Sabine Liebner

John Cage: ASLSP

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As its title suggests, John Cage's ASLSP is to be played "as slow as possible," though this sparse keyboard work could take anywhere from the 64:05 timing Sabine Liebner gives it on this Neos release, to the 639 years it is calculated to last in the much-publicized performance given on the organ in St. Burchard Church in Halberstadt, Germany. Because Liebner takes this piece at a comparatively brisk tempo, it is possible to detect some shape in the work, and to feel a degree of connectedness in it, even though each pitch or chord is separated by extremely long silences. Conceptually, ASLSP is a challenge to temporal limitations, which are not imposed by the composer, nor even necessarily by the performer or the listener, but by external parameters set by what is practical or possible. Cage indicated the pitches and the relative duration of each event by its place on two staves and gave instructions that only seven of the eight pieces are to be played, with one of them chosen at random to be repeated. Beyond this, there are no dynamics indicated, and the attacks and durations are determined by the performer, so ASLSP could have a multiplicity of renditions, all different and all incomplete. To the extent that Liebner's performance is more easily grasped than any longer performance could be, and might be truer to Cage's intentions than any shorter ones, this recording does an excellent job presenting a version for newcomers to Cage's philosophical ideas and any listeners who want to experience the work within their lifetimes. Because the music is soft and produces a rarefied ambience, this disc would be an interesting choice for meditation or relaxation.

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