John Cage - Two2 [Another Timbre - 2018]Two2 is one of forty-eight number based pieces John Cage composed before his death in 1992. The works for two pianos and was inspired by a statement by Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina: “There is an inner clock.”- meaning that the work has an adjustable duration- with a playing time anywhere between forty minutes, and two & half hours. This recent double CD release on the always consistent Another Timbre- comes in at just over two hours, and if like me you enjoy sparse & skeletal based modern composition, you’ll find it most worthy.
The piece was composed in 1989- and followed the concept of Renga poetry. With the work been composed with 36 lines of music, each containing 5 measures, and each line having 31 events occurring in the sequence 5-7-5-7-7, with the pianists allowed their own tempo but waiting to synchronize each measure. So in layman’s terms it basically means that the piece is a series of patterns & notes(sometimes harmonic, sometimes not) played –out. As this version of the work is of one of the longer ones the pace is decidedly slowed & languish, with at times reverb & gaps of silence used to great effect.
The piece is broken up over the two CD’s with just over sixty-six minutes on disc one, and sixty-one minutes on disc two. And really the whole thing sits somewhere between lulling & tensioned- with structure moving from angular to hauntingly-yet-sparsely harmonic. It’s certainly a work you have to let your self-slow down to, and become one with both the patterns & the subtle harmonic twists. Both Knoop & Thomas unfold the pieces skeletal structure with such care, depth of touch, and feeling- moving from slowed angular wonders, onto furtive higher darts, though to cut short doomed plods, onto reverberating weaves of mid ranged notation. The patterns are not as pronounced & bleakly moody as something like a Feldman composition, instead, they map out a semi forlorn map of patter-nation.
I feel one the most effective & rewarding facets of the piece is when it finally ends, as one's mind is expecting yet another pattern after the cursory gaps of silence & reverb drift - so in a bizarre sort of way it’s akin to when listening to a densely packed slice HNW, that cuts out after say a 60 minute run…and your left pining both the wall & it’s pattered mass, but with this piece your left pining for the next stark weave on notes, and when it doesn't happen you feel slightly lost & sad, yet impressed by the way you have become so enthralled by the works hold.
I guess it goes without saying that Two2 is not going to be for everyone- and you really need to enjoy extremely slow, considered, and sparse piano music, which is both about the full two-hour journey & its minute -by-minute detail. But personally I found the release total spellbinding, and as we’ve come to expect from Another Timbre the recording is captured wonderfully sonic definition & clarity. Roger Batty