a lot of activity and musical filigree may think this sounds like a recording of someone shopping for a violin bow. Cage himself might have been ecstatic if that really was the case. Experienced ears who want to dig deeply into the proceedings will of course find more to the music than what is suggested by this flippant image, but not nearly as much as this composer has created in other settings.

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