Various Artists

The Choral Works

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The late number pieces, as James Pritchett notes in his informative liners, can be seen to represent John Cage's reconciliation with harmony. In Hymns and Variations (1979), the composer selected two hymn tunes, Old North and Heath by the 18th century composer William Billings, and subjected them to his beloved chance procedures, strategically erasing notes and prolonging others. The resulting diatonicism of the sustained tones on this, and Four2, Five, and especially ear for EAR, a brief antiphonal composition written in 1983 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of EAR magazine (and here recorded for the first time) recall medieval organum. The performance by the Danish Ars Nova vocal group is exemplary, and not lacking in humor either: Living Room Music (1940) is scored for speaking quartet reading a text by Gertrude Stein (The World Is Round) and "any household objects or architectural elements" used as percussion. It's a slight, informal, but highly enjoyable work destined for amateur performance, but it's treated here with utmost respect and comes off beautifully.