As Stephen Drury notes in the liners, "duality, contradiction, choice, freedom, anarchy. . .are the themes animating John Cage's two works" -- the two works referred to being "Etcetera" (1973) and "Etcetera 2/4 Orchestras" (1986). But this fine recording with Etcetera as its title manages to avoid the pitfalls inherent in a compositional system that can all too easily end up as a muddy free-for-all. The visual element of the works (the movement of the musicians across the performing area to take up their places in various "stations," the subverted role of the conductor, who only starts beating time when the musicians arrive at the stations) is sadly lost in an audio recording, but Steve Puntalillo's superb 24-bit mastering of these live performances recorded in Boston's Jordan Hall more than makes up for the fact. The contrast between the works is striking -- the earlier work, with its odd cardboard box rustles, is more intimate, rural even, whereas "Etcetera 2/4 Orchestras" is tougher, more dramatic, angular, urban. Both scores allow for varying degrees of virtuosity, but the musicians of the Callithumpian Consort of New England Conservatory and the NEC Symphony Orchestra, under the batons of Tamara Brooks, Charles Peltz, Marsha Hassett, Laurie K. Redmer, and Drury himself, take care not to overload the performances with empty technical flourishes for their own sake. The result is a rich, multi-layered, and rewarding listening experience.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Dan Warburton